When I first heard word of the fire in Punta Cana at a popular resort, I jumped to social media for the breaking story. The big issue? Although there is a story to be told about at the Majestic Colonial, it wasn’t really all that ‘breaking.’ What seemed most broken was the resort’s own social presence.

Here’s what I learned while taking a look.

All news does not travel fast

Tweeters, TripAdvisor members, and concerned family and friends looked for up-to-the-minute updates, news and information — without success.

Lesson 1: Your fans, friends and followers want to connect with you. They want to be kept informed of breaking news and information that feels important. Keep them in the know, and make the answers easy to find.

Being absent is not pretty

After the slow-moving news of the fire, curious individuals turned to social media to ask questions. Doing what they knew, they reached out using hashtags and twitter handles that made the most sense. What they may not have realized prior to asking questions and attempting to engage in conversation, is that they were likely going to go unheard.

More often than not, they received the social media equivalent of blank stares and silence. Not only could I not find an active Twitter handle that was responding on behalf of the resort, but other inactive accounts were being reached out to.

Christie went through the trouble to find an account, but did not notice they’ve been quiet for over 5 months. Sadly, she wasn’t going to get the answers she was looking for.

Lesson 2: Just because hashtags and Twitter handles exist, don’t assume they are monitored or manned.

Lesson 3: If you’re already monitoring your own brand or geographic location on behalf of a tourism initiative, nothing is stopping you from also monitoring the competition. The quiet reactions to this fire could have been a gold mine opportunity for a competing resort to provide helpful information in a non-threatening manner.

Being out of the loop is bad for business

There’s a thread on TripAdvisor with a comment that demonstrates just how disappointing it can be when you feel a brand is disconnected with the outside world. When a travel agent had not heard that there was any trouble in the Dominican Republic, it was evident that word had not traveled.

This is no one party’s ‘fault’ as much as it is an observation.

Lesson 4: People haven’t stopped signing up for social media and networking accounts. As social grows, so does the need for connection, and the assumption that everyone else is doing it does not go away. By being connected — both as a source and to the sources — you’ll increase your chances of being in the know and passing on the most relevant and timely information to your customers.

People crave social

While the conversations may have been limited at best, there were a few people sharing images and video.

Lesson 5: Despite the reactions being low-key and quiet, the Majestic Colonial could have used this opportunity to put their best  foot forward and engaged with their community. What could that have earned them? A personalized interaction with guests —  past, present and future.

Had the resort been an active social media user, this story may have unfolded differently. There is lots to observe and learn in a crisis or tragedy. What did this story tell you?

Check out more travel & tourism social media use cases here, or read this post about how the travel industry should listen.