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Seven Tips for Staying Above the Social Fray

Posted on: January 19th, 2011 by Beth Monaghan | 3 Comments

As I watched the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Twitter yesterday, inspiration came from @iamdiddy (P. Diddy for those who don’t know) of all people, who Tweeted: “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him. Martin Luther King Jr. #MLKDAY”

Anyone who works at InkHouse has heard my “stay above the fray” mantra. I generally offer this advice for real-world scenarios, for example, those nasty emails that compel the recipient to compose a two-page, line-by-line defense. My advice is to write the response, read it out loud, and then delete it. I have desperately wanted to get into the fray on a number of occasions. But I cannot name one instance where it would have created a positive outcome (other than the short-term gratification that I spoke my mind, which leads to longer term regret).

The fray can be a tough place to avoid in social media. We’ve all seen nasty blog comments and as a blogger, I’m on the receiving end as well. One of my personal favorites: “Other than boring us with ‘social networking’ anecdotes, what are you good for? Nothing. Precisely.” I liken this to driving. Cars provide people with emotional armor that emboldens them to hurl insults and nasty gestures at other drivers. Would this happen if we were all standing next to each other?

Participating in the social media conversation means that you’re going to get some negative feedback, which can be hard to take. However, it’s part of being social. And the social universe requires the same measured response you would provide in the real world. We always tell clients not to say anything to the press that they would not like to see in tomorrow’s paper. The same is true for tweets, status updates, blog post comments and anything else in the public social sphere. If it’s publicly posted, it’s fair game.

I am not suggesting that we should stand by and passively agree with everyone we encounter. I am suggesting that a thoughtful discussion is the reason we enter into the social conversation, and we, as content creators have a responsibility to foster it. So how can you stay above the fray in social interactions on behalf of your corporate or personal brand?

Do:

  • Ignore spam. You will inevitably get blatant spam in your blog comments and even through Twitter. Take it as a compliment that someone (or some robot) deems you worthy enough to target: then delete them.
  • Respond to thoughtful comments. These will be evident. If someone has taken the time to consider your points, add to them or provide another point of view, acknowledge it and respond with your own perspective. This is the best of social media – it’s about creating these kinds of conversations.
  • Acknowledge differing points of view. Offer your own perspective and use it as an opportunity to bring forward more of your own content.
  • Look for other relevant conversations. Take the example above and find more. If you have something interesting to say, become a thoughtful commenter, Twitterer, etc.

Don’t:

  • Respond to negative missives. Don’t worry; you’ll be able to identify these without difficulty. They’re the ones that reek of road rage and offer nothing constructive to the conversation.
  • Get into a point-by-point debate. You will never win, and you will only leave the encounter angrier than you began it.
  • Discount a thoughtful comment. Even if someone only has 50 followers on Twitter, or is a student somewhere, it’s part of the deal. Conversation starters can come from anywhere, even @iamdiddy.

3 Responses

  1. your biggest fan from singapore says:

    Great post, Beth. Digital media seems to give people a false sense of anonymity, leading to a festering pool of offensive commentary. Just check out any comment thread on YouTube.

    It’s vital that PR practitioners understand how to stay above the fray. Reacting to negative missives only empowers these senseless online conversations.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Beth Andrix Monaghan and InkHouse, Alltop PR. Alltop PR said: Seven Tips for Staying Above the Social Fray http://bit.ly/dHOxBl [...]

  3. Like your way of writing and thinking :)

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