The Social Media Dilemma for Businesses

As many know I am one of the owners of a tech start-up and as of late social media has been kicking my butt.

I often talk about keeping your cool and resorting to your more rational, logical, thoughts before engaging with people and engaging in debate, but I am quickly learning that its not quite that easy when it comes to social media.

What I am learning is that my more rational, logical, arguments often come off as condescending, rude or argumentative. Maybe it’s true, maybe its not, but the fact of the matter is it’s exceptionally difficult to have any rational conversations via any social mediums – i.e., Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, etc… at some point in the dialog, it all changes. And the fact is, it comes down to an individuals perception of what you’re trying to say or imply. Whether pointing out fact from fiction, or vise versa, someone undoubtedly gets upset and it all goes to crap from there.

What agitates me most is the right that people have to put out whatever they want, whenever they want, about what ever they want. Yet, you don’t have the right to respond as harshly or aggressively, oh no, now you’re being mean.

It’s like the guy that goes into the bears cave, pokes him to see if he’ll wake up, and says the bear is mean when it rips his arm off. The bear was sleeping peacefully, minding his own business, picking his berries and feeding his cubs, why mess with it?

Many say that is the beauty of the web, the reason it has to stay deregulated, maybe that is the case, but its still annoying as hell. The annoyance isn’t even with the attack itself, you know what go ahead, speak your mind, but its with the whining that comes from a strongly worded response. Now its you that are in the wrong, you’re being mean, you’re bullying.

But I’m just expressing my experience and thoughts.

Yeah well, so am I.

Remember that saying?

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?

Well that’s all a lie. Words do hurt! And yes, they sting just as much when they are flung right back at you.

It’s being proven every day with the countless stories you here about people taking their lives because of cyber bullies. Have you not heard of all the discussion lately over Amanda Todd and her cyber bully. I actually watched the video she made, here it is, it’s exceptionally sad and the harsh reality that I, and every parent, will have to deal with our own kids and families. And now I see these same tendencies creeping into businesses, it’s a harmful vicious cycle.

For most start-ups, those building their companies pour their soul into their products and services. And for most, intentions are always built around one thing — bringing about good and positive change. The idea is never to be perfect, but to understand and recognize a need, build something around it, and service your clients as fairly as possible.

Then posts come out and imply, implicitly or explicitly, that intentions are anything but what they are.

That’s where it stings, where it touches you in places reserved for your wife and kids, because let’s face it, your company, your product, your service is your family, it is your wife, it is your kid. You spend more time talking to it, and getting to know it then you do your physical family sometimes. You realize the amount of energy, physical and emotional, that goes into every decision — good or bad — and they’re often driven by the core values that make up your business and you as an individual.

But here is the catch, its the harsh reality that any business, start-up or not, has to deal with today. The issue will only continue to compound in fact. It seems that every day I, we, get threats from people:

  • Apologize, or I will blast you on social media…
  • Should a COO respond like this?
  • You’re bullying me, one chance to apologize before I blast you on social media…
  • Give me my money back before I blast you on social media…
  • Clean up all my sites, although I paid for one, before I blast you on social media…

Seriously folks? When did it get like this?

When did we take this, customer is always right idea, and swing it so far to the right of the pendulum? When did we think that making these kind of statements were an acceptable course of action?

The reality of it is though that this is today’s and tomorrow’s biggest challenge for all business. I would go on to say that in a few years time you’ll start seeing this rolled up into a form of cyber bullying.

It’s on the internet, it must be true.. right?

Every business, small or large, will need to learn to deal with these issues and the impacts that your responses can have. Do realize however that acting like a human being is all of a sudden an unrealistic expectation for any business owner, all of a sudden you’re expected to think differently and respond differently. I mean, you have that social responsibility now… you can’t always reach for the bat to perform some percussion calibration any more.

In the InfoSec domain we love features, with every new feature comes a new possible attack vector they say. Social media is no different, for all its good, there is also all this bad. It’s a double-edged sword that we all have to live with.