Then out of nowhere someone posts, “I’m so depressed I’m thinking about killing myself.”
I did a fair amount of pro bono work for the Samaritans years ago. One of the first things they teach you is that prior to any suicide attempt there are always signs and that you have to take each and every one seriously. They range from a neglect in personal appearance, to giving away personal items, to voicing depression, to the most serious of all, a mention of suicide.
We have seen cases of people announcing their suicide on Facebook before. But what if it happens on your brand’s page? What do you do? Do you take it seriously? Do you respond? Do you delete it? Or simply disregard it? Tough choice. It could be a joke, or more likely a simple exaggeration.
Then again, what if it’s not? Imagine a scenario in which the person actually commits suicide and it becomes apparent that he posted his intentions on your page but no one responded, offered advice, or shared an 800 number for the Samaritans. Now there’s a PR nightmare.
Today some of us at Mullen went through this exercise. Here’s where we netted out.
We would choose not to respond publicly in the stream. Instead, if the user had his email permissions on, we would immediately send an email saying we hoped that he was OK and that if he wanted to talk about things we know people who are there to listen. We’d then include a number for the Samaritans. We would also alert the Samaritans to the fact that we were doing this. (The Samaritans actually have a page on Facebook.) Chances are they’d have a recommendation as well.
If his permissions were off, we thought it might be wise for a brand to create an individual (personal) user page and friend the person in order to send him an email with the above message. To be honest, we’re not entirely sure of this approach as a marketer could suddenly find himself in the middle of an online conversation or relationship that he’s ill-equipped to deal with. Then again, if you were seeking help or attention, would you have your email permissions turned off?
We’d obviously monitor the stream to see if there were additional comments or expressions of depression or if others joined the conversation. And finally we would alert Facebook and request their recommended protocol for dealing with this kind of situation.
David Meerman Scott in his new book Real Time Marketing and PR tells us that we have to respond to all things social within moments of their happening or risk the consequences. Not sure there’s an easy solution for something that might be this serious. How would you handle the situation?
Related links: Facebook adds to loneliness