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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“Just kidding,” claims Facebook. “We don’t really OWN your life… yet…”

There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding Facebook’s changes in its terms of service. Essentially this is what the controversy is about: Earlier this month, Facebook updated its TOS. The new text read as follows:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Ok, so basically Facebook is free to do whatever they want with my content and there is nothing I can do about it because even if I cancel my account, they still own everything? Sounds pretty sketch to me.

Many other Facebook users felt similarly.  The Daily Dogg’s recent post “Facebook Faces the Music: As the Multitudes Lash Out Over Privacy Infractions, Social Media Giant Reverses Its Policy” pointed out some forms of retaliation from angry Facebook users:

“Thousands of indignant members either canceled their accounts or created online petitions. Among them were more than 64,000 who joined a group called “The People Against the new Terms of Service.”

The Facebook team is now trying to back-step (maybe a little crisis management). They claim that they have listened to the concerns of Facebook users and have revoked the recently modified TOS, for the moment. According to the Daily Dogg’s post:

Earlier this week, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg tried to quell the controversy by saying the company’s philosophy is that “people own their information and control who they share it with.”

Oh, ok, Mark Zuckerberg. I think I got you. When you say people own their information, by people you mean… You. Right? 

Well maybe, maybe not. As of now, Facebook’s TOS are in limbo as Zuckerberg and his team draft up the proper language for the new terms. Zuckerberg says that the new TOS will be “written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.”

Hmm… Ok, Facebook, if this is really the case then please tell me, as a Facebook user, through what means should I give you my input. Because I have some input. And so do a lot of other users.

I think that the way this controversy plays out has the capacity to make or break Facebook’s success. As much as I love my Facebook, I tend to agree with the tone of Jacob Morgan’s recent post on the subject “Facebook Changes Terms of Services Again- Make Up Your Mind!” He wrote, 

Basically facebook said, “yes we are going to screw you over and keep your content forever…just not yet.” 

Prove me wrong, Facebook! How do you think Facebook is dealing with this controversy? Leave a comment!

Shift Happens

I was introduced to the original “Shift Happens” Youtube video last term in my International Public Relations class. When my teacher, Pat Curtin, showed it everyone in the class was on the edge of their seats. This is the updated 2.0 version of the same video, with updated statistics. Check it out:

Interesting, huh?

Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up, thinking inside your own little box. However, with the rapidly shrinking, and changing world around us it is particularly imperative that public relations folks have a world-centric mindset.

As social networking Web sites continue to expand, world-wide connections between public relations practitioners and their target audiences and publics will expand as well. So how can you make sure that your cultural sensitivity is in check? Well start by something simple: I recommend reading world news on a regular basis. Maybe try replacing your local newspaper with http://www.wn.com. Learning about current events in other parts of the world will force you to put yourself in the place of others, and will make you a more empathetic PR practitioner.

Here are some other links that may be helpful for folks working or interested in International PR:

1. CIA: The World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
2. Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions Web site: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_australia.shtml
3. The World News: http://www.wn.com

“Free and Clear to Master the Universe”

I just read what might be my favorite blog post ever. It is called “The Mad Ninja Skills for Getting Anything Done” by Sonia Simon. In this post, Sonia points out the magical power that journaling can have, if done correctly.

I have been journaling almost every day for the past 8 years- since I was 14 years old. I can’t imagine my life without it. I have a persistent and frustrating personal problem: I stress. A lot. I’ve tried dealing with stress with Yoga and running, both of which were helpful; however, nothing helps lower my stress level more than journaling.

One way that journaling helps stress is by giving your obligations a place to be OUTSIDE of your head. In other words, you are taking your concerns, obligations and fears that are being smooshed between a million others thoughts and saying to them: “Hey guys, here is your new home on this piece of paper.” The act of physically moving these thoughts onto paper is therapeutic. It helps sort. It makes me feel more organized, and therefore less overwhelmed and stressed.

One bit of Sonia’s post that I really connected with was the following:

Journaling is all about uncensoring yourself and freeing up your need to be “nice” or “appropriate” or even “sane.”

To me, this is the whole point of journaling: to NOT be nice, appropriate, or sane. For journaling to be as effective as it should be, or can be, there are some rules that need to be followed. You ready for it? Here comes the list:

1. Journal for YOU and ONLY YOU. If you are writing on a personal Livejournal or some other form of on-line diary, it is not really journaling. It’s blogging. You are aware that you have an audience- even if it’s just your closest, closest friends- it doesn’t matter. The purpose is altered. Your writing will be stripped of uncensored honesty and THAT IS THE POINT OF JOURNALING.

