When Silence Is The Best Response on Social Media

Every few weeks, something happens that causes a topic related to a brand or product to trend online. When this happens, consumers expect that brand to respond quickly. In fact, new data shows that 42% of consumers expect brands to reply to inquiries within 60 minutes or less, and 32% expect a brand to respond within 30 minutes. When brands don’t respond quickly on trending brand-related topics, let’s just say that the pitchforks come out on social media*. It’s easy to bash a brand and opine about how they should/should not respond to the scenario. However, most consumers (and marketers) don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Why would a brand not respond to a trending topic related to their brand?

There are two simple answers to this question that are often overlooked:

Silence can be the best response.

  • Silence is the best response on social media when the trending topic is largely off-brand, irrelevant, or inappropriate.
  • Silence is the best response on social media when legal cites a reason that response could put the company at risk.

Developing a response can take time.

Often, the public is quick to criticize that a brand is not replying to a hot topic when really, it’s just taking the brand time.
  • Sometimes internal teams are divided on the benefit of a response. As a result, they spend time discussing the merits of replying and appropriate messaging. Internal teams don’t always agree, so this can extend response time.
  • Some brands require multiple levels of approvals on the final post. Some brands might have a one or two person approval process. Others may need sign-off by 10 people or more.
  • Sometimes brands wait to see how the conversation organically evolves before they decide if a response is warranted.
Social media should be a real-time communications platform, and in a perfect world, all brands would have the perfect response to every scenario in the moment. The truth is that social media is sometimes more complicated. There is no one-size-fits-all for social media engagement. Each brand is unique and each situation is unique. Social response strategies can help large brands act more nimbly in the moment, but can’t always predict every scenario. More importantly, silence is often intentional and strategically sound. What do you think? Do hot topics always merit a response? Tell us in the comments! *It is possible that you’ve never pulled your pitchfork out on social media. That’s awesome. This post speaks to a larger and growing trend.