As someone who's made a career of sharing content on various social media platforms, as well as managing various online communities, I can honestly say that I've seen, and heard, it all. Well, maybe not everything - but let’s just say nothing really shocks me anymore. At least not yet.
Some days are better than others. On some days, when monitoring and dealing with colorful language or other bold comments on the Facebook Pages I manage, I think of those Farmers Insurance commercials where the actor says he 'knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two.' This one, in particular, comes to mind:
Growing up in the South, I often heard the expression, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Well, that concept seems to have gone out the window in today’s world. Everyone has something to say these days, especially online. Having the opportunity to say what’s on your mind to anyone (and everyone) with social media and blog posts seems pretty awesome in theory, but on the other hand, this privilege can certainly be abused. And all too often, it is.
And while there are some brand accounts where the social media manager is free to use snarky and witty comebacks as they handle the “hecklers,” they are the exception, and it’s usually just for fun. Wendy’s, for example, is one of my favorites for their quick and snappy comments. It’s a real part of their branding, and it works for them.
For everyone else, here are some tips to help you better manage these sensitive areas of interaction on social platforms.
Tips for Minding Your Manners on Social Media
Beware of Crossing the Line
I love sarcasm, but I have a really hard time with 'obnoxious'. This is especially true when people leave irrelevant, or just plain mean comments on social media posts for the accounts that I manage. I have very little patience for it, but I refuse to take the bait.
For one thing, I'm responsible for managing these brands’ professional reputations, which is something that I take very seriously. For another, I have no interest in starting a social media war. Also, it’s crucial to remember that anything you post on social media is going to be out there forever - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Smile and Dial
A couple of decades ago, I started working as a customer support rep at IBM. It was 1995 - which was way before Facebook and Twitter - so we did most of our work by telephone. I remember keeping a small mirror at my desk, at one side of my computer, as a reminder to smile when dealing with clients. You may have heard of the phrase “smile and dial,” which has existed in the sales and customer service profession since the advent of the telephone. Believe it or not, it really worked.
With social media being one of the most popular methods of communication these days, we don’t spend anywhere near as much time on the phone - at least not for verbal conversations. But the “smile and dial” concept is something that we can still keep in mind to help us be polite, as well as to maintain our professional reputation and goodwill with our customers.
Social Media Etiquette 101
Here are a few ideas for good social media etiquette on three of the most popular platforms:
- Facebook - Refrain from sharing mean or unnecessary comments on public posts. Not only will all your Facebook friends see them, but everyone else will, too, and depending on the type of Page, you may find yourself banned if you go overboard.
- Twitter - Think before you tweet. Twitter has a reputation for taking a news story and blowing it out of proportion, especially if it’s political. Take pause before diving into any discussions.
- LinkedIn - This platform is traditionally more professional, although it’s not as stuffy as it was five years ago. If you plan to use LinkedIn for professional networking, however, you’ll want to look professional. Be sure to use a profile picture that's more serious than one you would use on Facebook.
Dealing with social media hecklers and hasslers can be challenging, but the key is in maintaining a consistent approach, considering the source of the issue - no matter how it's being presented - and working to find solutions where possible. You won't always be able to turn a negative interaction around, but by keeping these principles in mind, you can manage how you respond on behalf of your business.