NPR recently shut off comments to their blog after trolling boiled over into an anti-Semetic cesspool. The world-renowned Cincinnati Zoo shut down twitter after a horrible tragedy became a sickening meme. Even my personal experience as community manager for LIVESTRONG during the Lance Armstrong scandal had me pulling my hair out for months. So what is a brand to do? When should a brand leave a platform and how do you make that decision?
Twitter isn’t protecting us from trolls.
Twitter’s unwillingness to create policies to protect users from abuse and yet allowing ridiculousness like the Olympic Committee’s Rule 40 and you may see even more people jumping ship. Brands have choices and are using multiple channels to communicate.
What is the tipping point for your brand?
Before answering, you must first be able to pull back from the hate enough to see the big picture. Speaking from experience, this is a very difficult thing to do. Know that many brands have outlived a significant social media crisis. FedEx is a great example. After video of a delivery person throwing a package over the fence of a customer surfaced, the expert team went into crisis mode and still is known as one of the best major brands on social media.
For the Cincinnati Zoo, the tipping point came when a tragedy became a meme that wouldn’t end. The Zoo made the excruciating decision to put down their beloved gorilla Harambe after a child fell into the habitat. The internet exploded with hate for the parents, hate for the Zoo and made it impossible for the Zoo to communicate via Twitter. A cost/benefit analysis of the channel’s power to reach their community vs. the time they took to manage the hate lead to the decision to pull the plug altogether.
So what is a community manager to do?
The decision to shut down a platform is a HUGE one to make and management needs to see it as such. It is really is a decision that needs lots of conversation, clear thought and a one that needs to include YOU. CEO’s and CMO’s do not have perspective on their own to sort through the hate mail, so they should not make the decision to shut down a platform without your input. Here are six things to consider before pulling the plug:
1) What is the percentage of good to bad on a normal day outside of crisis? Now what about today?
Use a tool like Hootsuite to gauge sentiment or to count the flagged tweets. All comments can feel ugly when you’re in the middle of a crap storm, so data will give you good perspective and help you see big picture.
2) When crisis hits, are you prepared with proper statements and feel empowered to communicate?
The powers that be must give you the tools to properly do your job. A suggestion of “just ignore them” from upper management is not a strategy and is offensive. You do not have to respond to everyone, but you should have the freedom to make that gut decision. The ability to quickly respond is paramount. Break down internal company silos now and create a plan for the future.
3) Have you reached out to your peers to ask their thoughts?
Join online community managers groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. I am a member of “Social Media Managers” on Facebook. It’s an active community of over 10,000. I recommend it. Seek out peers at conferences like SXSW and find trusted experts that are willing to give you an ear – I’m always glad to help.
4) How do you make the recommendation to upper management?
Present your recommendations to the powers that be, but educate them about the big picture first. Give them your analysis and trust they will make the best decision for you and for the brand.
5) Are you taking care of yourself and keeping track of your hours?
Having to work a little over 40 hours is expected in a crisis, but being online 24/7 is unrealistic and unhealthy. It is your manager’s job to staff appropriately. If you need help, you need to ask for it and be able to provide data as to why.
6) Are you taking tons of screen grabs – for your inevitable book deals/speaking gigs about social media crisis management?
Seriously. Do it. You’ll thank me later.
Isn’t banning someone censorship?
Shutting down one channel doesn’t mean the trolls will not migrate to your others. Sometimes it is a perverted game of Whack-A-Mole. However; if the trolls move to Facebook, at least you will have the tools necessary to keep the peace – tools like banning and hiding.
Many would say banning and hiding comments is unauthentic and poor practice. I am usually one of those people, but how to deal with trolls is a whole other blog for another day. Remember, it is ultimately your company’s job to provide a useful service or product, but if your product isn’t living up to the expectations, then you deserve to face some feedback. That aside – sometimes people are just slimy scumbags that need to crawl back under the rock from which they slithered. That is when you should use the almighty power of the “ban”.
What about you?
Do you have any lessons learned from your experiences with trolls? What other brands have done a good job managing the hate? Has your brand decided to pull the plug on Twitter? Share your favorite troll squashing come backs in the comments below.