Wendy’s engages in rapid-fire banter with its customers and competitors. Old Spice is refreshingly weird. Target’s twitter feed is full of self-aware humor. These are just a few examples. For the most part, social media marketing appears to be light-hearted and fun.

But, what happens when that isn’t possible? After all, content marketing is used by marketers in a variety of industries. Not all of these are prime for cute or funny content. In spite of this, people still turn to social media for information and insights into these brands. Imagine being a brand that:

  • Sells a product to help people with a sensitive medical issue
  • Is called upon when there is a tragedy
  • Has made its name on being serious or discreet

Humorous banter, funny videos, and inspirational quotes may not be the best approach.

Even if your industry matches well with creative and funny social media content, this issue could still impact you. All it takes is a tragedy, embarrassing PR issue, or just a devastating event that impacts your team or your customers. When that happens, you’re going to have to respond on social media, and you’re going to have to do so responsibly.

Every business should be prepared to create and publish content of a sensitive nature. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Identify The Scenarios You Might Deal With And Appropriate Ways to Approach Each

Not every serious incident or tragedy can be predicted. Still, most companies can identify areas of high risk. Do so, then make a plan. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How would your company handle a #MeToo incident or accusation?
  • What if someone was injured using one of your products?
  • How would you handle the abrupt firing or exit of a C-level employee?
  • What if a politician called out your practices as being unfair to workers or bad for the environment?
  • How would you respond to a tragedy that impacted a local business? What about a competitor?
  • What if a beloved member of your local community died or fell ill?

It may help to brush up on the ways in which other brands have dealt with tragedy or other challenges. You can learn both what you should and what you should not do.

various scenarios

Remember That Dealing With Sensitive Content Doesn’t Mean That Everything is Tragic

Many companies sell products and services that require discretion and sensitivity. This doesn’t mean that all of their content has to have a somber tone. It’s possible to sell products of this nature, but also create and share content that is uplifting and positive. Here are some examples:

  • A company that sells supplies to people with a disability or medical condition can share user-generated content from customers who are happy and thriving in the face of their issues.
  • A funeral home can tell stories of their involvement in community projects.
  • A hospice facility can share content that shows that even in their last months, people can engage in enjoyable activities with their loved ones.

Even if your business is forced to address a sensitive or controversial topic on social media, there are ways to do so that put some focus on the positive. This might include:

  • Acknowledging a mistake or error, but focusing on the steps you have taken to fix the issue.
  • Expressing sorrow over the loss of a community member or employee, then paying tribute to their life and accomplishments.
  • Making a show of support and solidarity with customers and others who are going through a tragedy, but also sharing information about helpful resources.

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Straightforward And Honest Communication is Vital

Many companies would do very well by using the beloved children’s show ‘Sesame Street’ as a working example of dealing with sensitive content. Over the years, the show has dealt with a variety of sensitive topics. This includes the death of a beloved cast member, homelessness, food insecurity, disabilities, and military deployment. What’s most notable is the show’s ability to communicate with their audience about sensitive issues in ways that are helpful, sensitive, and appropriate. No, companies shouldn’t communicate with customers as if they are children, but they can:

  • Use accurate and appropriate terminology
  • Provide clear explanations
  • Answer questions honestly
  • Avoid euphemisms and doublespeak
  • Share helpful information
  • Acknowledge and validate feelings

Ensure That Information is Clear And Accurate

It’s also important that any information you share on sensitive topics are clear and accurate. One of your goals should be to disseminate accurate information and to ensure that your audience understands your message.

That last part can be challenging if you have audience members who are from different cultures, or who speak different languages. You must ensure that what you say makes sense to them, and is respectful of their culture and values. It may be necessary to use translation and localization specialists from agencies like The Word Point, to communicate with your audience on sensitive topics.

You can also take the following steps to be certain that all the information you share on social media is clear and accurate by:

  • Fact checking any information that you share.
  • Communicating with subject matter experts.
  • Encouraging audience members to ask questions.
  • ‘Passing the mic’ to people who may be more qualified to share information.

Moderate Comments And Other Responses Appropriately

When you address sensitive topics on social media, you can expect some strong responses. Depending on the topic at hand, and your reasons for addressing it, you may find yourself dealing with audience members that are upset or angry. Some may be accusatory. Others may misinterpret your intentions. There may be well-intentioned people who unknowingly share misinformation. Of course, there are also people who use sensitive content as an excuse to troll, share inappropriate comments, or otherwise derail discussions.

This is why it is imperative to implement effective comment moderation. Here, you want to balance the goals of encouraging helpful and productive engagement, and eliminating inappropriate or abusive behavior.

reply to comments

For example, if one of your products has failed in some way, it’s probably a good idea to allow customers to express frustration about that and to address those comments. On the other hand, you still want to take down comments that are profane or threatening.

Fortunately, there are several options for managing social media comments. However, in addition to finding a technical solution, it’s important to establish policies for dealing with customer responses when you’re sharing sensitive information. This might include, appointing one person to address social media commentary to ensure consistency and establishing how you will deal with abusive engagement.

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Final Thoughts

If you have to create and share social sensitive, media content for any reason, keep the above guidelines in mind. It’s important to be accurate, kind, and responsive to your audience when you deal with difficult topics. Taking the steps above will help you ensure that your approach is spot on.

Author

Erica Sunarjo

Erica Sunarjo graduated from South Texas College majoring in Marketing and Creative Writing. She used her knowledge to make a difference in the realm of business copywriting and invested heavily in traveling and language learning.