With bans, arguments and even criminal proceedings taking place around the Twittersphere every day, has the social media giant finally reached the point of no return? Are we about to be buried under an avalanche of sarcasm and hostility? Some people would say yes, whereas others take a slightly more philosophical approach. There’s no question the overall tone of the online world has become more hostile over the last 20 years, but does this mean businesses should bow out from the ongoing online conversation altogether? In this article, we’ll examine both sides of the argument.
The case against Twitter
Despite the company’s continued efforts to deal with trolling, fake accounts and criminal activity, twitter can still be a confusing and potentially hostile place for many users. Especially those who are unfamiliar with the online conventions that are now commonplace to digital natives. Here are some of the reasons it can be toxic for online businesses.
Trolls are still a threat
Whether they’re bored young people trying to amuse themselves by getting a cheap laugh or slightly more sinister shut ins trying to gather information for nefarious or illegal purposes, the troll army is still out there. If your account has to deal with constant abuse or other irritating behaviour on a regular basis, this unfortunately takes place very publicly, in front of all your customers and followers. Even if you do handle the situation with grace and maturity, any activity like this can still reflect badly on you as a brand.
Character Limits Means Detail is Difficult
Unless you’re well versed at writing tweets, specifically for marketing purposes, which is a significant skill in itself, writing content for twitter can be very challenging. The character limit means that you are forced to write in an unusual way that is defined by not only brevity, but the sense that you are trying to cram as much information as possible into a small amount of space. Though you can negate this problem by linking tweets now, this isn’t always effective when users are just casually scrolling through their timelines.
Everybody Uses Twitter Differently
Though it was created to foster a sense of community and connection, twitter can be quite an alienating place for some people. When you combine people thinking out loud with those who are trying to make people laugh by posting satirical or ironic statements, then add businesses with an agenda into the mix, the overall effect this creates is a sense of incongruity and confusion. Similarly, many employees will tweet from a customer service account in the same way that they might use their personal account. Though this can make for some amusing reading at times, overall, it sends a very confused message to potential customers who are paying attention to your business account.
The Case for Twitter
Security and Regulation is better than ever in 2020
Twitter’s staff take threats, offensive behaviour or any other unwanted conduct very seriously and will not hesitate to involve the authorities if they think this is necessary. Though the site can feel oppressive and hostile at times due to the sense of relative anonymity it provides for its users, it is not a lawless free for all as some people may think. I.P addresses can be logged and even those who are attempting to hide behind a proxy server can be detected if they have caused significant harm to other users. As people become more willing to report negative or hostile comments and the guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable develop, it is now easier than ever to highlight and deal with unacceptable conduct. Most savvy twitter users can spot trolling and otherwise suspicious behaviour from a mile away, so if you suspect you’re being stalked by a bot or roasted by somebody who really should have something better to do, simply flag the message, report it and move on.
Some conflict can be healthy
Since the almost universal acceptance of the slogan “the customer is always right” in the 1980s, business have adopted a certain tone when addressing their patrons. Though a basic level of manners and civility is an absolute must, in 2020, we don’t need to be quite so subservient when speaking to the people who are using our products and services. Light-hearted back and forth exchanges can actually brighten people’s day and providing any “banter” is conducted with a sense of friendly fun, rather than genuine hostility, this sort of interaction can let people know there’s a real person behind the hashtags. The way you handle complaints, whether real or made up, also matters. An unerring, professional, friendly response to hostility or silliness acts like a protective shield against being sucked into the expletive ridden shouting matches that are becoming unfortunately common on this now ubiquitous site.
Screenshots, legal action and a link to the real world
People have been imprisoned for tweets that are considered to be threatening, offensive or otherwise dangerous in some way. This set a precedent which means that screen shots of tweets from those who are trying to disparage your company or say something spurious about your business can now be used in a court of law in the U.S.A, Europe and the U.K. Though your business may suffer short term reputation damage from deliberately calculated attacks carried out by trolls, you can now retaliate with legal action, which is proving to be an effective deterrent. Though change is happening slowly, people are beginning to realise that the online world has changed a great deal since the early days of internet forums, when things still felt a little bit like the wild west.
Though it is much maligned, there’s no doubt that twitter is still an essential marketing tool for everybody who has a business. Just remember to report any hostile or offensive content that is directed towards you, always take screen shots when you can and keep your own online behaviour above reproach at all times.