Most of you are fully aware by now that social media plays a significant role in building your authority as a thought leader and expert in your field.
One of social media’s great advantages over traditional media is that you get to control your message to an extent you can’t when you’re being interviewed by a print journalist, a talk radio host or a TV show host. With social media, there is no media “gatekeeper” standing between you and your audience.
That’s the good news!
But, as wonderful as social media is for promoting your brand, it does present its own treacherous pitfalls. A particularly onerous drawback is that your social media followers can post responses to your posts that are, shall we say, less than ideal!
That happened just this week to one of our clients when one of her Twitter followers suggested quite publicly and forcefully that she quit posting about one subject (business culture) and write about a different subject (blockchain) he cared about instead! (This is the polite version. I will refrain from injuring your ears with the sailor’s language he actually used.)
It was, to say the least, quite an aggressive response to a fairly innocuous post.
Luckily for all of us, there are lessons to be learned from how this situation played out. Jay York, our senior social media strategist who manages our client’s social media platforms, says there were a few options he considered.
On behalf of the client, Jay could have directly challenged the person’s comment. He could have also tagged the blockchain community, who likely would have brought down their wrath on the errant poster.
But the option Jay chose was to send a private message to the poster, politely requesting that the comment please be removed because it didn’t help a mutual objective they both had of bridging the gap between business and blockchain people.
A few hours later, the very contrite poster replied, apologizing and removing the post.
So, in case you ever find yourself in a similar distasteful situation with one of your social media accounts, let’s break down how you can try to duplicate what Jay did:
- Find common ground. “In marketing, sometimes you can turn threats into opportunities,” Jay says. Let’s face it, social media has plenty of trolls who post objectionable things just to be jerks, and there’s no reasoning with people like that. But Jay says he surmised this wasn’t the case in this situation. After all, this person chose to follow our client on Twitter and seemed to respect her. By finding common ground (their shared interest in blockchain) they were able to come to a mutual understanding.
- Be respectful. When someone is rude to you (and this post was exceptionally rude with foul language to match) there’s a natural temptation to respond in kind. You want to just let them have it! Resist that temptation. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I think Jay proved that saying has merit because the disagreeable person became agreeable in the end, doing exactly what Jay wanted to happen for our client. A hostile response might have escalated the situation rather than resolved it.
- Look beyond the face of what’s occurring. Everything isn’t black and white, and sometimes you have to dive below the surface and explore what’s really going on. Yes, this person had come off as critical to an almost irrational degree, but he also had raised a point about the kind of social media content he was looking for from our client. Once you worked your way through the vitriol, his post really was a request for her to share more content about a subject he cared about.
What’s interesting here, I think, is that while social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others are largely a product of the 21st century, the human beings who use them are still fundamentally the same way human beings always have been.
Just like in face-to-face business dealings, good manners are still important and can help smooth the way through those less-than-desirable situations.