The Weaponization of the Social Web And How To Deal With It

The Weaponization of the Social Web And How To Deal With It
The Weaponization of the Social Web And How To Deal With It - SideraWorks Blog

We’re really good at weaponizing social media.

The latest example was earlier this week when a cellular phone carrier made a not-so-brilliant reply to an upset customer (who also happens to have a formidable online platform). The details of that exchange aren’t really important, the point is that it was a misguided response on behalf of whomever was engaging via the Twitter account and something that could have been handled better.

The social media mob kicked into high gear, flaming the brand for the comment. Their competitors got in the game, and one could ask just whether that’s savvy opportunism or not a smart brand move. People who make their living helping businesses get better with social media and social business slammed them too, which makes me wonder what I’d think about that as a potential client (or heck, even a current one). But the point is that there are dozens of examples just like this every month.

Brand does something stupid, intentionally or otherwise, or an individual on the front lines makes a bad judgment call. The online world reacts swiftly, mercilessly, even gleefully trouncing all over the company who made the mistake, eager to hold them up as an example of the latest company “doing it all wrong”.

What does this teach? Is this helping anything?

Mistakes Happen

It could very well be argued that knee-jerk brand backhanding is teaching business one very clear thing: The Internet is intolerant, quick to react with or without facts, most often on the side of an individual with little empathy for the company or their individual worker, and that social media especially is a volatile, ready-fire-aim place.

That’s exactly why companies to this day, years after the emergence of the social web as a business tool, resist putting even their toes into the very pool we’re begging them to swim in. I’m not sure this is the example we need to be perpetuating.

Individuals screw up. So do individuals that work for companies. And I don’t buy the argument that “it’s been long enough now” in social media that mistakes shouldn’t or won’t happen.

Most businesses really delving into social are still the ones on the leading edge, bringing it to the intersection of the business world and beyond marketing.There is still a great lack of knowledge out there, minimal education, and real business models for integration of social and standards for performance are anything but mature.

What About Intent?

There’s such a thing as a one time, misstep by a company, perpetuated by someone who’s having a bad day, who hit the wrong button, who didn’t ask the right questions before going out and posting or publishing something. That’s not unique to social media (we’ve all replied to an email we meant to forward or forgotten to put the conference phone on mute). The problem is that those mistakes are immediately public.

It’s one thing if a business consistently and continually screws up, or gets tons of feedback from unhappy people about the way they’re handling themselves online or off. When a pattern of behavior emerges, then it’s worthwhile to start asking hard questions about what’s going on and why.

But does the intent matter, in either case? Whether someone meant to be harmful, disrespectful or rude? Whether the root cause was ignorance or willful and malicious intent or breach of ethics? Whether a company or person made an error they regret and would like to fix? Intent can matter a great deal, and it typically makes the difference when we’re deciding how much slack to cut someone when they say or do something regrettable.

But we rarely stop to ask about that intent or put ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we put our interpretation to work, assuming we understand all of the circumstances behind an incident . And once something is broken, once our perceived line has been crossed, we’re an intolerant group when it comes to retracting our giant #FAIL labels and recognizing and accepting an attempted apology or resolution.

Is This The Price of the Web?

Do we just have to deal with this as a potential cost and risk of being on the web? And when someone screws up, is a backlash of a social media nature just an accepted consequence? A justifiable one? Is the “voice of the customer and community” age something that requires us to take the good with the bad, and is there ever a case where the community is the party that should exercise some standards of decorum or behavior, or do they get a blank check?

Some of us encourage the idea of brands and companies experimenting on the web, testing the waters and trying things to see what works. Does that only mean if they do it flawlessly? If we’re encouraging experimentation, isn’t the burden on us as the teachers to help them navigate when mistakes happen and demonstrate the tolerance and patience we’d want someone to show us?

Who is the judge of when “experiments” should end and “taking it seriously” should begin? If we expect companies to have it nailed by now, what standards are we expecting that they adhere to? Are they consistent, understood, and predictable? Or is it all a moving target?

