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To share or not to share: the perils of reactive social for brands

It’s only human to want to share our experiences. And with instant photos, real-time recording and unlimited reach at our fingertips, the desire to share is greater still. Made all the stronger by a global pandemic that prohibited real-life contact with so many of our nearest and dearest. Overnight, virtual connections became a lifeline. It’s hardly surprising then, that posting our reactions to global events and current affairs and how we make sense of them on social media has become the norm. But should it be the norm for brands too? 

The death of Her Majesty the Queen this month dominated the headlines at home and abroad, with millions of tributes pouring in from every corner of the world. Companies and brands were no exception – keen to express their sorrow, their gratitude, pay their respects and mark a moment in history. But some of them seemed to get it so wrong (Brands Post a Flood of Bizarre Tributes to Queen Elizabeth II ( 

Before responding as a brand to global events and social issues on social media, it’s worth running the idea through a few filters first: 

  • What would your customers expect? 

Staying silent on social media can feel odd, especially when everyone else seems to be saying something. But it doesn’t mean you don’t care, and if there’s no direct link between your offering and the global event, saying nothing is perfectly acceptable. It’s not compulsory to join every social media conversation.  

  • What can you add? Are you qualified? 

When it comes to reactive social, it’s worth considering whether your brand has the authority to join the conversation – and whether there’s more to lose than to gain by joining it. If you’re not 100% sure, it’s usually safer to leave. After all, if you can’t add anything meaningful or relevant, do you need to say anything at all? Or might it come across as a token gesture? 

  • Timing is everything 

If you conclude you need to say something, timing is key. It’s tempting to try to be first on social media, but acting too soon can be perceived as insensitive, while taking too long can come across as indecisive, so tread carefully. 

Timing of other posts is also important following a global tragedy or crisis – watch out for those pre-drafted scheduled posts, and be sure to sense-check everything due to be issued or posted that day. 

  • Avoid selling 

We all love a bit of brand publicity, but exploiting global events and social issues to raise your profile isn’t a good look, so beware of posting only to be seen to have a response. 

  • Think brand personality 

Does your brand really care? Does posting sit well with your brand personality? Would keeping quiet – perhaps a period of dignified silence – ultimately say more, or better align with your brand values? 

  • Consider alternatives 

Maybe a gesture would have greater impact. In the case of the late Queen, Fortnum & Mason, which has held a Royal Warrant from the Queen since 1954, lowered its flag to half-mast, stopped the clock on the façade of its flagship store in London’s Piccadilly, and blacked out its famous window displays. 

  • Exercise caution 

If in doubt, it’s probably better not to post. A cautious silence probably won’t trigger a backlash, but getting it wrong certainly could.