How Brands Responded to the Boston Marathon Tragedy on Social Media


How Brands Responded to the Boston Marathon Tragedy on Social Media

Brands must walk a delicate line when tragedy strikes.

While social media provides an efficient way to chime in on the chaos, many brands find themselves struggling to articulate the proper response. Some don’t show enough compassion, others try to turn tragedy into commercial opportunity – and then you get the occasional brand that drops the ball and heavily damages its reputation in the eyes of the public.

What Brands Should Do When Tragedy Strikes

We typically recommend taking a good look at any pre-scheduled content to make sure it is still topical and won’t offend, and frequently adjusting the dates and times of posting to match public sentiment.

Most brands should not post anything regarding the event beyond a simple, “Our thoughts and prayers are with ______.”

Before you post or tweet, take a good look at the messaging and ponder, “If I saw this pop up in my feed, what would I think?” If you’d be proud of the post or tweet, then consider it good to go. If you’re on the fence whatsoever, ask someone else or revise the messaging. Take extra precautions when so much emotion is involved.

If the event played a significant role in your local community or industry, you may have more of an opportunity to provide your thought leadership and guidance. For example, the response made by Dunkin’ Donuts was strong and sincere. According to Kevin Vine, Interactive Marketing Manager at Dunkin Brands, “As a Boston company, we thought we should say something.”

Boston Marathon Brand Social Media Successes and Failures

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, here are three other brands that provided commendable responses through social media and one that dropped the ball big time.

SUCCESS: Virgin America

Anticipating an increase in last-minute travelers trying to get in and out Boston, Virgin America jumped into action and waived change fees. It immediately announced this via social media, earning a variety of positive responses from customers, and even a few mentioning problems they have faced by other airlines. Virgin certainly won a few new customers with its compassionate response.


Airbnb, a crowd-source lodging platform, created an “Urgent Boston Accommodations” page on their website and promoted it across social networks. The company also waived service fees in Boston. Its messaging provided customer service contact information, a nice touch for those panicked and in need of immediate assistance.


Google mobilized its engineering and data teams to quickly develop the Boston Marathon Explosions Person Finder – a system for easily finding or providing information about loved ones. Messaging focused on the human component, not the technology – not falling victim to a frequent error made by large companies in the tech industry.

FAILURE: Epicurious

If you looked up “insensitive” in the dictionary, you’d find the following Epicurious tweets. Epicurious, a prominent recipes and cooking website, tried to show its support for the people of Boston in the same tweets where it promoted its recipes. No Epicurious, the top question on the minds of marathon bombing victims is not, “Where can I get a delicious recipe for whole-grain cranberry scones?” The company later deleted and apologied for the tweets, but the damage was already done.


Did you come across any other brands worthy of commendation for supporting the Boston Marathon victims? Let us know in the Comments section.