Foes & Trolls: A Social Media Communications Action Plan

Social Media: Many Players, Little Control

Thanks to the power of social media and a focus on interactive communications, companies enjoy the benefits of immediacy, transparency and connectivity in dialogue between customers, employees and partners at levels unheard of a mere decade ago.

The Catch-22?

While a study by the Harvard Business Review identified that fully 79% of companies were either using, or planning to use, social media channels in their communication initiatives, only 12% felt they were using these channels effectively. Which means there are plenty of companies brave enough to board the ship of social media, but precious few have confidence in their ability to skipper the vessel.

That’s ok; there’s plenty of help to be had, and social media is a fast-moving and forgiving medium for you to use in your communications strategy.

Who ARE These People?

But wait, there’s another element to consider: The issue of all those individuals out there on the receiving end of your company communications. How is that working out? Wait, what’s that, you say? Not everything you’re hearing is positive? Some of it even seems somewhat…irrational?

Welcome to the world of fair feedback, foes and trolls.

Fair Feedback, Foes & Trolls

If you’re monitoring social media flow and comments and feedback in digital forums such as news publications, blogs and review sites, you know those negative comments have a level of exposure unheard of in the long-ago days of top-down corporate communications.

Many of these comments are legitimate, and present an excellent and immediate opportunity to build your brand through responsive and positive dialogue.If a consumer is not happy with a product or service, social media gives your company the power to set things right, swiftly and visibly. The positive impact for your company can be profound: a full 71% of customers who have been helped via social media are likely to recommend that brand to others (NM Incite).

Which leaves us with the other two camps of social media communicators with a negative bent: Foes and trolls, and they each require completely different responses.

Foes: Not Friends, But Not Unfair

Foes are those entities and individuals that are against your company or cause; and are unlikely to change their mind. Think of political beliefs, religion, and the like. They aren’t bad people, and are not unfair, but your company and these folks may not ever see eye to eye.

Best Practices for Handling a “Foe”

There are three key tips for handling a foe:

  1. Respect them: They have a different belief, or different value system. They are entitled to that. Do not belittle, berate or make jokes at their expense.

  2. Aim for the middle: Chances are you’re not going to change their mind, so don’t even try. However, you CAN use their dialogue with you to share information and galvanizing insight to the undecided and those who are inclined to support your solution, cause, product or service. Provide information, facts and figures which will speak to those in the middle; if you can persuade the undecided to be advocates, then your foe will in reality have done you a favor.

  3. Acknowledge: There is power in being transparent; if your foe has a valid point, earn points yourself in acknowledging where you can improve and sharing what you are doing to address an issue.

Who knows, in that middle ground between respect and transparent communication, you may win, if not an ally, at least fair and accurate exchange

The bottom line: Foes can be great in helping your company share critical information, enhance best practices and earn new support.

Trolls: Every Bit as Bad as the Fairy Tales

These anonymous (and they’re always unwilling to let their identities see the light of day) folks are not logical or credible. Their aim is to attack, and they’re not interested in dialogue or a common ground. Accordingly, handling these folks requires a different set of tactics:

  1. Starve them: Yes, indeed, don’t give these critters any “food,” which in their world translates to attention. Any response, good or bad, will merely feed their desire to post more incomprehensible, irresponsible or simply inaccurate comments.

  2. Speak to others: If necessary, offer a post, blog commentary or Tweet in which you share positive and accurate information with the people who matter: your communities. This is a great tool for ensuring accurate information is out there, and taking control of the conversation with people who matter: your community.

    Last but not least:

    Breathe deeply: It’s true, it can be infuriating to deal with a troll. There is no logic, and often there is no civilized discourse to be had there. The key for you, social media communicator, is to keep your calm and not let the troll get you riled. That is their number one goal, and it’s a pleasure you don’t want to let them have.

So, in a world that’s opened itself up to global, instant and ongoing communication, congratulate yourself for bringing your company to the party; enjoy the benefits of knowing you can communicate with customers, partners and supporters in a seamless way never before possible, while knowing you have the tools for necessary to respect your foes, ignore your trolls, and excel in the world of social media.