If we keep leaving businesses cowering in abject fear, motivating them to participate by saying that they’re missing opportunity but then terrifying them into inaction because they watch how the community treats businesses that screw up, how does that advance the purpose and potential we’re hoping for with social business?

What Exactly Do We Want?

I’ve never much liked fear as a motivator with individuals. I’ve made the mistake of using it. It’s never worked for any positive, long-term purpose. I don’t think it works for business, either.

Not to say some brands couldn’t indeed use some help and polish about how they conduct themselves toward their own customers online, or that there have been genuinely bad practices put out there, customers neglected, communities offended or alienated.

But it’s up to us — the professionals that are leading and puzzling out social’s implications —  to help articulate the expectations and standards that the web will consistently hold them to, and why. It’s up to us to help highlight when it’s okay to be learning and failing, and when it’s time for standards to get more serious. It’s also up to us to demonstrate the temperance, patience, and common sense we’d ask of someone else when we deal with businesses who are having a bad day, and support obvious efforts to improve and get better.

After all, as customers we expect businesses to exhaust all of their options to help us when something goes wrong, even if it was our fault. We have high expectations for how we’re spoken to, how we’re communicated with, and how our issues get resolved.

I think we need to hold ourselves to higher standards as individuals and professionals for how we react and respond to the businesses who are doing exactly what we’re asking of them and trying to bring social into their organizations one piece at a time.

We have short memories for both triumphs and missteps. We need to consistently put our efforts not into making mockeries of individual screw-ups over and over again, but into addressing them critically and saying to ourselves and each other “What could have been done to prevent this, or if it’s not preventable, what’s the solution that can make situations like this better and more effective for everyone involved?”

Potential Solutions

So, in my experience with companies who are dealing with these things daily and with the realities of resource challenges, corporate infrastructure and bureaucracy, and an intimidating lack of knowledge about how to make social more than just a Twitter account, these are some of the solutions that work to help take the scare and the sting out of social.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments about the ones that have worked for your company or clients.

1. Accept the reality and even probability that it will happen to you. And publicly.

This is probably the hardest one, and it’s a cultural issue of risk tolerance and attitude toward change. The answer is, most simply, to have this discussion openly among your teams that are participating in and contemplating participation in social. Are they all aware of the reality that screwups are not only possible but likely? How does that make them feel? Can they say “yep, we know, and that’s an acceptable risk” or does that bring the conversation to a halt immediately or spark tense conversations about “risk mitigation”?

If it’s the latter, you can’t move anywhere until you start unraveling why that is. Those discussions aren’t going to have anything to do with managing your social media accounts. They’re going to have everything to do with change management and the central issues of trust and empowerment among the humans inside the company.

2. Think strategically about who you put in front line roles.

Humans are fallible. And we require them to be on the other end of social media accounts, profiles, and communities (no one wants a robot answering their Facebook posts, look at how much we love automated call centers). We simply have to be thoughtful about who we put there.

If we’re relying on an intern or a junior staffer with minimal experience, they’ll require more oversight and guidance, more concrete protocols to follow and get their questions answered on the fly, and an understanding of how their actions or reactions can and will have an impact on the brand or operations. Education is key (though it can’t stop at just a training program).

If we’re putting someone with more experience and judgment in that role, they’ll still need to know how to handle a potential negative scenario, how much authority they have to solve a problem on the spot, what  further approval protocols look like, when and if they can break them to deal with something urgent, and how they should guide their teams to provide a consistent experience to customers online that is right in line with the company intent, vision, and personality.

3. Model scenarios.

Asking “what if this happened?” is one of the most effective things you can do when you’re building a social business program. We like it so much we built an entire lab around it. Envision the best and the worst situations. Agree on what might have the most impact. Know how you’d handle them, or make your best guess. Write it down and bake it into your processes.

You can’t do this enough, really. Ask “what if?”. See if your teams agree about what’s a critical situation and what isn’t. Make plans that address the most likely situations and that are flexible enough to adapt to the realities and unpredictabilities of a real-time scenario. Get everyone involved, from leadership to front-line to operations, legal, IT.

