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There are plenty of articles out there telling you when to post. This is designed to point out the times when not to post.
The goals of most businesses on social media normally fall into two categories: marketing and communication. Many use social media strictly as a marketing tool to get their message out and to encourage others to help them do the same. Others use it for outreach, as a way to talk directly to their customers and prospects, and to collaborate on needs. Most do a little of both.
These types of activities are fine the majority of the time, but there are instances when it's best to let the messages fall to the side and focus on what's happening in the world.
The recent elections were a perfect example. Social media was flooded as results started coming in. People were Tweeting their opinions or taking pictures of their "I Voted" stickers. They were debating about who would win what, how the country was heading in this direction or that direction, and even discussing how there was too much being posted about politics on the social media channels.
This was a bad time to try to put out a marketing message or a to communicate with the audience.
The best post that an American company could have made yesterday was something to encourage people to vote. It's neutral; normally I encourage businesses to be opinionated but this was one election to stay out of altogether. It was not the time to launch a product or discuss a coming event.
There are other times like this. When there are national or worldwide crises, some companies try idiotically to latch on to the trend. This works out badly the vast majority of the time. Again, opinions, thoughts, and prayers can be expressed but the moments when Sandy was hitting the northeast was an inappropriate time to push product messages.
Be mindful of what's going on. Participate. The one thing that these events allow a company to do is to express empathy, to be a resource that shows people how they can participate or help, and to add a touch of humanity to the business entity. When you have posts talking about your products or services that are hitting social media when everyone's attention is on something else, it's not only futile. It can be damaging as well.