Social Media – Sometimes it pays to say nothing

Repost from The Social Penguin Blog.

You’re an idiot and your product never works, I’m so never buying here again

You suck…

Ah social media, a happy place where everyone loves each other and no one is ever nasty or mean. Your brand is adored by all and the only things people have to say about you are sweet and nice. Of course the reality is that you are just as likely to be subjected to sarcastic, rude and down right abusive comments in social media as you are anywhere else. The big difference in social media is the speed (light speed it seems at times) at which things can turn ugly if you don’t have some guidelines in place to help.

Having clear terms of engagement is something that’s often skipped over when considering social media policies. (If you have them at all that is.) Most times it’s left to your own judgement when deciding who you should and shouldn’t respond to and if you haven’t invested any kind of training in to the staff who manage your social media you may end up like these cautionary tales.

The easiest way to stop this kind of mistake from happening is to provide your staff with guidance that clearly outlines, in a step by step process, exactly what action you should take for different possible types of comments you are likely to encounter.

Thankfully someone has already done that for you.

Airforce Principals
US Airforce Web Posting Assessment

Back in 2009 Capt. David Faggard, Chief of Emerging Technology at the Air Force Public Affairs Agency made this flowchart available, outlining how members of the the US Airforce should respond to any comments online discovered about the Airforce. There have been many attempts to change (or shamelessly rip off) this chart since 2009 but in essence it remains unchanged because it works well. As much you want to it tells you not to respond to that sarky comment, be a grown up and ignore it.

As smart and witty as your response may be, you just aren’t going to change this person’s opinion and are likely to make things worse by trying. It can be frustrating walking away in some situations, especially if like me your knee jerk reaction is to respond with exquisite dry sarcasm, but it really is for the best. If you refuse to engage then these people can’t get deeper under your skin. The chart helps you identify these potentially toxic situations so you can avoid them like the plague and although it’s meant for blogs it works just as well with other social media channels too.

The one problem I have with the chart is that it advocates “monitor only” or ‘report to your boss’ for some of the worst kinds of posts. I’m talking about the about the kind of posts that are frankly unacceptable anywhere, the ones that threaten, harass and intimidate. Sometimes people forget there is a human being at the end of the a faceless social media account and a simple polite message can be enough to get them to stop. (Though just remember how easy it is to take screenshots of private messages) If not, all the major social media channels have ways of reporting abusive behavior. You shouldn’t be subject to abuse in your workplace, even through social media which is why you need to take action if it becomes a recurring problem.

If only we could convince everyone to be nice and polite online, then no one would have to worry about responding to negative posts. Do you think if I baked some cake for the guys over at 4Chan they’d give the trolling a rest?


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