For businesses, conflict on social media can spell disaster, especially if you rely on digital interactions to generate sales. In the current climate, even the most temperate and reasonable people can find themselves locked into bitter arguments with strangers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even LinkedIn. The way we use social media is changing and most people are not their true selves online. With this in mind, Probella have come up with some top tips on how to combat toxic interactions on social media.
1. Delay Your Response
Social media interactions are often very quick, and it is this sense of immediacy that can create so many issues around clarity, meaning and intention. Rather than responding to something that you found offensive or potentially triggering immediately, take a few minutes to reflect on the meaning of what has been said and consider the implications of your response. This is easier said than done, but it is also one of the most effective ways of avoiding unnecessary conflict.
2. Report Hate Speech
In the adult world, there is no such thing as a “snitch” and anything that could be construed as “Hate Speech” should be reported immediately. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, or other forms of bias are totally unacceptable in every walk of life, so if you see anything like this on your timeline, report it immediately. This might upset a few of your followers but the line has been drawn. Hate speech is never ok, in any circumstances.
3. Practice Showing Empathy Instead of Aggression
When people are angry, especially online, they tend to lash out at others, even if what they are saying is not true or based on facts. The natural response to reading something that seems deliberately hostile or angry is to reply using a similar tone, however, this will make you look unprofessional. Explain that you can understand how it feels to be upset and frustrated and that you want to find a salutation that will resolve the situation. It is difficult to argue with this kind of approach.
4. Do not Get Involved Unless You Have to
From a business perspective, being seen to involve yourself in debates is not always positive. Though it can be great for clicks and attention when people get into a heated discussion on your timeline, contributing yourself can be risky, unless you are able to do so in a way that seems objective and free from bias. By all means, allow your customers to engage with each other in lively or even confrontational debate, but avoid doing this yourself if you want to maintain a professional distance.
5. Defend People from Bullies
Unfortunately, online bullying is rife, and it can take many forms. From deliberately orchestrated Twitter pile ons to sneaky personal messages, trolls, and those with nothing better to do have a myriad of ways to cause people misery and upset. If you see this happening on your timeline, report it and carefully craft a response that shows support for the victim, not the abuser. Bullying is never acceptable in any circumstance, so do not stand for it online.
6. Delete Posts That Could be Misinterpreted
The difficulty with modern, online communication is that many people are reading the content you put out from different perspectives and with different ability levels. Not everybody is a native English speaker and not everybody understands things like irony, hyperbole, or dark humour. If you think that a tweet, Facebook post or YouTube comment could be interpreted in the wrong way, do not risk it. Hit delete and rephrase what you said.
7. Block and Ban Repeat Offenders
As most of us in digital marketing have been to believe the mantra “the customer is always right” we often feel a sense of trepidation when we think about confronting customers who have overstepped the mark or said something offensive. This is wrong. Though a degree of tolerance and flexibility is always recommended, if you see somebody on your timeline who routinely abuses others or posts that ubiquitous “laughing” emoticon in response to a piece of content to show their disdain, simply remove them from your timeline. They may complain and make protests about things like “free speech” but this type of person is not good for you or your business. The block/ban button is your friend.
8. Emphasise the Importance of Context
Unfortunately, with so much content available, the average internet user’s ability to digest complex information in text form is beginning to wane. People want simplicity and readability, even if it is at the cost of nuance and detail. If you are posting content that may be controversial to some, emphasise the importance of thinking critically and applying context to a piece of writing or video. Though machines cannot understand irony, subtext or subjectivity, humans can, and ultimately, that is who your customers are.
9. Try to Make Your Own Posts Positive
“Venting” is one of the foundations of social media for many people. Letting off steam by posting a quick rant on twitter or a snarky comment on Facebook has been par for the course since the platforms were invented, however, business-based content is a little different. Though you should always try to sound as human as possible, check your post carefully to make sure that you are not subconsciously channelling frustration from a difficult meeting or projecting your own bad mood on to your customers without realising it.
10. Be assertive, rather than aggressive
When Twitter spats and Facebook arguments descend into threats and obscenities, any semblance of rational communication has broken down. Though people do behave like this is the real world, it is never appropriate in business. If you feel the need to stand up for yourself and confront a troll or aggressive user, do so in a way that remains professional and assertive, rather than stooping to their level. Focus on facts and try not to let your emotions influence the words you use. Business based social media is not the place to make enemies.