That said, a smart, well-played response on Twitter can go a long way toward reinforcing or elevating your brand, even if the initial comments directed at you are not the nicest in the world. Recently, celebrated author JK Rowling offered a simple, real-time clinic in how Twitter can be done very, very well.
Last week, promotional material started trickling out about the upcoming “Potter-based” sequel film “Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Among the announcements was the role being played by Korean actress, Claudia Kim. She will play the human version of Voldemort’s snake, Nagini. This revelation was met with both cheers and controversy.
The controversy can be summed up in this tweet, from a disgruntled fan: “Listen, Joanne, we get it… you didn’t include enough representation when you wrote the books… but suddenly making Nagini into a Korean woman is garbage… not good representation…”
Notice the combative, insulting tone
This person probably would not think to walk up to a stranger and derisively address them by first name, but they thought nothing of it on Twitter. If you want to protect your brand, as a public figure, don’t take the troll bait and fire back.
Rowling, in this situation, offered a brief, effective clinic in how to respond to an offended, rude commenter on Twitter. Her reply was part explanation, part instruction, and all polite graciousness: “The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini.’ They are sometimes depicted as winged, sometimes as half-human, half-snake. Indonesia comprises a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese, and Betawi… Have a lovely day…”
Now, one could read a bit of snark into that last bit, and who can blame her, but the message, as a whole, was well done. While other commenters came on to give Rowling a history lesson of her own, correcting a few key points of Naga history, she was able to deflect the angry commenter with an honest and direct, albeit graceful, response.
But the content of the message alone does not tell the entire story
One of the most salient factors that helps Rowling in her Twitter exchanges, is that she really does operate in an ongoing conversational format. She doesn’t just slam and vanish. She talks with her legions of fans, greeting their enthusiasm, whether positive or negative, with grace and poise. And, when any controversies come up, Rowling jumps right into the fray, ready to listen and interact in a positive, non-combative way.
That shows Rowling understands the real value of Twitter. Not just getting attention or getting the better of the person you’re engaging with, but making a positive connection with the massive audience that is watching, responding and retweeting. When a single screenshot message can be isolated and turned into national news, you want to be certain that comment cannot be leached of context and turned against you.
Be polite and non-confrontational. Honestly explain your position without looking like you’re trying to make the other person feel “wrong” or “bad.” Follow that approach and protect yourself from Twitter PR disasters.