Three Ways to Deal With Social Media Controversy

Social media is a powerful tool that many people use as a megaphone to share their ideas and thoughts. This has given individuals a new voice that can be heard around the world and directly impact the lives of others. However, with a voice can come strong opinions, and when these opinions spark a discussion, it can sometimes turn messy pretty quickly.

There are a number of reasons controversy is so common on social media. For one, posts are primarily written text, so there is a risk of the words being misinterpreted by a follower. There is also an aura of anonymity on social media, so people feel safe being more opinionated and bold than they might usually be. Lastly, social media is about being in the moment, so sometimes people don’t take the time to carefully consider their words as they might in a face-to-face situation.

If you’ve found yourself in the middle of a social media controversy, whether it’s big or small, take the time to act proactively rather than reactively. Here are three different ways you might consider handling social media controversies that befall your business:

1) Respond to It
When responding to controversy, do so in a professional and empathetic manner. Once again, think of the repercussions of the possible outcomes, and focus on the ideal outcome you would like to have happen. Sometimes engaging in a bit of controversy can place your organization in a position of authority on a given subject, and demonstrate your expertise on a topic. However, ensure that you are always professional, respectful and considerate. If you find that emotions start to fuel your responses, back away from the situation – this is usually when controversy can turn negative. Invite the person to continue the conversation offline. A few considerations when responding to controversy:

  • Be professional and respectful
  • Don’t let your emotions drive your responses
  • Consider your words carefully and be aware of words that can be ambiguous in their meaning
    Appreciate both sides of the discussion
  • If it is an upset follower, be empathetic; apologize for the inconvenience, and work to resolve the issue in a timely and accountable manner.

2) Take it Offline
If you find yourself in a situation on social media that needs further action, such as an unhappy follower, sometimes it is best to take it offline. When extending the invitation, here are a few considerations:

  • Be professional and courteous
  • Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention
  • State that you want to help with the situation
  • Explain that offline would be the best means to resolve the issue, and say why if necessary
  • Include contact information, such as an email or phone number, so that they may reach out to you to resolve the issue. If possible, include your name as this shows accountability on your part and builds trust with the follower.

3) Ignore It
Often this is not the best option, because a lack of response suggests to followers that there may not be a human behind the social media account. If you choose to ignore it, you may also miss a great opportunity to manage a conflict in the public eye and come out looking shinier than you did when you went in. For example, if you have a follower complaining about an event you are hosting, take this as an opportunity to get to the root cause of the issue – empathize and ask questions. If it starts delving too deep, invite them to take it offline. This demonstrates to your followers that you are a caring organization and work hard to keep your followers happy.

If you find yourself in a situation on social media for which you see no positive outcome, it is best to ignore it. Sometimes, people are out to cause trouble, and social media is often their avenue. If your assessment of the situation is that the person is really just out to cause trouble and you don’t see any positive return on engaging with them, it is probably best to leave it alone.

It is usually better to walk away from any controversy that is guaranteed to tarnish your organization’s online reputation. For example, if the controversy is political or religious in nature and your organization is not actively involved in this area, do not engage. These are topics that have nothing to do with your business, so don’t get involved.

If your business is under scrutiny by customers or followers on social media, don’t despair. Take stock of the situation, decide your ideal outcome, and choose the line of action that is most likely to end in that outcome. Above all else, try to see the situation as an opportunity to handle a misunderstanding or a dissatisfied customer with grace, kindness and efficiency, all in a public forum — giving you the opportunity to shine in front of your customers! Social media controversy can very easily end up as a positive if you handle it properly.

For all your social media strategy questions and needs, I am happy to help — it’s my passion! Give me a call today to find out how your social media strategy could be running more smoothly or garnering more conversions for your business.

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