Understand the potential ripple effect of both good and bad situations and what your individual role will be in handling them as smoothly and as positively as possible.

4. Develop great social business guidelines.

All of your scenario planning should lead you to developing comprehensive but flexible guidelines around social media participation for your company. Social business needs infrastructure to thrive, and a good guidance and governance plan is the backbone, especially if you have things like regulation or compliance issues you need to work with.

It’s not about control and all the “don’t”s, but rather helping your teams understand what you want them to achieve through social initiatives. Make your intent clear to your teams, share with them your vision and your concerns and your goals for how social is powering your business. Then help them use those guidelines as the basis for exercising their own good judgement and initiative to come up with great solutions to new problems in whatever area of the business they work in.

This is about empowerment, helping articulate what great choices and solutions look like so that your teams can put their own intelligence and experience to work.

Your Turn

This is a big topic, one that’s been discussed many times over on the web.

The social web isn’t going backwards, and the genie isn’t going back in the bottle. All of these new realities – real-time response, building new infrastructure, coping with friction between our culture and the expectations of our customers and employees, the new shape of organizations – are here to stay.

What we have to decide is how as leaders and teachers we’re going to point the way, and how as participants and stewards of a changing era we’re going to exemplify the change we want to see around us.

Make no mistake that we each have a role in realizing the potential of social business, and it can start with how we  build on mistakes to illustrate its promising future.

Amber is the president of SideraWorks, a culture and organizational transformation firm. She's also the best-selling author of the social business book The Now Revolution. You can find her on twitter at @ambercadabra.
  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

    Best post you’ve written this year. Dead-on. I can’t decide if it’s a sign of maturity or a sign of immaturity but social is now no different than celebrity or sports, we gleefully tear down anything that’s been built up. 

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Thanks, Jay. I’m not sure either. Parts of it are definitely a pretty identifiable sign on a maturity curve, the part where the know-betters and the know-nots have their epic battles. In other senses I think it’s a concerning trend that’s unique, at least in implementation, to the web and something we have to consider long term, because I think the mechanics just make it TOO easy to do, and there’s an endless supply of people willing to be the naysayers, the haters, the “contrarians” and the like. Anonymity of screen and keyboard are powerful tools for better or worse, and the reality of that in a business sense has never been sharper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=551901794 Angi Harper

    Excellent post. I’ll start out by saying I was getting my own grill marks on a personal level for what I thought was an innocuous statement, so I’m not sure exactly what instance you referred to at the beginning. Maybe I’m glad.

    The first thing I tell my clients when we do Social Media 101 is that experimentation is encouraged and fans are quick to forgive IF you are authentic about your errors. I still believe that this is generally true. Of course there are the people out there who hold grudges for fun; we call them trolls.

    And the first thing I tell anyone who gripes about anything is the motto by which I live: do not ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Almost everything bad in this world can be explained by an accident, a human slip, or a shortage of information. Hardly anything is malicious.Even the people in our industry who are picking these poor mistake makers apart are not, I think, doing it maliciously. But when you’re trying to keep up a blog and establish yourself as a (bleh) expert, you grasp at any topic for a case study. This is not an excuse. But it is a reason.

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      That’s a great quote and a useful one to keep in mind in this instance, Angi. And while some of it is bloggers on the hunt for a good story, I think there’s more to it than that. As humans who are fallible, we revel a bit in the failure of others to show us that we’re okay too. Some people go so far as to think that another’s failure makes them superior (since they would NEVER do something like that, of course).  It’s always been that way, it’s just that with things like Twitter and Facebook and blogs, we can see that out in the open much more easily. It’s a reality that companies are going to have to deal with, though, and being prepared is much better than getting caught off guard. Ignorance plays less and less well the more the market matures.

