Do You Ever Consider Your Social Media Responsibilities?
March 6, 2018
According to Forbes ... Not for the first time, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt and Tim Cook are experiencing the power of social media activism.
The respective heads of Amazon, Google and Apple are getting pressure via gun-control advocates on Twitter to stop streaming NRA TV in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It’s a recent example of the ways in which social media can be used to communicate with, influence, and even force behavior change from CEOs and other high-ranking company leaders.
From the benign outreach of a first-time customer to the big deal that is coordinated activism around moral and social issues, social media feedback is worth considering, generally requires a response, and should (perhaps more often than not) prompt some professional soul searching.
Here are some common questions new leaders often have about addressing social media issues.
Why am I getting blasted? Sometimes it actually is about you; you’re getting bombarded because of something you’ve said or done, or perhaps failed to do, that others find objectionable. But more often, it’s because you’re the most visible, easily identified representative of the company, its human personification. If a person is elated with your business, that delight might translate to glowing - if largely undeserved - compliments directed at you. Similarly, when someone’s angry or disappointed with their experience, you’re the fastest, easiest and most influential company figure.
General rule of thumb? Say thank you and pass the credit for the good stuff where it’s most deserved: your team. And as for the constructive criticism, well, develop a thicker skin, a smaller ego, and enough objectivity to understand if the person getting in touch has a valid point.
What is the most typical kind of feedback to expect? Most consumer-focused companies will get customer feedback - on their products or services, the general experience, etc. - most regularly. On review sites, the best practice is to respond quickly and courteously, and take the conversation offline to resolve any issues. Social media can be a bit different. At Reputation.com, I routinely receive tweets from customers, some positive and some not. I take them as an opportunity - if someone cares enough to tell me that they didn’t like some aspect of their experience, it’s generally my job to care enough to respond and pass the feedback to the right people on the team.
Remember too that what you say is not just a reflection on you but also an illustration of your brand, both for the person who connected with you and for all others who happen to see the exchange. Ninety-nine percent of the time, being brief, pleasant and helpful is the right thing to do - and it can improve or strengthen your reputation. (It’s never okay to be nasty - but if someone seems unhinged and out of control, which is fairly rare, you can choose to ignore and/or block them as nothing you say or do will make the slightest bit of difference).
What should we watch out for? There are certain kinds of social media interactions that demand a greater degree of care. If your company has taken a public stance on a polarizing issue (for example, Dick’s Sporting Goods and then Walmart announced last week they will no longer sell assault-style rifles), you can expect both praise and criticism. Don’t respond to individual comments if you’ve explicitly communicated your stand - after all, what more is there to say? You’ve made yourself clear so a back-and-forth with individuals is typically unwinnable and largely unnecessary.
It’s unlikely, however, that you’ll routinely face those kinds of big moral quandaries. Far more common are encounters with competitors posing as angry customers (respond respectfully as if they really are customers) or disgruntled ex-employees with a public axe to grind (do not engage - there’s no way to change their minds in a public forum and there also may be legal considerations in play).
In general, try to think of social media interactions as a valuable window into customer and stakeholder perception of your company, products, and you as a leader and person. Your responses, from a simple thanks to something more detailed and friendly, can showcase your personality, soften and humanize your brand, and help reset customer relationships for the better.