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Brands should consider tone when tweeting on 9/11

In 2013 it was AT&T.

This year, we saw it from Build-a-Bear Workshop, yoga studios, adult toy shops and toilet paper companies.

AT&T's 9/11 tweet from 2013

AT&T’s 9/11 tweet from 2013

These brands tweeted on Sept. 11, and it caused quite the collective eye roll on Twitter. Twitter users didn’t want to hear about 9/11 from companies. And they especially didn’t want a business to use Patriot Day to promote itself or its product.

Last year, AT&T received backlash for its 9/11 tweet. People responded with anger about a company using such a sad day to sell them something.

As @ryanpbroderick said, “.@ATT your cool Photoshop makes the memories of watching my parents cry in front of the television a lot easier to deal with today.”

Cooper Tires wasn't the only brand to put its logo on the photo.

Cooper Tires wasn’t the only brand to put its logo on the photo.

Other users called for a boycott of a company that used a national tragedy as a marketing ploy. And this year, brands still hadn’t learned from AT&T’s mistake.

Companies posted memorial photos with their logos on them. They offered “Patriot Day” sales. They tried to sell you their product by “showing respect” for those who had died or lost loved ones on this day 13 years ago.

Some brands just tweeted a photo with “Never forget” or “We remember.” But even these simple tweets failed to impress the public.

“Perception means everything,” said Scott Kleinberg, social media editor at The Chicago Tribune. “Even if there’s technically nothing wrong with it, it’s how the public views it. I really think the public has spoken. And I really like to make sure that I honor that.”

Verizon's tweet on September 10, 2014.

Verizon’s tweet on September 10, 2014.

Verizon was one of the few brands that may have heard the public. This year, they didn’t tweet on 9/11, out of respect. And the public’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of users appreciated the silence.

As John Oliver pointed out on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” silence from companies isn’t controversial.

Many said Build-a-Bear was promoting its own product with this tweet.

Many said Build-a-Bear was promoting its own product with this tweet.

“No one will ever go, ‘I can’t believe it. Skittles didn’t tweet about 9-11 yesterday, they must support terrorism. I’m never eating them again,’” Oliver said. According to him, brands should pass on the opportunity to “join the conversation.”

And from responses on Twitter and the rest of the Internet, most people agree with Oliver.

So, to all the brands out there considering a tweet on 9/11 or any day of national tragedy, consider the tone of your message. If you have any hesitation, just don’t tweet it. Silence is probably better anyway.

_Whitney Carlson

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