2. Write in a stream-of-conscious style. As Sonia pointed out in her post, journaling should never be edited. If you don’t know what stream-of-conscious style is, essentially it means writing without formulating sentences, without “thinking” if that is possible, definitely without censoring. It’s pen on paper moving non-stop. This has lately been the only form of journaling I have been doing. Just start by writing any word. And then another. Quickly. Even if you think it won’t make sense, it will, I promise. As Sonia so cleverly pointed out in her post:

Journaling is not about consideration. It’s about moving too fast for your Inner Grown-Up to keep up.

To me, that quote sums up the purpose of journaling. Now go out and try it! Be like a Ninja! And THANK YOU Sonia for such a thoughtful blog on the subject. Anyone else have any journaling rules to share? If so, COMMENT!

Social Media Web Sites: The Ultimate Time Suckage Mechanisms?

Two weeks ago, my old boss, Isbel, and I sat down at El Jarro Azul for lunch and amidst our conversation, the topic of social media came up because we are both currently taking a class on the subject. We talked about how we were both excited to be learning and engaging more in the social media world, but she addressed an issue that she was having with it as well. She does not know how to balance her time spent on social media Web sites with her many other commitments.

“I just get consumed with whatever Web site I am on,” she told me. “I get to reading someone’s blog and I find it so interesting and want to find out more so then I’m clicking links and then more links from next site and next thing you know I’ve been on the site for hours!”

As social media Web sites continuously expand its services, offering a plethora of functions, it is easy for users to get distracted by the endless link after link after link that you are bound to stumble upon (it is the WORLD WIDE WEB after all). Whether you use social media Web sites for professional purposes or personal purposes, I think that many folks share this plight.

“I’m getting rid of my Facebook,” many of my college friends tell me. “I spend way too much time on it and I can’t get anything else done!”

To this, I propose the following: Wait, stop for a second. You CAN control how much time you spend on social media Web sites but it will take practice, some self disapline, and maybe a change in mindset after analyzing what role social media Web sites should play in your life and how these sites can be instrumental in reaching your goals.
David Finch’s recent blog “Creating Social Media Rituals” addressed this common problem. He wrote,

What would happen if organizations began to grasp that social media is not about crossing off a list of tasks, but really tools and opportunities to build relationships with individuals – individuals that are wanting to connect with a face as well as the brand.

I think this is important to take into consideration: You DO NOT have to utilize every social media Web site; and further, you do not need to utilize every single function that the Web site offers! So how do you pick which sites and which functions? Well, only you can really answer that question depending on your goals, or reasons for using social media in the first place.

Localize, Localize, Localize

The reason that “blasts” of press releases, event invitations, etc. are ineffective is because people, in general, like to feel catered to. Blasts tells your audience a couple of things: 1. You are not worth my time to contact personally. 2. You are one of MANY people who I am trying to contact. 3. I don’t know or care who you are, really.

People like to feel special, like they belong and like you know and care who they are. This is one of many things that I have learned at my current place of employment: The Country Side Bar and Grill. Bar-tending, or working in any environment where your goal is to make tips, you tend to pick up pretty fast what you can do to make money and what you can do to ensure that you will not be getting tipped. As my Grandfather once told my Mother, “I don’t know why you are wasting thousands of dollars on a Psychology degree when you can learn everything you need to know about Psychology working behind a bar.” My Grandfather understood. He owned a bar. He was also in politics.

I have a hard time remembering people’s names. I can remember endless stories and minuet details about their lives, but their actual name just never sticks. This can lead to problems in any professional (or personal) setting because people tend to get offended when I finally break down-typically after several months of talking to them on a regular basis-and ask. However, I do have an usual ability to remember what people drink and how they like it. And people LOVE it.

“Bottle of Coors light, honey?”
“Yes! You remembered! You’re the best!”
Big tip.
Thank you very much. Smile.

This personalizes their experience. They feel like their order is important enough for me to remember. They know that I recognize them, and I have a connection with them, even if that connection is that I know they like the “Silver Bullet.”

