Social media is of course very prominent in modern day society and this clearly extends into the world of business. With communication being instantaneous, it is possible for social media business accounts associated with a brand to react in real time to global events that their followers can relate to. This can encourage more communication between brand and customer. What an outstanding tool to have at your disposal! But with great power, comes great responsibility.


Just as it is easy to use this to encourage a community of customers to share their positive thoughts and engage with the brand, when used incorrectly it can have an adverse and severe effect on a brand’s image. Take celebrity deaths for an example – a very sensitive topic. We must remember that these celebrities are humans too, they have families, friends and loved ones who are mourning their loss. It is by all means appropriate to pay tribute and respect to such an event – but not for profit. This is where there appears to be a fine line in the world of business of what is and isn’t acceptable.


Take Cheerios for example:

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Surely someone in the marketing team should have realised that a phrase such as ‘Rest in peace’ can’t have a cheerio to dot the ‘i’ and be taken as sincere condolences? Needless to say this was not very well received, with many claiming using Prince’s death for publicity was ‘shameful’ and ‘wrong’. But at least their tweet was solely for Prince right? Well some companies didn’t even do that.

Let’s look at Homebase:

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That’s right! Homebase sent out a general, rather spritely message out to their followers, and slapped a tribute to Prince hashtags at the end. It is not uncommon for businesses to use a trending tweet to put themselves in front of a large audience, but they have to consider what the hashtag is in relation to, and whether it is appropriate to ‘ride’ the hashtags success.This tweet was not let off lightly with many, many people sharing their opinion on how bad they felt this publicity move to be.


So how are brands supposed to get this right? They will of course want to show their consumers that they care, but how can they do that when everyone slates them for it and claims they are just doing it for publicity? Well here are a couple of examples who did it, and did it in style.


3M went for a simple yet respectful purple rain reference. No hashtags, no comment, and no tags. Keeping their tribute this simple, with no hashtags suggests that they weren’t using it as a chance to reach a wider audience, but just to show the followers they already have that they are paying their respects.

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Pixar didn’t even take to social media although it did of course find its own way there eventually. Just a subtle nod to everything Prince achieved on their homepage for people who were already on the site. Simple, classy and not used to put their brand in the face of the public.


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After looking at the more successful tributes, it seems that the social media community simply want sincerity. If you are trying to push a brand using hashtags relating to a tragic event, it won’t sit well, especially with the most dedicated fans. If you are genuinely paying tribute, with no desire for financial gain from this then the brands sincerity won’t go unnoticed. The best way to deal with this, is to treat it as the tragic event that it is, and not just another opportunity for publicity. Don’t just jump on the hashtag bandwagon.