Brands are wasting little time tweeting around #Blizzardof2015 and #Snowmageddon2015, two hashtags already trending nationally.
Toyota and GoToMyPC, a mobile app, are buying promoted Tweets around the hashtag, while DiGiorno, Red Vines and Banana Republic are having real-time fun with the potentially historic weather about to hit the East Coast. But as conditions worsen, some may begin wondering whether brands should be playing too flippantly with a storm as dangerous as the blizzard is expected to become.
“Certain brands might be able to contribute if they have a snow-related angle and are relevant to the conversation, but they should be exceedingly cautious when it comes to storms of this magnitude that could cause real devastation and even deaths,” said Andrew Cunningham, community lead at Huge. “Brands definitely don’t want to seem like they are capitalizing on potential tragedies.”
Jill Sherman, a vp/general director of social and content strategy at DigitasLBi Boston, agreed with Cunningham’s common-sense take.
“Blizzards turn into natural disasters pretty quickly, so being cheeky or insensitive can—and will—backfire,” she said. “To play it safe, brands can enter the conversation with helpful safety hints or stay-warm ideas.”
Sherman suggested sharing appropriate recipes and games for when folks batten down the hatches, though she acknowledged that many brands will want to focus more on light-hearted conversation than disaster preparedness.
“For those brands that just can’t help themselves, be sure your social media manager is watching the news ticker. Be ready to sign off before anyone gets hurt. And if you screw up, apologize. Don’t hide behind a cloak of silence.”
Shankar Gupta, vp of strategy at 360i, said a challenge for brands in the next 24 hours will be to create something other than newsfeed-cluttering noise.
“If a brand has some real role to play for consumers in a blizzard, then by all means, go for it,” he said. “But if not, brands just talking about the weather is pretty dull—even duller than humans talking about the weather.”