Is Social Media the Wrong Place for 9/11 Tributes?

Is the social web the wrong platform for remembering 9/11? This year, a number of major brands tried and failed at striking the right tone.

As the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks comes and goes, we’re left with a number of big misses by some pretty major brands who tried, and I would argue, frequently failed, in getting the tone just right.

It’s a tricky day for social media managers. I believe remembering the day is still  important IF it’s done in context and good taste.  But as the years tick by a new generation of social media users emerge without any emotional tie to 9/11.

As a result, community managers might think they have greater greater flexibility to  create a marketing tie-in. Word to the wise: Resist the urge.  Don’t end up on this type of list next year.

Here’s a look at just some of this year’s September 11 mishaps.

Perhaps the most infamous was this tweet by AT&T featuring One World Trade Center on the screen of a smartphone. The tweet was later deleted.  Are the buildings always off limits?

Poynter notes that the always snarky Esquire posted a picture of the famous “falling man” photo from 9/11/2001, next to an article about a hairy morning commute. Ouch!

Brian Anderson of Motherboard says that in today’s social media age, the Falling Man, as he came to be known, would have his own Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Brands from Applebees, Walmart and Pizza Hut have all Tweeted messages about 9/11 today, as well as leading figures such as Nancy Brinker of Komen for the Cure, politicos and members of Congress.

I believe social media channels can still play a role in marking the day but users need to proceed with caution.

Take former press secretary for President George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer (@arifleischer), who traveled with the commander in chief on 9/11.  He gave his followers a window into that world today, when he tweeted from his notes and personal pictures. I found it riveting, others found it unnecessary.

At what point do these remembrances seem trite alongside the current news of the day? (Syria, the president’s speech, the Apple iPhone launch, etc.)

Readers, do you think brands should continue to mark future 9/11 anniversaries on social media?