This afternoon I’ve been finding it really hard to concentrate on ‘normal work’ as I’m sure most people have been. My thoughts are with everyone affected by the attack in Manchester and it’s heartbreaking to know that any one person can be capable of such destruction, especially given the setting and children attending. A few friends of mine are journalists and I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d want to be less than a newsroom, apart from on the front line of the emergency services, or in a hospital waiting room being told the worst has happened. I have so much respect for anyone in security, police, fire and health. It’s never been something I could do, and it takes a really special kind of person.

Social Media is always an odd place to be after any kind of attack or tragedy, whether cause by man-made destruction, or natural causes such as earthquakes etc. Real-time updates mean you find out news instantly, but also that misinformation or hatred can spread just as quickly. I’ve already seen Facebook statuses declaring that they’ll be un-friending so-and-so. I’ve also seen people unknowingly sharing pretty petrifying articles which at first glance look like another threat, but then turn out to be from years gone by.  A certain female twitter user has been trending again, she shall remain unnamed in this article as much like Voldemort, she spreads hate like a curse.

So what should you share online and what should you stay away from? Thankfully these events always throw up plenty of wonderful stories of those helping, whether that’s by offering lifts, blood or a bed. These stories don’t make the news any better or more palatable, but it’s nice to know that communities come together so strongly.

Here are a few things to think about in the wake of attacks:

Facebook Safety Check

If you are local or in the area which has been affected, Facebook will often activate a function called ‘Safety Check’ where you can mark yourself safe. This allows anyone who is worried about you to see you’re ok without you having to call every single person you know. This is particularly helpful if phones are engaged, jammed or if you happen to be worried about someone who maybe isn’t your immediate family or a very close friend.

Missing Persons

Social Media has quite an amazing track record in finding missing people. Unfortunately some really messed-up corners of the internet are pretending to have missing friends and relatives too. Share missing persons posts from news outlets only as they should actually be in touch with the real friends and families who are struggling through the most difficult of times.

Blood Donations

Much of the helpful information floating around has been focused on blood donations which sounds like a brilliant way to use your social media following for good. However, bear in mind that at times like these many many willing volunteers come forward and unwittingly make things harder on the health professionals who are trying to focus their resources. Make sure if you’re sharing information it is from official sources, not just something one of your mates has shared. Go and follow the Blood Service official accounts as they will be the ones telling you what they actually need and where or when. Remember, people need blood all year around and this is a great time to spread that message too.


Check Your Dates

This should go without saying but don’t just share an article without checking when it was from, and who it is written by. Surprise, surprise, blog sites don’t necessarily fact check their information in the same way that actual journalists do. My rule of thumb is generally, if it isn’t on the BBC yet, it’s probably not properly confirmed. Someone on my Facebook feed shared the article below today. Sounds pretty terrifying doesn’t it? Unfortunately it doesn’t show you the date from your feed. When / if you click on it however, the article states straight away the following: ‘Note: this story is from 2016. A reader has shared it to Facebook in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing’. If I was a parent of a child in Kent, Newcastle etc today and saw this in my newsfeed, I’d probably be on the phone straight away, in hysterics wondering if my child was ok. Take a second to check what you’re sharing so you don’t send everyone else into panic mode.

Reverse Google Image Search

Plenty of other images that were shared today were fake. How to check? You can google images not just words. Try it out. This is also great for spotting catfishes for any Tinder lovers out there.

Pause Your Corporate Comms

Scheduling is most Social Media Managers dream tool to plan ahead and pre-program in some of their updates to go out during their week. This can backfire incredibly quickly in the wake of attacks or natural disasters. One of my clients for example has some content due to be going out today around their facility appearing on a popular and hard hitting Channel 4 programme. The programme has a title that is associated with murder. Obviously we’re now putting a pause on our outgoing comms accordingly.

Make your shares meaningful

Showing solidarity through profile pictures, sharing lit-up buildings, quotes and suchlike tend to polarise people. Putting a banner on your profile with Manchester in a heart is a nice thought to some, and completely useless to others. Raising awareness of charity campaigns and the work of emergency services however, can be amazingly powerful. JustGiving estimate that a share to Facebook is worth approximately £10 in donations. Check that the campaigns you’re donating to have been set up by a reputable source and then watch the totals go up knowing you might have actually helped something for once.  Over £300,000 has already been raised for one of the campaigns run by Manchester Evening News.   Most importantly check your facts. Keep safe everyone and #standtogether.

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