Social Media and Business – Thinking Through Online Engagements

It’s been about three years since I last wrote about social media, specifically its affects on businesses.  Unfortunately, nothing has changed, albeit one could argue it’s affects have intensified.

No one reading this should be a stranger to the polarizing affect social media can have on society. We’ve seen how it can topple governments, dismantle organizations, amplify social debates, and positively and adversely affect a wide range of other issues and topics. So in reality, nothing of what I say here in this post should be surprising, and yet I feel so compelled to share my thoughts.

Business Cyber-Bullying

When you think Cyber Bullying, rarely does a company come to mind as a victim; in fact, I would wager it never does. Most likely attribute it to something related to children, someone’s sex, their physical attributes, what they’re wearing, someone’s ability to do a task, perhaps something medically related; whatever it is, it’s often associated with people – the person.

In fact, in my searches I was not able to come up with any associations with the term and business. Which I suppose makes sense.

As a business owner, one of the greatest challenges you will face beyond the operation and management of your company, will be social media. It will be ill-advised not to pay a lot of attention to your social strategy early on, not just as a brand, but as individuals representing the brand.

Amazing how blatantly simple everything appears when looking in from the outside…

You will rarely find any empathy to what you feel or the negative affects of social-media, but understand it’s going to be a serious problem, and for some, a very bumpy road.

Manage Your Social Expectations Early

In my time, I’ve made a few very interesting observations I think many will relate with, and if you haven’t, make note of them:

Internet, the place where people make stupid comments which lead to more stupid comments

1 – The Negative Will Always Over Shadow the Positive

No amount of good will ever outweigh the bad. The level of hate that comes from the negative experience will be so extreme, that they will shout it from every virtual roof-top and all their friends will be invited.

Everyone loves to watch things burn. Grab the popcorn.

2 – Context Will Never Exist, and You Won’t Be Able to Fix That

You will read something and it will eat you inside, it will literally feel like one of those crazy flesh eating diseases. Everything will be out of context, someone will complain about something and everyone will jump in with thoughts, opinions, advice, etc.. it’ll just grow like a virus.

You’ll be limited in what you or your team can really do. Even if you correct it offline, they’ll likely never update with the reality.. the buzz of the negative is just too great to give up..

3 – Nobody Empathizes With Your Feelings

Yeah, sorry, no one cares. You’re going to have to grow thick skin, very fast. Remember that saying, “Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Yeah, they lied… sorry…

4 – Everyone is Entitled, and They Have Something to Say

Come to terms with the fact that you’re a fool, your team is compromised of idiots; everyone will have a better approach. They know the challenges of growth, training, scaling people, and running your business. In 140 characters, they will sum up your problems; in comments you will be scolded for your idiotic assumptions on business, and in communities you will be publicly shamed and humiliated.

Sometimes it’s best just to smile and wave.

5 – Vultures Hover Over Dying Animals.

Similar to a dying animal, the vultures will come from all walks of life. Everyone will share an experience, even further out of context, cloud the discussion with noise, and you will get even more infuriated with things. It’ll feel like everything is spiraling out of control.

Yet, the reality is it’s not. So grab a snickers bar.

Some Steps To Help Navigate the Affects

Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned over the past five years, and mind you, I’ve made some really big mistakes:

1 – Always Take the High Road.

When someone is emotionally charged, especially on social, there is absolutely no winning. It will always be perceived as a David and Goliath story, and everyone always roots for David.

Pride and ego really have no place on social media.

2 – Ignore the Trolls

Focus on the real issue, and always divert the focus back to the issue at hand. Ignore the peanut gallery.

What more is there to say here? The simplest, yet the most  challenging thing we can do.

3 – Take it Off-line as Quickly as Possible

Don’t engage in public debate. Make a clear and concise statements and remove yourself from the discussion. In your statement, directly address the core of the issue; then provide a means to engage you directly.

4 – Focus on Your Community

Focus on those that support you, it’s easy to get distracted by the squeaky wheel. In the process, we forget about those that really need your service, or whose lives / businesses been positively affected by your business. You have your own army, treat them well and they will rally when you least expected.

5 – Disconnect Yourself Emotionally

You cannot trust your emotions, when working on social media you must rely on rational thought. Write your response, sleep on it, and come back to it in the morning. Does it still sound like something you want to share? Try sharing it with your confidant, what is their knee-jerk reaction?

Never Forget Your People

If you read my previous post on the subject, the thing you should notice is tone.

At the time I was writing from an individuals perspective. We were in it’s purest sense, a startup. Today, things are different. The organization is a tad bit bigger than 2012. While at the time, I had never really accounted for the affects of social media on business, I truly never accounted for the idea of the affects on a team that extended beyond 1.

Every time I get the urge to blast a company on social.. I reflect on the person at the other end.. more people should try this

The team, if built right, will be an extension of you and will have instilled in them the same passion you have for your brand. They will hurt with every spiteful comment, cry with every attack, and scream at the unfairness of the situation – especially if they are the ones being called out. They will feel responsible for the impact to the brand, for the perceived failure, and will likely question their instincts. In short, they will experience the same feelings you do.

You must educate them on the challenges they can come to expect, and assure them that you will always be there standing next to them. They must realize you will fight in the trenches with them.

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