From fire damage restoration companies to entrepreneurs that sell hurricane survival kits, tragic events have spawned equitable businesses that “sell safety” to a multitude of disaster scenarios. And if you are in such an industry, have you ever tried promoting your blog or business through Google + or LinkedIn only to get blocked from professional networks that deemed your content Spam? Or have you ever been accused to overly promoting your products, brand or services through a channel deemed unprofessional? We have all heard the term “to each their own”, but when it comes to business and your online reputation, one person’s misconstrued view of your intentions can blacklist you from communicating through advantageous platforms and even tarnish your brand.

Here is an example: a local water damage restoration company operating in an area of Washington State where a March 2014 mudslide claimed the lives of over 30 people offered tips on how to protect your home from mudslide damage. The post was made in a LinkedIn water damage restoration group with a following of over 10,000 people. The company also expressed their deepest condolences to the victims while offering some survival tips. The group’s moderator accused the company of using tragedy as a way for them to market their services, which was not the business owner’s conscience intention. He was blocked from posting in the group and all the connections he made were told that he had been spamming and over promoting. There is nothing wrong with using tragic events to market your products, if you can do it tastefully.

As consumers we tend to see value in something when we relate it to a recent event, and the water damage restoration company in question was only trying to use a recent news event to remind people everywhere that these types of disasters do happen, and can happen, and therefore homeowners should learn how to protect themselves. You would think no harm, no foul. But according to the “social media umpire” of this particular group, the water damage restoration company struck out big time.

How to Promote Without Being a Dote

Unfortunately tragedy makes people stop what they are doing and listen. If you were gazing through the window of a television store and one TV was broadcasting a news story about a man who donated his kidney to a stranger, while another TV was syndicating the story of an armed man that shot three dead at a bank and fled with his kidnapped infant son, which story would you watch?  There is a reason why news stations rely on roughly 80 percent of tragic events to fill their journalistic endeavors, as tragic tales get better ratings over fluffy feel good stories. When disaster strikes the world perks up its ears, and using headline news events to promote your brand is advantageous. There are companies out there that make escape pods for large buildings, tsunami proof pods and even tracking devices for at-risk kidnap victims. According to the common sense rules to growing your business through social media leads you will want to do the following:

  • Use bullet points or numbered points to make your content easier for readers to scan and compartmentalize away from misinterpretation.
  • Humanize the post; don’t just plaster it up in the shadow of a tragic event. Add a personal element showing how you directly relate to the event at hand.
  • Mention people in order to add community equity. Mention local government agencies, services, or individuals.
  • Reserve some of your post’s text to directly describe the community you are marketing to.
  • Use hashtags and headings so readers will see that it is valuable information and not tacky spam.

If you post to a domestic violence support community you will want members to know about your company’s pepper spray products and self-defense classes. Using hashtags and headings will help you get more readers, and by adding a nod to the community and a personal touch (such as an experience of sentiment) you can guarantee fewer angry retorts and less spam reports.

Wear Your Marketing Heart on Your Social Sleeve

If consumers, competitors and social media groups can see you care through the careful use of words and promotional tone you use, they will have little ammunition to fire back your way. By showing that you know the local community, you care for it, you understand it, and you have services and products that can help people in unfortunate circumstances, you will be regarded as a “community defender” and not a “blood-money offender”.