Social Media Conflicts: How to Deal

Some folks may consider the transparency that comes with social media both a blessing and a curse. The more involved you are in the world of social media and the broader your networks become, the greater your risk of running into someone who has conflicting ideas with your organization. 

Sharlyn Lauby recently posted a blog addressing this issue titled “HOW TO: Deal with Social Media Conflict.” She wrote the following:

No matter how knowledgeable you are and how much research you do, there will come a time when someone disagrees with something you write. Might be a friend on Facebook or a stranger on Twitter or your blog. How you handle a differing opinion will speak volumes about you and can either enhance (or undermine) your personal credibility.

Bottom line: negative feedback is essentially inevitable. You are not going to be able to control content coming from your network of users, but that is the point! Social networking Web sites are not the place for controlling content. In addition, I argue that responding to negative feedback on social media Web sites is a great opportunity to highlight your organization’s key messages. Similar to writing an effective argumentative paper, it is important to introduce the opposing viewpoints, and then logically and respectfully debunk them. Social media Web sites are the perfect outlet for this. If your organization has nothing to hide, dealing with negative comments on social media sites should not be unnerving.

Here are some ways to effectively deal with conflicts that may arise on social media outlets:

Step One: Don’t get defensive. 

When someone leaves a negative comment on one of your social media outlets, it is often natural to get defensive, which can come off as being aggressive or hostile in tone. Take a step back and don’t take the comment personally.

Step Two: Listen.

Be able to appreciate an opposing viewpoint and realize that there may be at least some merit in their argument.  As Lauby pointed out in her post:

Don’t forget when responding to differing views that conversation is key. It’s obvious that this person felt comfortable expressing their negative or alternative view with you. The last thing you want to do is betray that trust.

This is important. Remember that the goal of social media is to facilitate two-way communication between you and your target publics, which in this case is your entire social media network. If you can’t find one bit of common ground in the opposing argument, you are not actively encouraging input from your network.

Step Three: Respond in a timely manner.

The quickest way for a crisis to build fuel and get out of hand is by not dealing with it quickly. Respond publicly to the negative feedback within 24 hours if possible. As with any public relations crisis, responding with “no comment” is the worst possible solution.

Step Four: Highlight your key messages.

Responding to negative feedback is the perfect opportunity to remind your social media network of your organization’s key messages. Just remember: when highlighting your organization’s key messages, use specific examples to establish credibility.

Social media is all about facilitating two-way communication. So with this goal in mind, we must take the negative feedback with the positive. Does anyone have any other tips for dealing with social media conflicts? If so, please comment!


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