I love working in social media. It’s dynamic, it’s exciting, it’s interactive.
It also gives people the ability to walk up to your desk, yell obscenities at you and then spit in your face; digitally speaking that is.
As a Community Manager, that happened to me on a very large scale.
My experience with social media backlash didn’t come from within the company I worked for. It wasn’t a result of anything me or the company said or did.
In 2011, 2DAY FM radio personality Kyle Sandilands took offense at News Limited Journalist Alison Stephenson’s drubbing of the debut (and only) airing of Kyle and Jackie O’s Night with the Stars. Live on air the next morning he attacked back, saying;
“What a fat bitter thing you are. You are supposed to be impartial, you little troll. You’re a b***s**t artist, girl. You should be fired from your job… Your hair’s very ’90s. And your blouse. You haven’t got that much titty to be having that low cut blouse”
Kyle then finished off his comment by saying, “Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.”
As a station advertiser, the company I worked with was listed on a change.org petition as a company to target in order to get advertising removed from Kyle’s show and 2Day FM in general. The idea was to put financial pressure on the station to remove Kyle from the air.
Over four days, my company received hundreds of posts calling on us to pull our advertising. The fact that we already had didn’t seem to matter. There was a petition! There was outrage! Some people were clearly cutting and pasting the same text into posts on all listed advertiser’s Facebook Pages. Some didn’t even bother to change the name of the company. Others insulted Mr Sandilands’ appearance in a stunning display of irony. Trolls weighed in and started attacking posters and picking fights. I actually blocked one troll on the Sunday afternoon just so I could go the my friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday party in peace.
Such is the life of a Community Manager.
Now, most of us would love to be a part of something big and important as a part of our careers. An unprecedented social media crisis was not what I had in mind. The online response to Kyle’s tirade was labelled ‘Slacktivism’ and one commentator said that in the future it would be an essential case study for marketing students.
And I got to be a part of it. Lucky me. Woo.
So what do you do when when they come for you?
By all means undertake risk assessment to try and minimise the possibility of putting your foot in it. That said, most of the time the crisis will come from where you least expect it. Just don’t wait until things to go wrong.
A Social Media Crisis Plan is a must have. You may not ever need it but if you do you will be glad you have it. Sit down with the key stakeholders in your company, your agency if you outsource, and identify the people and processes involved in responding to a crisis.
As soon as you feel something is going wrong, identify what the problem is and enact your crisis plan. Make sure that your team is alerted ASAP so that you can formulate an appropriate response. Remember, the internet doesn’t shut off when you go home at 5pm. What is a minor problem at 4.55pm could be a full-blown disaster by 9am. When your reputation is at stake you probably want to take the problem seriously. A little work after hours won’t kill you but may stem the flood.
Empower Your Team
Listen to your Community Manager. Your CM might not be the most senior member of your team but he/she is the person who spends their days involved with your online community. If they tell you something’s wrong, something’s wrong. Make sure you have a clear escalation process and that you work together to provide a solution.
Seek and Take Advice
Even if you’re a small company, it might pay to employ a PR or digital agency to help with your engagement strategy. Social Media has made it easy for even the smallest business to find a voice online but just because you’re doing it, doesn’t mean you couldn’t be doing it better or that you couldn’t be doing it very, very badly. You use an accountant to control your finances, don’t be afraid to allow an expert to handle your reputation.
Case in point would be Samy and Amy Bouzaglo’s epic Facebook meltdown after their business Amy’s Baking Company Boutique & Bistro featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The pair admitted to keeping server’s tips among other things and Ramsay actually walked out because the pair were impossible to work with. If they were a nightmare on the show, it was nothing compared to the somewhat bizarre attack the pair levelled at their critics on Facebook. It was fascinating to watch, like a slow motion car crash with two crazy people at the wheel.
If you’re not not opposed to some spicy language see a run down here.
Develop a Thick Skin
If you’re the one sitting at the keyboard, watching the flood of abuse roll in, take a deep breath and don’t take it personally. Resist the urge to hit Caps Lock and wade into the fray. Yes it feels like it’s happening to you but it will blow over and life will go on.
And remember that Community Management can be a tough gig. Get behind Community Managers’ Appreciation Day (#CMAD) but don’t wait until January to let your CM know they’re doing a great job. Go out and buy them a gift today. Something nice. Alcohol and energy drinks are always welcome.
Shane Luder is a Social Media Manager and Community Manager. This is his first guest blog for ntegrity so be nice and leave a comment or find him on Twitter (@shaneluder)
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