Don’t be like Trump: Stay out of Twitter flame wars, for your own good

by | Jul 13, 2015 | Public Relations, Social Media

Ah, 2015: a time in which reality stars can #breaktheinternet and bid for presidency.

In a modern day tarring and feathering, Donald Trump’s Twitter duel with Modern Family writer Danny Zuker has recently resurfaced and gone viral.

…that’s pretty much what happens when you tangle with a man whose arsenal includes a five-time Emmy-award winning wit.

But Trump—whose other strategic moves include slandering an entire ethnic group to kick off his presidential campaign— and his Zuker experience can also serve as a cautionary tale for avoiding social media warfare.

After all, clients and customers are increasingly turning to social to vent their frustrations. Back-and-forths can quickly escalate and play out in front of thousands of people, and engaging in pitched battles online rarely has an upside.

So how do you mitigate damage when someone starts a beef?

  1. Get ahead of grievances, which means diligently monitoring social media conversations. This means using either free or paid media monitoring software in order to track all mentions of your brand. Get everyone on your marketing team involved, and place a monitor somewhere prominent in your office space and leave it running so nothing gets overlooked. Also, note that monitoring is not limited to social: create a list of forums and review sites your customers frequent and include them in your online monitoring program.
  2. Don’t remove negative comments. Doing so will bring into question your integrity and yes, people will notice that you deleted it. Erasing anything on the internet is largely an illusion anyways. Instead, try to engage the commenter in a positive way. The exception? Postings to your Facebook page that are vulgar or heavy on profanities.
  3. Respond promptly, and try to make the situation right. Make it right publicly, if you can, and then sort out the details via email. Figure out what you can reasonably offer to make them happy. Can you issue a refund, credit or discount? Each complaint is an opportunity to turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one and create long-term loyalty. Take the extra step of following up to show you care.
  4. Humanize your brand. Don’t talk like a robot: some of the most maddening customer service experiences include being subjected to corporate mumbo-jumbo. Your priority in these exchanges is to ensure your unhappy customer feels they are a priority and are being heard, and they won’t if you’re answering them with rehearsed and copy-pasted generic replies. Have your staff write to them using their real names (not “customerservice@” accounts). Likewise, address your customer by their first name to personalize the conversation.
  5. Last but not least: keep calm and carry on. If the person is being unreasonable, name-calling or just generally being rude don’t respond by publicly arguing: after all,  “any time you win an argument online, you’re losing. All anyone really remembers is that you’re combative.” This could be a good time to take things offline or, if the person seems like a lost cause, perhaps a good time to end the conversation and simply move on.

Hartley Butler George


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