I have found this concept of personalizing whenever possible to be quite effective for event planning as well. The Country Side utilizes its Myspace page as its main form of advertising. Management often posts bulletins about what bands will be playing that weekend, specials and so on. However, last week we had a particularly big event- the UFC 96- which is the biggest Ultimate Fighting Match of the year. It also happens to be something that many of our clients have a great interest in. We needed a big turn out because it was quite expensive for us to broadcast the HBO fight for commercial purposes at the bar. So I suggested to my boss that the bulletins might not be as effective as we need. I suggested that, in addition, we post personal invitations to the event on all 300 of the Country Side’s Myspace friends’ pages. Each message included the persons first name and ended with saying “It’s not a party at The C. Side without you, Chris (or whatever their name is)” Yes, this took a lot of time. Yes, it was a lot more time-spent than posting a bulletin; however, the payoff was entirely worth it. When I asked people if they were coming to fight many responded, “Well ya, I got personally invited on my Myspace so I guess I’ll be there.” We had over 300 people show up for the fight, which is an insanely good turnout for us.

Bottom Line: People appreciate you taking the time to specifically cater to their needs, egos, desires, etc.. Even if the payoff isn’t evident at first, it is important to realize that by personally catering to your audience, you are also building the foundation of a relationship with each individual contact, which is just as important as the immediate payback for you, if not more-so.

PR Can Save the World, Man.

Windy Hovey recently wrote a fantastic guest post on Tiffany Gallicano’s PR Post titled, “A Window Into Non-Profit PR Work” that sparked my fancy for several different reasons.

Before I comment on this post and add my own thoughts, I should give you some background information about myself that may influence my feelings towards this post/subject. First, I am college student and I  live in the beautiful city of Eugene, Oregon. Some may refer to it as “Hippy-ville” (such as my brother) but instead, I like I think of it as a place that is home to many good-hearted, politically-active people who are committed to making a difference in their community. Due to this, the nonprofit community in Eugene is thriving. After living here for three years, this mindset has rubbed off on me. Moreover, I recently had the opportunity to work at NextStep Recycling, which is a large non-profit technology recycling organization here in Eugene. My experience there was wonderful and stimulating and has certainly inspired my future career aspirations (I could rant and rave about NextStep for hours, but I will spare you).

Bottom Line: Yes, I am kind of a young (naive?) tree-hugging-hippie-idealist from Eugene, OR; but hey man, if non-profits are going to change the world, they need PR practitioners’ help. A lot.

Relationships with Volunteers and Donors 

In Windy’s post, she explained that in any type of PR work, you must establish close and long-term relationships with your publics. This is, of course, where PR comes in. In the non-profit world, two of the most crucial publics are volunteers and donors. A non-profit could not survive without both of these. For example, NextStep Recycling had the help of more than 5,000 volunteers in the past seven years, with one single location in Eugene (until a recent expansion to Springfield last month) and the organization still needed more. Additionally, many of the (few) staff/employee positions were dependent on grants from sponsors. So what’s a PR practitioner to do? Well I think that Windy was very accurate when she wrote:

One key principle often repeated among development professionals is “people give to people, not good causes.”

There are a ton of non-profits out there, most with valuable causes and missions. So why yours? As the PR practitioner at non-profit, you are very much the face of your organization’s cause. It is your job to make people personally invested in your organization’s mission. What do I mean by personally invested? I mean that your publics are active in their support of your non-profit because they feel that the mission could not be reached without their time (volunteering) or their money (donations).

This was a challenge I was faced with at NextStep, both as a PR practitioner and as a volunteer coordinator. Here are a few general ways that I found effective to get volunteers and donors to actively support your non-profit:

1. Form alliances with other related groups in your community
The most committed volunteers that we have at NextStep are Master Recyclers. We have an alliance with the Master Recyclers of Lane County because we share common goals with them and common missions for our community. In turn, many NextStep staff and volunteers participate in the Master Recycler’s program. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. “Pull on their heart strings”
As my boss, Isbel, would say. This is particularly important for donor relations. Find creative ways to showcase what would happen if your non-profit did not exist. How would that effect your local community? How would it effect your publics personally? Their children? Etc. This makes an emotional appeal to your publics and can make them emotionally tied to your cause and motivate them to act.
3. Be straight-forward about what’s in it for them
Sure, there are those people who like to volunteer for the sake of helping others, but as a PR practitioner, I wouldn’t count on that to keep the steady stream of volunteers that your organization needs. One of the most effective ways that we got folks in to volunteer regularly was that after volunteering for a certain number of hours, volunteers would earn their own computer system, which they could either keep for themselves or donate to someone in the community in need.