The difficulties in managing a brand through social media channels are not just difficulties in learning technologies, but in managing a new set of engagement rules. We discuss best new practices a great deal here, but it is important to keep in mind some best old ones. When messages move from a static, delivered structure to a dynamic, conversational one, we can get anxious about having to engage every message thread regarding our brand. But this is not always the best practice.
One of the stronger tools we can employ, in fact, is our choice to engage or not. Of course, this should not be considered a universal rule, but it can be very effective in given situations, particularly when managing brand crises, when tempers can be especially flared. Now, if you are seeing reasonable, thoughtful criticism, it is absolutely important that you become a part of that conversation, but if you or your brand are just getting bullied, you don’t always have to fight. You can walk away and be better for it. Engagement, or the refusal thereof, invisibly defines what is and what is not a legitimate message.
The difficulty, of course, is deciding when to employ this tactic. Here are a few things to consider when you are looking at negative publicity in the social sphere:
- Determine if it is a real conversation or a hollering match. If someone is just venting, let them vent. Don’t start arguments you know you aren’t going to win. Tone is difficult to register, especially on Twitter, but we do have pretty good, built-in receptors for it. You can also see if they are talking about something specific in your brand or product. Has your software crashed on them? Engage—apologize and direct them to a solution. Are they complaining about customer service? Engage—see what you can offer them and see how you can expedite their request.
- Look at their reach. Their circle could very well be smaller than yours, and your engagement might offer them a larger stage. This could be a good opportunity to turn an opinion around, or it could be an opportunity to spotlight your own bad press. Be very conscious that your engagement is an opportunity for them, as well.
- Stop talking, but don’t stop listening. Just because you don’t respond does not mean the issue is no longer important. Silence is not ignorance. There are many ways now to track how a message moves, and any negative messages should become your priority. Act fast. If you see something start to spread, now it is time to engage. Ask yourself, has this become a conversation?
One of the most stressful parts of communications and brand management is changing the minds of the dissatisfied. The environment of social media doesn’t change that, but more importantly, neither does it change your agency with that task. You can still determine what is worthwhile.