Dealing with personal attacks on social media


Mary Thomas of Concise TrainingA guest blog by Mary Thomas of Concise Training

The people at the Copywriting Apprentice must be soothsayers.  A couple of weeks ago, they asked me to write a blog about coping with personal attacks on Social Media.  I’ve only just got round to writing the entry and here I am listening to Radio 5 talking about the very subject!  There are a number of aspects to this topic – those attacks which are personal about you as a person and negative comments on your brand.

Personal Attacks

It amazes me that what people will say on Twitter and other Social Networking tools.  As one broadcaster mentioned earlier in the show, the people who write the abuse wouldn’t dream of saying it in a face to face environment, but they feel it is OK on social media because they don’t actually know the person.  What they seem to forget is that what they say on social media is very public.

The police are now treating the use of social media to abuse others very seriously and there have been a number of cases in which the perpetrators have been tracked down and arrested.  I also know about people who have lost their jobs or not been hired despite getting down to a shortlist, because of what they have written on Social Media.
Twitter has just announced that it will be creating a button to make it easier to report abusive tweets; Facebook went through a similar process last year.  LinkedIn and Google+ will no doubt have to follow suit though they don’t seem to be suffering the same problems at the moment.

How to block comments on Facebook
Reporting and blocking on Facebook

So what can you do about it if you are abused on Social Media?  I just heard Nicky Campbell from Radio 5 suggest that you do a bit of research to find out where somebody works and copy the tweet to their boss.  An interesting approach!

The general suggestion is that where possible you ignore the abuse and don’t give them the reaction that they are looking for.  This isn’t always possible though, so the next stage is to report the individuals to the social media tool used – block them from your account and if necessary report them to the police. You may also want to consider closing down your account.

Negative Comments

Personal attacks aren’t always abusive though. If you are using your Twitter account for business, you may get somebody (a competitor or disgruntled ex-employee) who criticises or says something negative about your business.

I had a competitor hijack one of my Facebook posts to advertise her services.  This was just annoying, but also potentially damaging to my brand.  This is where you can use the relationships you have developed with others.  A few carefully placed phone calls produced a number of updates promoting my services over the competitor’s in the Facebook update.  I would use a similar approach to any Twitter comment.  In the main, Social Media is self-regulating so it is unlikely that my friends and fans would see an incorrect or malicious comment about my brand without them correcting it.

Of course, there will be times when people say something negative about you or your brand which is ‘fair enough’.  Perhaps you made a mistake or something didn’t get delivered when it should have been.  In this case, you need to hold your hands up, admit the mistake and explain how you are going to correct the problem. Take the solution offline if you can -but explain online that you are going to work to rectify the situation.

I recommend you delete comments on your blog that contain explicit or defamatory content.  It is a good idea to have a comments policy on your blog so that it is very clear how comments will be treated.

Whenever you use Social Media for business, it is a good idea to have a social media policy in place.  This should explain how employees should use social media on behalf of the business as well as in their personal time, as well as how to deal with negative comments.  It should also include a crisis management policy so that employees know how to manage issues on social media, if necessary.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this difficult topic?

Concise Training LogoMary Thomas has been helping businesses use Social Media since 2009.  Author of ‘Social Media Made Simple‘, she has created the first accredited Level 3 City & Guilds qualification in Social Media as well as the learning resources for the Level 2 Social Digital Apprenticeship and Level 1 Social Digital Pathway.  She has created a number of E-Learning courses in Social Media (licensed by Pitman Training Group) which are available to purchase through her website.  You can contact Mary by email or follow her on Twitter @concisetraining

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