When a mass shooting occurs, the National Rifle Association’s communications shop typically goes dark, particularly its highly visible social media channels.
That has certainly been the case post-Newtown. The organization’s Facebook page, with its more than 1.7 million likes, has been hidden with users being redirected to Facebook’s homepage. Its Twitter account, with more than 65,000 followers, has been silent since Friday as well.
As a behemoth powerhouse in politics, the NRA is also highly active on social media channels. To put it into perspective, Republican communications consultant Michael Turk points out that the NRA’s page surpasses the RNC’s Facebook page, which has 1.1 million likes. The gun group’s Facebook presence also certainly eclipses the anti-gun lobby Brady Campaign, which has 42,000 likes.
But Turk points out that the NRA’s “content seems largely informational, rather than action oriented, though. They could be more effective.”
In the aftermath of a mass shooting, the NRA’s go-dark social media strategy is probably its best option. Sure, the conversation in the social media sphere will continue on without them, with gun control advocates and foes debating. But Turk says he doesn’t see staying silent on social media as hurting the NRA’s brand as the preeminent voice for gun owners.
“While self-proclaimed social media gurus will say they need to be front and center, this is probably the best-case scenario for the NRA right now,” Turk says. “If all people can say is ‘the NRA wasn't vocally defending guns while people mourned,’ that probably makes them look better, rather than worse. “
That the NRA isn’t trying to galvanize its base via social media while the nation mourns makes sense, particularly since earnest policy discussions aren’t really taking place now. But they will probably be back out of the gate later, Internet strategy and communications consultant Jon Henke said.
Is there any way to get back online in the wake of a mass shooting? “If I were the NRA, I would emphasize that gun safety is a personal, not government, responsibility, and focus on their gun safety efforts that teach law-abiding gun owners how responsible, safe gun ownership can prevent accidents and misuse,” Henke suggested. “That would be both a consistent and constructive way to use social media in the aftermath of a tragedy like this.”