Social media: it’s all fun and games until it’s not

Social media are excellent channels to engage, and build a relationship with, your audience. They allow for a dynamic interaction with target groups and do well for themselves on an informal, personal and sometimes even witty tone of voice. These more relaxed features are an important complement to other channels but keep you on your toes when things get awry.

While there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution for each problem, here’s a few things to consider when you’re put on the spot.


I’ve messed up, I’ll clean it

There’s a chance you were the one at fault when others are upset with you. It won’t go away until you apologise. Do apologise – properly and with all the words. Also, remember to be swift addressing criticism before a choir manages to gather and the tone gets unmanageable.

‘This is why it happened and this is what we’ll do to avoid it’

Explain, in a simple and pedagogical way, how such problem came about and what you are doing to change that procedure or policy. You may even give credit to the person who pointed out your mistake as this person gave you an opportunity to improve your product – the best of social media! Remember to explain that publically, as you’re no longer talking to the one person complaining, but to an audience trying to make sense of your conversation (and eager to decide whether they like your brand, or not!).

Do nothing (or little)

This one is not easy to manage. Unlike unhappy costumers, trolls are there to cause mayhem and will not open up to reasonable argumentation. They will present hyperbolised arguments, make personal attacks and, in some cases, will act collectively in a co-ordinated fashion. Don’t feed the trolls, they say. They gain energy when acknowledged and will drag the discussion – and your brand – to an unworthy place. If you feel that the attack is based on factual errors, present the facts just once and then drop it. This misplaced enthusiasm will eventually fade and turn to other targets. You (or some executive in your company) might feel itchy about having unaddressed criticism on social media but remember, if your brand has decided to be on those channels, you need to have the stomach to take some punches.

Draw the line

As a brand, you don’t have to be liked by everyone and you can certainly afford to be harsh against costumers whose behaviour on social media is against your values. The way Doritos handled bigotry can inspire you. The sunny side of that story is that other people witnessing your discussion will value the integrity and courage of your brand.

Be open

Social media are conversational. This interactivity is what attracted your brand to this channel in the first place. That means that not everyone will agree with you all the time and that’s okay. Acknowledge people’s opinion and treat them fairly and with respect. Also, don't fish for compliments like McDonald's did as a stream of compliments is hardly an honest conversation.

Mind the tone

Also not easy to achieve. Try to define in advance what the tone of voice of your brand is when translated into social media. Do you have a sense of humour? How will humour be perceived in other cultures? How informal are you? Regardless, make sure the tone is personal as people don’t want to interact with a robot on Facebook, for instance. Maybe even have your community manager sign the message with his/her first name. Don’t be sarcastic or offensive.

Have a strategy

Depending on how much you post and the services or goods you provide, have a strategy, clearly-defined responsibilities and even shifts to monitor and interact with your audience on social media. Build a close tie between your social media manager and your customer service and even your product development team: input from social media could be meaningful for your business and the input of business can be useful when interacting with your audience.


Sergio Guimaraes – Speaking of PR