  • http://www.vocus.com/blog Chris

    I think you’re absolutely right about intent. We need to be more discriminating between honest screw-ups and consistent misbehavior. Everyone screws up like the NMS / Chrysler ‘can’t drive’ guy once in a while. On the other hand, many would excuse the social media hammering these guys are getting today, for example, as fair comment.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Becoming-Green-Solar-Panels/176234639146982

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      I don’t have all the facts on that story so it’s impossible for me to proffer an opinion about whether it’s “fair comment”. And like I said above, there’s a big difference between a misstep that doesn’t have a whole lot of consequence other than embarrassment, and a systematic and methodical breach of ethics or laws (which has nothing to do with social media itself and everything to do with the intent of the business). Whether social media is part of the punishment the latter companies will have to deal with? I think so. It’s not going anywhere. Definitely compelling either the ethical companies to make a sound effort to highlight that, or the unethical ones to go out of their way to keep it out of the public eye. Intent really does matter.

  • http://twitter.com/cision Cision NA

    As the newly appointed social media manager at Cision, I took a small breath of relief while reading this. I hope to never introduce error or respond in a way that outrages someone but it is a risk associated with the role. 

    Yesterday, I read about the Alaska Airlines incident that all started with someone’s post on the airline’s Facebook wall, saying how a disabled person was mistreated by the airline. That single post took off in such a way that it has thousands of likes and comments, AA’s president issued a response, and the airline partnered with a disability awareness group. All of this was done on Facebook, which just goes to show that people aren’t picking up the phone to complain or writing an e-mail, they are putting it on a platform which allows thousands of other people to see it.

    I think the best solution is #4: develop great social business guidelines. Social activity can be a ticking time bomb. I don’t think you can have an end-all-be-all response for every issue, but I think you can, as you stated, “develop comprehensive but flexible guidelines.”

    It’s also nice to have a team or cohort of sorts. When I’ve been faced with something I’m not 100% sure how to handle, I bring it to others at Cision that act as my sounding boards and mentors. Together, we come up with a solution.

    I’m so glad you brought this topic up because you unknowingly helped me think outside of the box and really consider what’s at stake.

    Plus, it’s always nice to be told that it’s OK to make mistakes :)

    Have a great night!
    Best,
    Lisa
     

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Great point about having a good team around you, Lisa. Definitely can help, and why we encourage businesses as much as possible to move away from the “solo social” person model and learn how to distribute and integrate it into core company functions. It can make all the difference when there are significant challenges to overcome. Best of luck in your new role!

      • http://twitter.com/cision Cision NA

        It has certainly made all the difference here, and I appreciate having a team to bounce ideas off. Thank you for the luck! Have a good night!

        Best,
        Lisa

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Great point about having a good team around you, Lisa. Definitely can help, and why we encourage businesses as much as possible to move away from the “solo social” person model and learn how to distribute and integrate it into core company functions. It can make all the difference when there are significant challenges to overcome. Best of luck in your new role!

      • Cision NA

        It has certainly made all the difference here, and I appreciate having a team to bounce ideas off. Thank you for the luck! Have a good night!

        Best,
        Lisa

  • http://twitter.com/cision Cision NA

    As the newly appointed social media manager at Cision, I took a small breath of relief while reading this. I hope to never introduce error or respond in a way that outrages someone but it is a risk associated with the role. 

    Yesterday, I read about the Alaska Airlines incident that all started with someone’s post on the airline’s Facebook wall, saying how a disabled person was mistreated by the airline. That single post took off in such a way that it has thousands of likes and comments, AA’s president issued a response, and the airline partnered with a disability awareness group. All of this was done on Facebook, which just goes to show that people aren’t picking up the phone to complain or writing an e-mail, they are putting it on a platform which allows thousands of other people to see it.

    I think the best solution is #4: develop great social business guidelines. Social activity can be a ticking time bomb. I don’t think you can have an end-all-be-all response for every issue, but I think you can, as you stated, “develop comprehensive but flexible guidelines.”

    It’s also nice to have a team or cohort of sorts. When I’ve been faced with something I’m not 100% sure how to handle, I bring it to others at Cision that act as my sounding boards and mentors. Together, we come up with a solution.

    I’m so glad you brought this topic up because you unknowingly helped me think outside of the box and really consider what’s at stake.

