Dos & Don'ts: How to use social media tastefully at a funeral

I recently came across a lovely Mashable article entitled “How To: Tastefully Use Social Media at Your Wedding,” and I thought, “Wow, that is what has been missing all my life, I do need a guide for that…everyone does!”

The guide, which got over a thousand retweets and over 700 Facebook shares, taught me how to use social media in a tasteful way, so as not to offend the bride and groom, and to maximize their digital imprint online for lasting memories.

Top tips from Mashable’s etiquette gurus included, “stay offline during the ceremony,” (what?! surely not!), “appoint a chief tweeter” (goodbye Best Man, hello Head Twit), “set up a social media station” (because Gazpacho and breadstick stations are so 2009), and “live stream for those who can’t make it,” (though, in the words of the esteemed Cee-Lo, if you can’t be bothered to come to my big day, F$#@ you).

Based on the last couple of weddings I’ve been to, this is clearly an excellent strategy, Mashable, especially considering the amount of time we all spend getting wasted at the open bar. Drunken wedding pics of the bride’s garter, anyone? 

Tweet of Death

That said, I began to wonder whether other guides to using social media at social events existed. What about a guide to using social media at Bar Mitzvahs? Circumcisions? Or cocktail parties? But most importantly, is there a proper guide to etiquette when it comes to using social media at funerals? I searched Mashable but came up dry, so I decided I should help out all those socially confused hipsters out there and write one myself, using Mashable’s fantastic wedding guide as my compass. So here you have it, our fabulous and fashionable How to: the Dos and Dont’s to Tweeting Tastefully at a Funeral.

1. Pre-Funeral Preparations
When someone dies, people come from far and wide to honor the person, and like the wedding guide states, now is an ideal time to employ social media to acquaint guests before the funeral to avoid any awkwardness around the coffin. But you have to act fast, seeing as you will only have a few days to prepare. Perhaps you’d like to create a Facebook event to promote the funeral and to remind guests that it’s happening. Better yet, you may want to create a private Facebook group where funeral attendees can talk day-of logistics privately so as not to clutter friends’ newsfeeds, and to avoid any jealousy amongst those not invited to the big event.

It’s also imperative to create a Foursquare check-in location for both the funeral home and the burial site.

2. During the Ceremony
If friends and family can’t make Aunt Millie’s funeral bash, now is the perfect time to include them digitally using social media. Make sure your guests understand social media and are sending out more than just basic tweets. Perhaps introduce the older generations to TwitPics and videos, and make sure they take time to respond to @ replies and field questions. Instead of barraging Facebook friends with every single live tweet from the funeral, we recommend using Facebook’s “Selective Tweet Status” app by ending your tweets with the hashtag #fb. That way, you can send selective tweets to Facebook without cluttering all of your friends’ newsfeeds.

3. Undertake the appointment of a Chief Tweeter
Funerals, like weddings, are notorious for bad food and for gathering a bunch of depressed people who don’t know each other (usually relatives) together in a claustrophobic room. It can be ‘bury’ unpleasant without the right social media etiquette and that’s why we turned to the advice of expert Mindy Howard of @TweetMyWedding.

She advises event organisers to “have an official tweeter and well wishing station — have one or more ‘Tweets of Honor.’”

It may be a friend, it may be a sibling, or a close friend to the dearly departed but make sure to select a dead-pan chief tweeter who will undertake all the solemn tweeting responsibilities of the day. Giving the person a title such as “Tweeter of Honour,” or “grave Twit” will make them feel special and obligate them to serve Aunt Millie well. For the depressed and technology obsessed, this is a great job to keep their mind off their loss and will allow them some quiet contemplation time in a corner as they tweet unobtrusively from their iPhones.

Creating a hashtag for the event can also be an excellent way to filter relevant tweets. Think #AuntMilliesFuneral.

4. Set-Up a Social Media Station
You may want to consider setting up a laptop or iPad station where attendees can monitor tweets both from within the funeral itself and from commenters, friends, and family that couldn’t be there in person. “For the especially geeky — set up a station,” advises Howard. “Have a laptop, a projector and screen. Encourage guests to come by, tweet their well wishes and watch others’ tweets scroll over the screen.” It’s like a digital tomb stone, and touching tribute all rolled into one. Just make sure you don’t set-up the official well wishing station next to the punch bowl at the wake.

5. Live Stream for Those Who Can’t Make It
Bust out the Flip cam and start filming, because Aunt Millie ain’t gonna die twice, you know! “The use of Ustream to share (publicly or privately) your day live online for friends and family that cannot make it to your ceremony is especially useful… If Great Grandmother cannot make it, she can still virtually attend…” Howard says. What a great idea. Unless great grandmother is dead, of course, in which case she will already be with the great Twit in the sky.

From digging the grave to the post-funeral party we’ve got you covered as far as social media etiquette goes. Having a guide to major life changing events such as these is crucial when it comes to maintaining your online social media reputation.Thanks for the inspiration, Mashable – it’s your funeral!