Last week, as we mourned the 9/11 tragedy for the 13th year, I made a conscious decision not to post any sort of remembrance on our B Squared Media Facebook Page (or other social accounts belonging to our brand) to avoid bad marketing.

Something didn’t feel right about it.

It seemed too easy. A little cheesy; less about remembering the event and more about garnering attention.

And I’m glad I didn’t, to be honest.

Here’s why …

It Happened To All Of Us (Is Bad Thinking)

In previous years I have posted about 9/11. I mean, it happened to all of us.

I was a college student in Huntsville, Texas at the time.

I have my own story about my boyfriend who was flying that day … and I couldn’t remember if it was to Chicago or New York.

My calls to him went unanswered for hours, so I panicked along with the rest of the country. I played the game of “what if” until I was inconsolable.

My situation turned out fine. But others didn’t.

Later, living in the heart of downtown NYC, I thought I had a deeper connection to what happened.

I visited Ground Zero. I watched the new tower being built. I could see the tower from my rooftop.

Below you can see the new Freedom Tower looming in the mist behind the Trinity Church, which was just at the end of our street.

freedom tower and trinity church When Do Conversations Turn Into Bad Marketing?

However, even while seeing that reminder on a near-daily basis, I was fine. And others were still suffering.

Yes it happened to all of us.

But there are others who lost family members, who saw things they should never have to see, who lost friends, who were displaced, etc.

A neighbor on our new street lost her husband that day.

Do you think she wants to see my social media brand bringing it up? Does it soothe her?

Probably not.

Instead of sounding like we are remembering the day (and sure, we are), we probably would come off as being opportunistic.

Conversations Turn Into BAD MARKETING When Do Conversations Turn Into Bad Marketing?

Where Do ‘Conversations’ Turn Into Bad Marketing?

Mike Monteiro felt the same way I did, only he took it a step further and mocked the brands who were using 9/11 to newsjack a trending topic.

I’ll admit, it seemed a little harsh reading what Mike wrote back to brands with 9/11 tweets.

But isn’t he right?

What do/does Icee, lingerie, fast food restaurants, and diapers have to do with 9/11?

Are we really trying to “come together as Americans” or are we just hitting the easy button on our publishing calendars?

Or worse, are we doing it because we know by using this tragedy that we’ll get lots of likes, comments, shares, and retweets?

The latter scenario raises the hair on the back of my neck. It’s icky to the nth degree.

As Sean Bonner says in the article:

“It’s simple. Brands are not people. Brands do not have emotions or memories or condolences or heartbreak. People have those things, and when a brand tries to jump into that conversation, it’s marketing.“

It seems some marketers have blurred the lines between being human, having conversations, and using a “conversation” about something terrible as another form of marketing.

I’ve posted about 9/11 in years past. I’m guilty, too.

This isn’t about scolding those who posted, but is more about asking the critical question:

Why are you posting about 9/11? What does it have to do with your brand?

I think the simple fact is that most people won’t have an answer to the question, or they’ll just go back to “it happened to all of us.”

How Should Marketers And Brands Deal With Tragedy?

Should we (Community Managers and brands) STFU?

Even with the sudden passing of Robin Williams a few weeks ago, some brands decided it was “fair game” to utilize his trending name for their own game; newsjacking at its worst.

In the face of a real crisis — death, terrorism, a shooting, a tornado, flood or fire — shouldn’t companies take a step back and let real people have real conversations about what’s taking place?

And if that’s true, what about those directly affected?

Are they given a hall pass and allowed to newsjack tragic events for their own gain?

What’s the tipping point; when does it move beyond concern and conversation to newsjacking and narcissism?

Unfortunately there’s no Emily Post handbook to look to and see what’s appropriate etiquette for these situations.

It’s up to us: the CMGRs, social media managers, and marketers looking to do social RIGHT, and to draw a line in the sand and hold people and companies accountable for bad marketing.

I ask these questions sincerely.

There is no clearly defined “right” or “wrong” answer.

There are exceptions to the rule.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us probably feel that sick little feeling when we log on to our favorite social site and see big and small brands alike sharing a 9/11 message (and gasp(!), a coupon to go along with it).

I asked our community on Facebook what they thought and here’s what they had to say:


As you can see, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.

As for me, if there’s any small amount of doubt, I say don’t do it … and I didn’t.

What do YOU think about this topic? Please let me know in the comment section below.

See you in the social sphere!