Dealing with the down side

I bang on a lot about people finding their voice online, saying what they think, and standing up for their views. This is fine when things are going well but what do you do when people don’t like what you are saying and find fault? No one likes being criticised and it can hurt. This is as true for people working for big organisations as it is for individuals – “Corporations don’t tweet people do”. There is always a person behind that tweet or blog post. Even if it is someone writing from within a big multi-national it is still a human being with feelings who presses “Update”.

Many of my clients work in high profile, sometimes contentious organisations with lots of people ready to find fault at the slightest excuse. Blogging on your own behalf is one thing but sticking your neck out for your employer isn’t trivial and the robust nature of online attacks can be intimidating.

So what do so if you come under attack online? Much of the available advice is aimed at the corporation as a whole as if we were talking about an entirely logical, dispassionate situation. While this might have been true when it was a case of issuing press releases into well worn channels it is different if we are talking about someone tweeting or blogging on behalf of their organisation. If they are any good they will have invested more of themselves personally in the situation and therefore feel more exposed and vulnerable.

What you have to do if this happens is no different from life generally. Look at the people who are being critical and weigh up the validity of what they are saying and the circumstances in which they are saying it. If there is something you need to learn from what they are saying then learn it and take it on the chin. If there isn’t then decide whether you are going to respond at all and if so how. Then you need to pick yourself up, get back on your horse and do it all again. You are never going to be able to keep everyone happy all the time and if you let criticism numb you and make you retire into your shell then we will all have lost something.

6 thoughts on “Dealing with the down side”

  1. I am a great believer in 'Ignore Everybody.' (per @gapingvoid) Sometimes I'll be right, many times less so but if I am at least prepared to learn and avoid the asswipes then I'm good to go.As a curmudgeonly old bugger that has worked very well for me.

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  2. The missing piece of much talk about how to master social media is I believe in this area of how to handle objections. Some objections may not be emotionally intelligent of course and shouldn't be indulged, but others will be and that's the area where corporates can demonstrate social leadership by being open and learning how to engage and resolve issues in open space.Stonewalling's one thing but it's not nearly as effective as being able to work with a force of interest that's coming towards a socially active corporate voice as critical attention. Attention is a commercial currency, even though corporates don't often see critical judgement as such. Which is why, of course, most many will be tempted to remain resolutely stick in 1.0 behaviour and engage instead in something akin to socialwash.

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  3. Spot on Anne. In fact an alternative title for my book was "the worst that can happen is the best that can happen". Corporations have to learn to stop pretending they are perfect – we don't believe them. Shit happens and how they deal with things when they go wrong can send really strong, and positive, messages.

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  4. Hear! Hear! It's a great way to develop better communications, while gaining thicker skin and is a tremendous learning opportunity…sometimes it's often the case if "the way u tell 'em"…

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  5. I don't see blogging as the main source of any downside. Speaking from personal experience, the biggest problem was Wikipedia. When trying – within Wikipedia's own stringent conflict of interest rules – to defend my company from unjustified and unsubstantiated attack, I often came under personal attack myself for "putting forward interests that are not those of an encyclopedia" (unlike everyone else on Wikipedia who of course are all completely impartial), "disguising the fact that your company is doing the modern job of propaganda" and "trying to avoid more factual truth about the company he works for by being a super-nice but non-contributing real information person". I'm guessing none of these 'editors' will read your post.This experience – more than any other – had two very real impacts on me:1. It's probably one of the reasons I decided to leave the company2. It seriously dented my confidence in the value of crowdsourcing online

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  6. There was a fascinating article by Simon Kuper in the FT on Saturday called 'Why the poor will always be with us' (I tweeted it) in a nutshell, about the way the internet is skewing news.It set me thinking that 'The wisdom of crowds' and 'Crowdsourcing' is an essentially passive activity – if enough people believe it, it must be true! discuss…..

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