How to Tweet When Sad News Breaks

We’ve had a lot of heartbreaking news stories in the past few years, and for many Twitter users that social network was the first place they heard about some of them. It can get emotional and a little overwhelming on Twitter as these tragedies unfold, and it’s a good time for your personal and company brand to make a positive impression and contribution to the conversation – and avoid a negative one.

If you want to hang on to your followers and sound like a real and thoughtful human (or a company ran by thoughtful humans), follow these tips for tweeting during a sad news event.

Once you hear a sad news event has happened…


  • Be human and social.
  • Tweet something nice like “Our thoughts and prayers go out to…” if you feel moved to do so.
  • Tweet a link to the best news article you read about it, if you want to help spread the word.
  • Tweet about how to locate family membersTweet or retweet things that can help. In the example of the Boston Marathon bombing, tweeting the phone numbers to locate family members, telling your Boston followers where they can donate blood, etc.


  • Let your scheduled auto-tweets continue to publish without at least checking what is set to tweet next. You can look like an out-of-touch jerk bot if someone sees your automated tweet amongst a dozen others about the tragedy that just happened. Imagine if your company had scheduled a post to publish today that just happened to be very offensive or insensitive given the news. You’ll probably want to push out your scheduled tweets for a few hours, and perhaps post less than normal until talk of the tragedy has calmed down a bit on Twitter.
  • Do what Guy Kawasaki did. After news of the Boston Marathon explosion broke on Twitter, he continued to auto-tweet things like “If you super size your title, make sure you can deliver the beef – [link]“. That’s understandable and many people didn’t turn of auto-tweets, but after someone replied and told him to turn off the automatic tweets because “Your tweets stuck out in a stream about Boston,” Guy went on to tweet “Loving how people with less than 1,500 followers are telling me how to tweet…” and then back to automated-looking tweets like “12 fun facts about tulips – [link]“. I noted Guy’s number of Twitter followers just over an hour ago, and his number of followers is now down by 51 – so he’s probably gained his normal amount of followers today, and lost quite a few.
  • Jump into tweets with your political opinions or conspiracy theories on the sad news event before any facts have been released. (Unless you think most of your followers want or expect that from you.)
  • Tweet every new development in the news story. (Unless you think most of your followers want or expect that from you.)
  • Offer to donate money for every retweet you receive, or something similar. That’s what the fake @_BostonMarathon Twitter account did, and it can feel more tacky and selfish than generous.

Do you have any other advice? Have you seen any other social media faux pas around tragedies? Share in the comments.

Note: This post was originally published on when Kristina worked there, but since the company was sold and the blog content removed, Kristina has published it here on her own website.

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