    Plus, it’s always nice to be told that it’s OK to make mistakes :)

    Have a great night!
    Best,
    Lisa
     

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Great point about having a good team around you, Lisa. Definitely can help, and why we encourage businesses as much as possible to move away from the “solo social” person model and learn how to distribute and integrate it into core company functions. It can make all the difference when there are significant challenges to overcome. Best of luck in your new role!

      • http://twitter.com/cision Cision NA

        It has certainly made all the difference here, and I appreciate having a team to bounce ideas off. Thank you for the luck! Have a good night!

        Best,
        Lisa

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  • danperezfilms

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Why? Because company screw-ups make for great blog fodder and those crafty little bloggers love to throw up the “10 Things We Can Learn About Social Media from [insert company screw-up here]” blog posts and fire up the social media evangelists.

    For businesses, social media is just another tool to ultimately generate sales/profits. A tool that has its rewards and risks. Some companies can afford the time, resources, and financial costs to try to implement it effectively in their organization; others won’t see the value in it, and who can blame them?

    Moreover, the social media “leaders” are either mostly pointing in different directions or offering the most elementary advice on how to be effective in social media (based primarily on their own lack of executive experience in a company or organization).

    Like finding an honest car mechanic or financial planner, certainly there are those companies who find those social media pros that can actually help their business. But its the contractor who lays down a new roof in your house that ultimately leaks water all over your living room the first time it rains that makes it harder for the others who actually know what they’re doing.

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Have we created this monster? Yes. Does the world still turn? Yes.

    Have you written one of your better posts of the last year? Yes.

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Thanks, Dan. And I totally agree with you: we’ve created this monster. And you can watch people swing the bat one day and then go to their job the next dismayed by how the web is putting pressure on them, whether it’s reasonable or not. The world will indeed still turn, but I definitely think that there is work we can do to help companies adapt to the shift, and it’s much deeper than the level of a new and clever marketing campaign. Appreciate the comment and the compliment.

  • danperezfilms

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Why? Because company screw-ups make for great blog fodder and those crafty little bloggers love to throw up the “10 Things We Can Learn About Social Media from [insert company screw-up here]” blog posts and fire up the social media evangelists.

    For businesses, social media is just another tool to ultimately generate sales/profits. A tool that has its rewards and risks. Some companies can afford the time, resources, and financial costs to try to implement it effectively in their organization; others won’t see the value in it, and who can blame them?

    Moreover, the social media “leaders” are either mostly pointing in different directions or offering the most elementary advice on how to be effective in social media (based primarily on their own lack of executive experience in a company or organization).

    Like finding an honest car mechanic or financial planner, certainly there are those companies who find those social media pros that can actually help their business. But its the contractor who lays down a new roof in your house that ultimately leaks water all over your living room the first time it rains that makes it harder for the others who actually know what they’re doing.

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Have we created this monster? Yes. Does the world still turn? Yes.

    Have you written one of your better posts of the last year? Yes.

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      Thanks, Dan. And I totally agree with you: we’ve created this monster. And you can watch people swing the bat one day and then go to their job the next dismayed by how the web is putting pressure on them, whether it’s reasonable or not. The world will indeed still turn, but I definitely think that there is work we can do to help companies adapt to the shift, and it’s much deeper than the level of a new and clever marketing campaign. Appreciate the comment and the compliment.

  • http://www.SouthFloridaFilmmaker.com/ Dan Perez

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Why? Because company screw-ups make for great blog fodder and those crafty little bloggers love to throw up the “10 Things We Can Learn About Social Media from [insert company screw-up here]” blog posts and fire up the social media evangelists.

    For businesses, social media is just another tool to ultimately generate sales/profits. A tool that has its rewards and risks. Some companies can afford the time, resources, and financial costs to try to implement it effectively in their organization; others won’t see the value in it, and who can blame them?

    Moreover, the social media “leaders” are either mostly pointing in different directions or offering the most elementary advice on how to be effective in social media (based primarily on their own lack of executive experience in a company or organization).

