Tweet and delete: avoiding regrettable, instinctive responses on social media and how to manage trolls

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By Ned Worledge

Social media’s best asset also leads to its ugliest.

Social media allows people from all over the world to engage in open discussion about a variety of topics. The problem being, ANYONE can have their two cents worth, and often people are rather critical in their feedback.

That is a very polite way of putting it, truthfully, some people are just ignorant and rude.

There was, and still is, the old ‘armchair expert’ who sat back, waived the remote at the television and lectured the politician on how ridiculous their policy was, or abused the sports player, claiming their 90 year old Grandmother could have kicked that goal.

However, thanks to the power of social media, those ‘armchair experts’ now have direct access to the very people they are criticising and spew their thoughts all over Twitter and/or Facebook.

Sometimes this is in the heat of the moment, but often it is more calculated.

There is an obvious difference between offering informed critical analysis and just flat-out abusing an individual, organisation or group.

How you, your staff, the members of your organisation or members of your group respond to trolls* on social media has a big impact on the perception and reputation of your business, group or organisation.

The natural, and perfectly reasonable reaction, is to quickly shoot them down with the facts, correcting all the miss-truths they’ve spouted, putting them back in their box.

The problem here is if someone is passionate or fired up enough to start an argument online, the facts and reason are unlikely to stop them. From an outsider’s perspective, it just looks like you are picking on a concerned member of the public, especially if you are responding as an organisation, not an individual.

There are ways and means of successfully dealing with critical comments or untrue tweets. A simple method is to acknowledge the concerns of the individual and take the conversation offline, directing them to an appropriate complaint channel such as a customer service email or phone number.

Our experience is the person you give the email or phone number to rarely ever emails or calls.

One of the most desirable outcomes for any organisation is for staunch followers of your organisation or group going into bat for you.

A perfect example of this is the public response a client of Font’s received after announcing the discovery of listeria in a small number of products.

Because of the organisations’ openness and transparency, the comments were overwhelmingly supportive.

Even when there was a comment made, accusing the organisation of only making the announcement because legally, they had to, loyal customers defended the actions of the organisation, without them having to lift a finger.

One of the most vital pieces of equipment for any individual who uses social media professionally is a social media policy.

Social media policies not only outline what the moderators of your social media site should do if trolls strike, but also define general rules around content and content removal, misuse of social media, personal use and responsibilities in monitoring your pages.

If the situation arises whereby your organisation or group has to, or chooses to post something that may cause controversy or upset people, it is vital all staff or members know the appropriate way to react and engage with trolls. A social media policy is the answer to this situation.

*A social media troll, by definition, is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional (read: angry) response from other users. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andre-bourque/answering-a-social-troll_b_6625654.html)

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