Have you exposed your brand to negative buzz? Starting with good intentions, have you started a negative firestorm online?
What should you do? Ignore or engage in a verbal sparring match as many do everyday on Twitter, Facebook and in forums? Here are a few simple tips to consider when confronted with negativity online.
Assess the situation
Everyone should be listening to the Internet and monitoring channels and communities important to their business. Look to identify the source, the ignition point or statement that has set things in motion then consider these questions.
- Is the information factually accurate or inaccurate?
- What is the level of credibility of the person, account or organization responsible?
- What platform is the negative activity happening on?
- Does this person, account or organization understand the technology and community they are operating within?
- Is there an ongoing conversation already as a result of the statement for you to research?
- What has been the sentiment of the initial responses to the negative statement?
- Is the discussion growing in size quickly or is it isolated?
What if any social media action should be taken?
Your options here are fairly simple, however, how they’re executed may not be.
MONITOR: This needs to be an ongoing activity for your organization so that you’re not taken by surprise. This can allow you to assess in near real-time if the issue is progressing and if so how. Be careful, ignoring issues completely can place you in a position where a conversation between two people on twitter can quickly turn into a firestorm of international media exposure in hours. Do your assessment quickly and learn to act fast. Generally, most issues do not reach firestorm stage but the potential is always there.
ENGAGE: You can choose to engage in a sparring match with the individuals and organizations involved. This is rarely a good idea, you almost always look like a bully. I experienced this during the airport debate, even if I was looking to offer facts available to me, it was usually still a negative outcome. Rather than spar, I recommend remaining factual without emotion. Your detractors will attempt to initiate personal attacks, do your best to not add validity or take it personal whenever possible.
Instead focus on clearing up misconceptions, admitting mistakes quickly and zero in on providing solutions to move ahead with. This is very difficult sometimes as often a mob mentality can ensue, don’t attempt to try to control this conversation, it will only make it worse. You may however want to nudge the conversation in the right direction and your supporters should look to reinforce that. No surprise that where this routinely happens includes politics, the environment, and government related communications.
Pre-emptive social media strike
Often there’s an urge to attempt to get your message out before anyone else can generate the story flow on your behalf. Let’s say mainstream media writes an unflattering story about your brand or you have been misquoted, and it’s on their website.
If you feel compelled to respond, do it on their platform first, in the comments section, where you can most likely put things into context, to expand you may then want to use your own blog or website to follow-up and explain if required. Resist the urge to jump straight to Twitter where the conversation may not be underway, and jump start it yourself. This will almost certainly draw out trolling behaviour, and open up the opportunity for facts to be twisted 140 characters at a time, igniting a firestorm which you were trying to avoid in the first place. One which could last a few hours, days or until someone gets fired.
Not a perfect science
There is definitely an art to this type of communication situation and the above tips are not intended to be perfect. Continue to provide positive, share-worthy information and support others doing the same. I’m of the belief that there is definitely an audience for that worth being a part of.