Best Practices for Going Dark on Social Media

In a time of continuous ups-and-downs globally, it is more important than ever to pay attention to what your brand is posting on social. As much as we’d like to continue posting and promoting during these times, it’s not business as usual. We often recommend that our clients go dark during these critical times, but there’s more to it than to simply stop posting. Below we outline some best practices when it comes to going dark on social media

Best Practices for Going Dark on Social Media

When to Go Dark on Social Media

It can be difficult to decide whether the event or situation warrants your brand going dark, but this is when having a plan in place can help. At Ignite, we have a team, from different disciplines, who proactively seek out dates or events that we should prepare for when it comes to going dark. For example, with the recent Inauguration, we knew in advance that social feeds would be filled with that content and anything our brands promoted or posted would get lost in the mix or could be taken the wrong way in context to the other conversations happening. We decided to go dark for the day as we didn’t want our clients to waste dollars or publish content that wouldn’t resonate as there were other things on the minds of the audience. There are various holidays and events that we put on our content calendars as ‘Do Not Post’ days for most clients because we know the feeds will be busy with other, sometimes more meaningful content (read: Martin Luther King Jr. Day or September 11th). 

When it comes to an event that is unforeseen, such as mass shootings, the sudden nature of the racial justice events we saw last year, or the Capitol Insurrection we saw just a few weeks ago, it’s important to immediately start to evaluate social feeds for conversation and tone. If the channels are filling with content related to the event and you can tell your brand’s messages will get lost or look insensitive, go dark and stay dark for the time being. In this situation, we have a separate team that is reactionary and will meet throughout the day to discuss the situation that’s playing out and how that could play out online. 

Negative Brand Example during Capitol Riot
Example of negative audience reactions to brand content during the Jan 6 Capitol Insurrection

When to Resume Social Media Activities

Anytime that your brand goes dark, it can be tricky to figure out when to resume posting. A full evaluation of feeds from multiple people is important. What one person is seeing on their feed could be different than another’s. If the feeds still seem filled with content about one specific topic, it’s better to stay dark. Once the feeds start to clear and the chatter dies down, consider it safe to begin your work on your channels. However, a key step, evaluate all of the content that you’re planning to publish in the days after being dark. Triple check that your tone and content don’t come off as insensitive or tone-deaf. A simple word that would normally be fine could be taken very poorly after a tragic event. This goes for any reactive work too. You don’t want your brand to seem too over the top or bombastic during a potentially sensitive time. When everyone’s feeds look like they normally would, filled with memes of funny dogs and pictures of your college friends’ kids, begin business as usual. 

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Reporting During Dark Periods

After going dark, reporting on metrics is likely going to look different than other months. Unless it’s a yearly event and it’s easy to make the 1:1 comparison, expect your numbers to be lower. Though there is a lot of activity on social during this time, don’t expect a high volume of comments or questions, especially if you’ve paused your ads. 

What to Do While Dark

When you’re dark on social media, it’s important to still check in on the channels to make sure there is no negative chatter. If your brand handles customer service issues, your team should discuss whether that’s something you want to handle while dark and what types of questions or comments warrant a brand response.

Off social, this is an opportunity to work on editorial planning, researching trends and competitors, and even proactive social listening that you can respond to once you begin publishing and reactive again. Or, even use this quieter time to tackle any tasks that have been backlogged for a few days or weeks (or months, am I right Social Media Managers?!). 

You never want your brand or clients to receive negative backlash, so you must take the time to pay attention to the online community and read the room. Going dark is an essential part of managing pages on social and if you’re looking for additional guidance about this or other aspects of the industry, contact us!

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