Social Media Breakdown: 50 Shades of #AskELJames

Social Media Breakdown: 50 Shades of #AskELJames

If you’re watching the internet for stories on how to create social media success, you probably saw some headlines last week about #AskELJames. First, and we have to get this out of the way, from an everyday person perspective…it was hilarious. I’m always delighted and amazed with how much humor and sarcasm Twitter users can pack into posts limited to 140 characters.

50 Shades of AskELJames

Tweets courtesy of Buzzfeed

However, if you’re a business owner dipping your toe into social media for the first time, #AskELJames had the potential to come across as absolutely horrifying. This is the type of event that scares people away from social media, because it looks like you’re stepping into a pool of circling sharks just waiting to rip you and your brand apart. But for most companies, that’s not the case. Let’s take a deep breath and explore a little further.

This Probably Won’t Happen to You

Why? Well, let’s talk about what happened with the #AskELJames Twitter chat…an author who wrote a book that many (including myself) believe glorified abuse against women had a PR team that decided a Twitter chat would be a great way to interact with fans. Let’s break it down further…a highly controversial figure was fielding questions from the entirety of the internet, and had no way to filter how those questions reached the public. Any social media manager worth their salt would have predicted this disaster.*

Unless your business is involved in some majorly controversial stuff (think SeaWorld, or any Wall Street company, or a manufacturer of confederate flags), you’ll likely never experience a massive takedown a la #AskELJames.

What if it Did Happen to You?

Many new business owners getting into social media have anxiety over how to handle negative commentary. You certainly can’t let this fear dissuade you from accessing what is arguably the most important marketing revolution of our time! Negative commentary happens, and as a business owner, you should have a plan for how you will deal with it. Here are your options:

  • Address Commentary Directly: Didn’t your father always say, “You can’t run from your problems?” Sometimes, it’s best to just face the issue head on, and actually start a dialogue. If you’re concerned about the conversation being in the public eye, ask the person making the comments to send a direct message or email you.
  • Just Ignore It: In other cases, ignoring negative commentary may be the best policy. There is the chance that your community of followers will take care of the issue for you through their responses, in which case you’re good to go. I don’t recommend ignoring as a strategy for customers who are legitimately angry and disappointed, unless you want to portray your company as having poor customer service. Ignoring is a strategy you use with trolls, or for people who are just unreasonable and/or will not be pleased.
  • Block the Commenter This is absolutely a last resort. The only reason you should block someone from your social media platforms is if they’re repeatedly sending inappropriate material, actually harassing or threatening the company, or spamming your accounts.In the case of #AskELJames, many of the people asking questions regarding abuse were blocked by the 50 Shades PR team…wrong response. They left the impression that they just don’t care about how their product affects the lives of real people, preferring to answer the hard-hitting questions like, “What’s your sign?” It made an already bad situation worse, and added fuel to the comments of negative posters.

Write down your plan of action for engaging with negative commentary, so that you’ll feel empowered to act appropriately if the time ever comes. Include the steps you or your social media team will take to de-escalate the situation, as well as assigning who will make the final call to block someone if that has to happen.

Disagreements Aren’t Always Bad

There are business owners who are so wary of any conflict that they create posts that elicit all the excitement of a napping sloth wrapped in a khaki blanket. Have you ever heard the quote, “If you try to please everyone, you please no one?” If your content is so “meh” that it provides no entertainment or value of any kind, you’ll lose (or fail to gain) followers.

Don’t be afraid to make strong points or take a stand. Opinions are good, and conflict can be a sign of a healthy account. If your followers are engaging in debates, or occasionally heatedly disagree, step in if necessary to keep things civil…but don’t panic. If you’re encouraging real conversations, then you’re also encouraging participation from followers and return visitors.

The Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to use social media. Remember, not all conflict is bad, and you have the ultimate control over how to handle negative situations. With thought and planning, a negative can be turned into a customer relations win for your company.

*Unless, of course, they were running on the model of “all press is good press,” which is totally possible.

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