The world watched in horror on Monday, April 15 as two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Then, later that same week, a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas. Finally, a manhunt for the alleged Boston Marathon bombers resulted in gun battles in the street, the death of an MIT campus police officer, and a city on lockdown.

During times of such tragedy, it is often difficult to think about day-to-day law firm social media activities, and this can lead to serious problems. If you are responsible for any kind of law firm social media management, this is a 24/7 job and you must be alert, especially during times of national or international tragedy.

If you don’t, you’ll end up like Epicurious.com, which sparked instant outrage with inappropriate tweets after the Boston Marathon bombs went off.

Here are some tips to prevent problems on social media during tragic events:

  • Turn off automation: If you use any kind of automation service for your law firm social media, disable it immediately. This will prevent your accounts from sending out scheduled posts that, in the context of current events, could be seen as inappropriate.
  • Suspend normal social media posting: It is best to suspend any kind of routine posting to social media during times of tragedy. Your posts will not receive any attention anyway as everyone will be focused on coverage of the unfolding events. You also risk looking insensitive if you post about what will seem as trivial things during a time of national or international crisis. Of course, if your law firm, attorneys or staff are directly affected by the crisis, then you should be making use of social media to get information out.
  • If you do post, think twice: Review any post you make to social media to ensure there is no possible way it could be misread or misinterpreted as being insensitive. Similar to what you would do during a crisis at your firm, you should run any post by senior firm management and communications staff or consultants, just to be safe. This goes for messages of condolence or sympathy, which are appropriate, but should be thoroughly vetted.
  • Do not, in any way, capitalize on the tragedy: It may seem perfectly fine to tweet something that you think will be supportive of people going through the current tragedy. Don’t. Just don’t. It is very likely that anything you do will be perceived as an insensitive attempt to capitalize on the situation. Whatever business gains you might make will be zeroed out by the hit to your law firm’s public image.
  • Wait to resume normal social media activity: Be sure to leave enough time between the tragic events and a return to normal social media posting. When in doubt, wait longer.

Following these common-sense tips should help you avoid any law firm social media mistakes during times of tragedy.