    Like finding an honest car mechanic or financial planner, certainly there are those companies who find those social media pros that can actually help their business. But its the contractor who lays down a new roof in your house that ultimately leaks water all over your living room the first time it rains that makes it harder for the others who actually know what they’re doing.

    “Is This The Price of the Web?” Yes. Have we created this monster? Yes. Does the world still turn? Yes.

    Have you written one of your better posts of the last year? Yes.

  • Mwebster

    Social media, where every day finds another fake controversy to occupy the hordes, befor it disappears 24 hours later. No one is allowed to make a mistake anymore without everyone becoming apoplectic and declaring that the brand will be out of business soon. so tiresome. Stop the madness.

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      I don’t think it’s going to stop, that’s just the thing. Reaction is easy. Overreaction is even easier. The better and more realistic approach, I think, is to help companies anticipate and deal with it because it’s bound to happen again. Humans are unfortunately hysterical creatures.

  • Mwebster

    Social media, where every day finds another fake controversy to occupy the hordes, befor it disappears 24 hours later. No one is allowed to make a mistake anymore without everyone becoming apoplectic and declaring that the brand will be out of business soon. so tiresome. Stop the madness.

    • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

      I don’t think it’s going to stop, that’s just the thing. Reaction is easy. Overreaction is even easier. The better and more realistic approach, I think, is to help companies anticipate and deal with it because it’s bound to happen again. Humans are unfortunately hysterical creatures.

  • John Knight

    Such an Awesome post! It boggles my mind everyday the vile and venom people spew on social platforms. I get that people have an issue with service or feel a fee is to expensive, but int he grand scheme these are small things in life. Articles like this are the ones i wish those that rage on and on should read before posting. Some people make an honest mistake and others are policy based which should be looked into more to prevent them from happening again. If an honest mistake, let that person/entity a “mea culpa” and move on, no need to beat it into the ground. Thanks for being Awesome an putting things into perspctive, wish more would do that.

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com alanbleiweiss

    Amber this is a great article and needs to be read by anyone who conducts social engagement initiatives online for a brand,  and in all honesty, anyone who makes use of brand engagement from the consumer perspective.  As someone who has personally been on the attack side, I used to think it was perfectly acceptable to rip into a brand freely and without constraint. 

    The more I have reflected on that concept, and most recently followed your Twitter thread with Lisa Barone, I’ve really been given pause to consider motives, value, and potential impact on my own identity online.  My conclusion thus far had been, and with this article is now further reinforced that the instant hate-fueled, indignant, holier-than-thou attack concept is a serious problem and something that I’m personally working to change in my own consumer-side  life. 

    It’s too easy to go on the attack, completely throwing out any sense of civility, compassion, comprehension of the challenges brands face.    Thanks for adding your detached and very mature take on the issue…

  • http://wrightcreativity.com/ Kirsten Wright

    I just wrote a post similar to this in the fact that we have to accept that one day, we will make the mistake as the brand and get this backlash. (
    http://wrightcreativity.com/2012/07/how-to-deal-with-pissed-of-customers-and-the-backlash-that-follows/ ) While it is a huge piece in how the brand handles it, I think you added a unique nuance: Why are we so quick to be so brutal to these brands? It’s like we forget that behind the tweet/post/etc is another person, just like us, who messes up and has feelings. It’s so easy to flame up when things happen, but unless it is blatantly awful (ie: celeb boutique and their aurora tweet?), we need to start being a little slower on the draw and nicer overall.

  • http://wrightcreativity.com/ Kirsten Wright

    I just wrote a post similar to this in the fact that we have to accept that one day, we will make the mistake as the brand and get this backlash. (
    http://wrightcreativity.com/2012/07/how-to-deal-with-pissed-of-customers-and-the-backlash-that-follows/ ) While it is a huge piece in how the brand handles it, I think you added a unique nuance: Why are we so quick to be so brutal to these brands? It’s like we forget that behind the tweet/post/etc is another person, just like us, who messes up and has feelings. It’s so easy to flame up when things happen, but unless it is blatantly awful (ie: celeb boutique and their aurora tweet?), we need to start being a little slower on the draw and nicer overall.

