Why you shouldn’t attend every social media argument you’re invited to

Nicole writes on reputation, issues and crisis management for the Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog. Here’s her March 2016 piece on why individuals and organisations shouldn’t feel compelled to respond to online complaints from trolls looking for their next pen-pal:

There is a new time thief in your workplace and it isn’t a new App or social media network, not a virtual reality gizmo or wearable piece of technology. The corporate time lag that has your communications team distracted, is the ever-increasing organizational predilection for obsessing over every little thing that is said about your brand on social media.

Being situationally aware of current consumer and stakeholder sentiment across the totality of the media sphere is one thing – pouring over every tweet, Facebook mention or Google trend percentage shift is entirely another. The former is smart, the latter no so much when you let indiscrete and out of context data overrule logic and common sense.

Unless you have something to hide or are guilty of some form of malpractice, why are you so worried about what people are saying about your brand on social media?


1. Monitor ALL your on and offline media using an automated tool

Let an algorithm do the hard yakka for you and have your employees spend their time more effectively interpreting those results and taking strategic action. An app I use to monitor my own media is called ‘Mention’ – your organization may also have a similar service available through existing media monitoring contracts.

2. Don’t attend every argument you’re invited to

Deciphering legitimate complaints from trolls looking for a showdown is a skill — don’t feel obliged to attend every argument you’re invited to online. If you feel that a response is warranted, take that interaction offline straight away and manage that complainant appropriately toward resolution.

3. Pick your battles

Do a little background research on the most vocal complainants on your feeds — what are their motivations? Are they genuinely aggrieved and actually a customer, or is their social media feed littered with similar attacks on other brands? For some people, brand bashing online is something of hobby. Don’t become their next pen pal.

4. Accept that there will be people you will never be able to please

Don’t spend copious amounts of time or effort seeking to change someone’s views or perceptions — it will never happen. And the more you try (too hard) the less sincere you appear. Say your piece, then say nothing. It’s your social media account, your brand, your rules.

5. Anyone can threaten to ‘call the media’ but is their story really newsworthy?

While the idea of A Current Affair turning up on your doorstep is unnerving, what makes news is often at odds with what people think is newsworthy. Unless you have a situationinvolving a broad systemic issue, scandal or have treated people exceptionally poorly, chances are you won’t be facing a journalist and camera crew anytime soon.

6. Don’t take the bait

If you’re invited to an argument offline, remain cautious. Offline conversations can be recorded, messages captured from device screens and emails published. As a general rule, you should be comfortable with ANY and ALL communications leaving your organization being published on or offline.

7. Let it go

Most issues will be looked back upon as an uncomfortable few hours of a day in your working life. Keep in perspective all the good things that you do and what your organization has achieved. Don’t dwell over crises or over-think your responses to them after the fact. Learn from the experience and implement constructive feedback – then move on.

Cultivating a robust organizational culture with an appropriate level of resilience to what is said about it online is not only savvy from a crisis communications context, but it makes economic sense.

What will you do the next time you’re invited to your own trolling?

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