In Sandy’s wake, should brands shut up on social media?

At least one company is being slammed for its ‘Hurricane Sandy Sale.’ For some brands, it might be smart to curb online marketing—at least for this week.


With so many people on the East Coast suffering the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, it’s wise for brands to take a step back from their usual social media pushes. It’s a tough call, but posting for brands can become a no-win situation.

If you go with your regularly scheduled posting, you might find that people perceive you as being insensitive or uncaring. Post something saying that your brand’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims could be perceived that you’re jockeying for engagement during a crisis.

Then there are those who are trying to turn this into a marketing opportunity—and that’s just idiotic.

American Apparel did so yesterday when it sent an email blast with an offer for 20 percent off everything for the next 36 hours, “In case you’re bored during the storm.” The company called it the Hurricane Sandy Sale, and it has been getting blasted in social media ever since. The company hasn’t apologized, and it doesn’t allow comments on its Facebook page.

Even Sears, which offered deals on generators and cleanup supplies on Twitter (likely with the best intentions), has had some followers questioning its motives.

Obviously, it’s up to individual brands to make decisions about what tone and approach to take. Encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross or finding real ways to help the cause is a pretty safe bet, as long as there are no strings attached.

Some brands have continued posting their standard online fare. Red Bull, for instance, is updating its Facebook page with the usual content, and even some New York-based brands—such as Macy’s—are carrying on with their everyday postings.

The farther removed we get from the devastating storm, the easier it will be to start getting back to normal. But for now, you might want to err on the side of restraint.

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