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    • http://twitter.com/pushingsocial Stanford Smith

      Damn this is good.  Grits with real butter good.  

      The phrase that stuck was “social media mob”.  When I worked on Capitol Hill, I was told that favorite spectator sport was seeing which politician would be led to the gallows every week.  I remember wondering if this was an indictment of the politicians or the professionals who made a living from it.  Some goes here.  Social Business is hard.  I’m impressed with people who can clarify and teach rather than the wild-eyed rabble-rousers yelling “kill”.

      • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

        Thanks, Stan. Social business IS hard. Adapting to all of these ‘new normals’ requires so much more than a Twitter account. Your story about Capitol Hill seems more than appropriate, though I’m still hopeful that the better we prepare businesses for what the web might have in store for them, the less fun it will be for the reactionaries to make a game of it. Hey, a girl can dream!

      • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

        Thanks, Stan. Social business IS hard. Adapting to all of these ‘new normals’ requires so much more than a Twitter account. Your story about Capitol Hill seems more than appropriate, though I’m still hopeful that the better we prepare businesses for what the web might have in store for them, the less fun it will be for the reactionaries to make a game of it. Hey, a girl can dream!

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  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

    Best post you’ve written this year. Dead-on. I can’t decide if it’s a sign of maturity or a sign of immaturity but social is now no different than celebrity or sports, we gleefully tear down anything that’s been built up. 

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    Thanks, Jay. I’m not sure either. Parts of it are definitely a pretty identifiable sign on a maturity curve, the part where the know-betters and the know-nots have their epic battles. In other senses I think it’s a concerning trend that’s unique, at least in implementation, to the web and something we have to consider long term, because I think the mechanics just make it TOO easy to do, and there’s an endless supply of people willing to be the naysayers, the haters, the “contrarians” and the like. Anonymity of screen and keyboard are powerful tools for better or worse, and the reality of that in a business sense has never been sharper.

  • Chris

    I think you’re absolutely right about intent. We need to be more discriminating between honest screw-ups and consistent misbehavior. Everyone screws up like the NMS / Chrysler ‘can’t drive’ guy once in a while. On the other hand, many would excuse the social media hammering these guys are getting today, for example, as fair comment.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Becoming-Green-Solar-Panels/176234639146982

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=551901794 Angi Harper

    Excellent post. I’ll start out by saying I was getting my own grill marks on a personal level for what I thought was an innocuous statement, so I’m not sure exactly what instance you referred to at the beginning. Maybe I’m glad.

    The first thing I tell my clients when we do Social Media 101 is that experimentation is encouraged and fans are quick to forgive IF you are authentic about your errors. I still believe that this is generally true. Of course there are the people out there who hold grudges for fun; we call them trolls.

    And the first thing I tell anyone who gripes about anything is the motto by which I live: do not ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Almost everything bad in this world can be explained by an accident, a human slip, or a shortage of information. Hardly anything is malicious.Even the people in our industry who are picking these poor mistake makers apart are not, I think, doing it maliciously. But when you’re trying to keep up a blog and establish yourself as a (bleh) expert, you grasp at any topic for a case study. This is not an excuse. But it is a reason.

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    I don’t think it’s going to stop, that’s just the thing. Reaction is easy. Overreaction is even easier. The better and more realistic approach, I think, is to help companies anticipate and deal with it because it’s bound to happen again. Humans are unfortunately hysterical creatures.

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    I don’t have all the facts on that story so it’s impossible for me to proffer an opinion about whether it’s “fair comment”. And like I said above, there’s a big difference between a misstep that doesn’t have a whole lot of consequence other than embarrassment, and a systematic and methodical breach of ethics or laws (which has nothing to do with social media itself and everything to do with the intent of the business). Whether social media is part of the punishment the latter companies will have to deal with? I think so. It’s not going anywhere. Definitely compelling either the ethical companies to make a sound effort to highlight that, or the unethical ones to go out of their way to keep it out of the public eye. Intent really does matter.

