ImageThe events of last week concerning the Boston Marathon bombing as well as the recent hacking of the AP Twitter feed had community and social media managers everywhere on high radar when it came to looking after the company and personal Twitter accounts alike.

Tweets were pouring in, but many contained misleading information and links making it difficult to figure out what to retweet, and if it was even possible to attempt at all. Hashtags only compounded this problem and eventually it seemed as though the most logical thing to do was to skip RT’ing and MT’ing altogether in favor of an original tweet.

But when there are so many apps and free websites available to choose from to sync an account up for scheduled tweets, and with so many businesses opting for tweet scheduling in an effort to cut back on time and expense, can the original tweet that acknowledges a crisis cut in?

Absolutely. All those out there who manage Twitter accounts for companies, take a second to jot down these four golden rules for tweeting during a crisis.

1) Stop scheduling tweets – or avoid tweeting altogether.

I’m an organic tweeter. Always have been, always will be. This applies to the work account as well as my own. I believe in tweeting on the spot, not round the clock to prove that I’m so on top of the internet that not even 5 minutes whiz by without me getting my 140 characters in. I’m not alone in that respect either. A PR friend of mine, Allyson Pryor, agrees that the strategy of scheduling tweets out is only asking for trouble. Internal scheduling glitches aside, Pryor put it into perspective by saying, “You wake up and realize your company sent out dumb tweets amidst a crisis taking place on the East Coast. #fail”

So much #fail indeed. Unless the company you manage the social media accounts for is rooted within the journalism and communications industry, now’s the time to un-schedule your tweets. And in some cases, the closer to home the crisis is the best it may be to abstain from tweeting altogether as a sign of respect. Just be sure to send out a quick tweet beforehand to alert any fans about why you’re opting from tweeting for the time being, to keep everyone in the loop.

2) Avoid use of the #breaking or #breakingnews hashtag.

Most unfortunately, hashtags for #breaking and #breakingnews and even just tweets containing the words minus the pound signs included have been put through the wringer and then some. What was once a hashtag meant to accompany a tweet that addressed serious concerns wound up being used in a mocking sense across the board, targeted especially towards Twitter accounts releasing stats too soon without any source cited.

When in doubt of any kind, don’t add this hashtag to a tweet. And on a personal level, if you’re only adding it in an effort to drive traffic and higher followers toward your Twitter account in the midst of an emergency, I’d strongly consider you ask yourself exactly why you’re tweeting in the first place.

3) Show careful respect in composing original tweets.

My biggest tip on composing a tweet that expresses your concern during a time of crisis and shows solidarity with others is to do so from the heart. Keep it simple, to the point, and respectful. Call no one out, place no blame, and emphasize that everyone on board (not just you, unless you’re a one-person organization) shares the same concern and sends their best too.

4) Change your passwords.

It’s not pleasant to do and if you’re used to having Google Chrome remember the site login information for you with every visit made, it’ll take a moment to adjust to the new passwords. Twitter has already begun working on a two-step verification process to prevent future hackings from taking place, but while it remains unclear as to when this will roll out (or how) now’s the time to take a moment and change the passwords on your Twitter account – remember to make them a little complicated to figure out with caps, numbers, and underscores when appropriate!

image: tweet/shutterstock