Simple social media rule: Don’t joke about tragedy.

Epicurious Enrages Followers With Boston Bombings Tweets

People all over the world are still reeling from the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, and feeling profoundly shaken by the graphic images from the attack.

Social media mangers for hundreds of companies and organizations rushed to offer condolences and support, and to let people know how they can help. As seems to always be the case, however, there was at least one who took the opportunity to make an insensitive, ill thought-out and unfunny joke about the situation.

When will social media managers get the message? When it comes to tragedies like this, people won’t appreciate your joke, and your brand can suffer significant and permanent damage.

In this case the offender is Epicurious.com. They took to Twitter to try and take advantage of the attention this tragedy was receiving to try and hawk some of their recipes.

And though it is hard to believe, this is a far too common problem in social media. Kenneth Cole is known for pushing the limits with their advertising, for example, but when they tried to use the bloody uprising in Egypt to promote their brand the response was clear and emphatic: you’ve gone too far.

Sadly it seems as though every time there is a disaster or tragedy there is a social media manager somewhere who thinks this time will be different. This time people will think their joke is funny, not repulsive – and their brand will be the one who is able to take advantage of the world’s attention when focused on a tragedy.

And every time they turn out to be wrong.

So the message for social media managers? Simple — be decent human beings. When tragedy occurs, don’t look for opportunities to raise your profile or get attention. Look for ways you can reach out to people and help, or keep your mouth shut.

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