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    I don’t have all the facts on that story so it’s impossible for me to proffer an opinion about whether it’s “fair comment”. And like I said above, there’s a big difference between a misstep that doesn’t have a whole lot of consequence other than embarrassment, and a systematic and methodical breach of ethics or laws (which has nothing to do with social media itself and everything to do with the intent of the business). Whether social media is part of the punishment the latter companies will have to deal with? I think so. It’s not going anywhere. Definitely compelling either the ethical companies to make a sound effort to highlight that, or the unethical ones to go out of their way to keep it out of the public eye. Intent really does matter.

  • http://brasstackthinking.com Amber Naslund

    That’s a great quote and a useful one to keep in mind in this instance, Angi. And while some of it is bloggers on the hunt for a good story, I think there’s more to it than that. As humans who are fallible, we revel a bit in the failure of others to show us that we’re okay too. Some people go so far as to think that another’s failure makes them superior (since they would NEVER do something like that, of course).  It’s always been that way, it’s just that with things like Twitter and Facebook and blogs, we can see that out in the open much more easily. It’s a reality that companies are going to have to deal with, though, and being prepared is much better than getting caught off guard. Ignorance plays less and less well the more the market matures.

  • http://twitter.com/jnoche John Knight 

    Such an Awesome post! It boggles my mind everyday the vile and venom people spew on social platforms. I get that people have an issue with service or feel a fee is to expensive, but int he grand scheme these are small things in life. Articles like this are the ones i wish those that rage on and on should read before posting. Some people make an honest mistake and others are policy based which should be looked into more to prevent them from happening again. If an honest mistake, let that person/entity a “mea culpa” and move on, no need to beat it into the ground. Thanks for being Awesome an putting things into perspctive, wish more would do that.

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com alanbleiweiss

    Amber this is a great article and needs to be read by anyone who conducts social engagement initiatives online for a brand,  and in all honesty, anyone who makes use of brand engagement from the consumer perspective.  As someone who has personally been on the attack side, I used to think it was perfectly acceptable to rip into a brand freely and without constraint. 

    The more I have reflected on that concept, and most recently followed your Twitter thread with Lisa Barone, I’ve really been given pause to consider motives, value, and potential impact on my own identity online.  My conclusion thus far had been, and with this article is now further reinforced that the instant hate-fueled, indignant, holier-than-thou attack concept is a serious problem and something that I’m personally working to change in my own consumer-side  life. 

    It’s too easy to go on the attack, completely throwing out any sense of civility, compassion, comprehension of the challenges brands face.    Thanks for adding your detached and very mature take on the issue…

  • http://twitter.com/jnoche John Knight 

    Such an Awesome post! It boggles my mind everyday the vile and venom people spew on social platforms. I get that people have an issue with service or feel a fee is to expensive, but int he grand scheme these are small things in life. Articles like this are the ones i wish those that rage on and on should read before posting. Some people make an honest mistake and others are policy based which should be looked into more to prevent them from happening again. If an honest mistake, let that person/entity a “mea culpa” and move on, no need to beat it into the ground. Thanks for being Awesome an putting things into perspctive, wish more would do that.

  • http://searchmarketingwisdom.com alanbleiweiss

    Amber this is a great article and needs to be read by anyone who conducts social engagement initiatives online for a brand,  and in all honesty, anyone who makes use of brand engagement from the consumer perspective.  As someone who has personally been on the attack side, I used to think it was perfectly acceptable to rip into a brand freely and without constraint. 

    The more I have reflected on that concept, and most recently followed your Twitter thread with Lisa Barone, I’ve really been given pause to consider motives, value, and potential impact on my own identity online.  My conclusion thus far had been, and with this article is now further reinforced that the instant hate-fueled, indignant, holier-than-thou attack concept is a serious problem and something that I’m personally working to change in my own consumer-side  life. 

    It’s too easy to go on the attack, completely throwing out any sense of civility, compassion, comprehension of the challenges brands face.    Thanks for adding your detached and very mature take on the issue…

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