Social media – Be a winner, not a loser

Much is said in the news and online about the power of social media. My last post ‘How social media has changed how we do business’ touched on some of the types of social media we use, sometimes unwittingly, on a daily basis; and also how we can make it work to our advantage. The world is becoming smaller and smaller every day and most of us interact with new and exciting, and yes, sometimes boring, people every day.

That's just a pretty girl, irrelevant to any point I'll be making

What I think is perhaps more crucial, however, is making sure that you don’t do any damage to your reputation, brand or company; either personally or professionally.

Being no stranger myself to controversy and, shall we say, somewhat of ‘take no nonsense’ attitude especially when I believe myself; perhaps not to be right, but at least to have a defendable point; I’ve learnt some key aspects in dealing with the issues that an active social media presence can bring.

We have all read or heard the stories in the past few years of high profile sports people, actors, musicians and even politicians who have fallen victim to the outrage and controversy that a short fuse or an off colour remark can cause.

It’s a sign of the times that we live in, and I for one am not entirely happy about the direction the world is taking. Gone are the days when whimsy is mistaken for humour. The world has gone and gotten itself a serious attitude problem and there is very little, if any, room left for humour and laughter.  When a person or brand/company messes up it’s usually followed by the expected barrage of criticism, judgement and ridicule; no need to flog that dead horse.

Silence is golden

The prevalence of social media has only served to exacerbate the ‘ripple effect’ of fallout in such a situation. When something newsworthy happened, even 10 years ago, the effect would only really be quantifiable in days. Now with tools such as Facebook and Twitter, it can spread like wildfire across the globe within minutes.

Honesty, integrity and basic human dignity should be amongst the most important of these. Because, no matter how witty or ‘funny’ you think you are being; no one wants to hear you being crude, homophobic or racist. There is a fine line between humour and stupidity; if you can’t get it right it’s better to not say anything.

But the very nature of people is to have opinions. I see it on a daily basis and it makes me cringe. We all have opinions and views; but very few, if any of us are in a position to back up and defend most of them. Hence the ‘sit down and shut up’ tone of this post.

The biggest ‘cringe moment’ I find is when companies or brands get themselves embroiled in a personal spat with a customer or client. This is, quite honestly, unforgivable. Coming from a background of the service industry I have always been taught that ‘the customer is always right’ That’s a lot of baloney quite honestly! The customer is very often wrong; but the customer is always a customer. There is NEVER an appropriate time to have a public spat with a customer. Never. The End. Perhaps I’m a lot more subservient that most given what I do; but my points of sticking to honesty, integrity and human dignity show through here.

Recently there was an incident at a local restaurant. Things happened or didn’t,  things were said or weren’t. With the modern world’s fascination with social media, the incident was very quickly blown out of proportion and the restaurant and it’s management and/or PR people needed to do damage control.

Don't wanna play with you no more

What ended up happening after much back and forth was a petty childish game of ‘one-upmanship’ on the restaurants side; attempting to play down the incident on one hand, and humiliate on the other hand; the customer. Only the few people directly involved know the real story so I’m not going to pass judgement on who was right or wrong.

Sometimes you really just need to back off, apologise and move on. Who cares who was right or wrong? If you can’t handle that or it’s ‘not you’; then you need to find a new career.

In a world that encourages rapid circulation of news, drama and gossip, you really cannot afford to stand on shaky moral ground when the social media tsunami comes; and come it shall, believe me.

Social media has the potential to expose your brand to the most vociferous and supportive of people. Those that you want to be following and promoting your brand. Keep your ‘voice’ online regular, honest and fair. If you have a valid criticism make sure that you address it immediately, make sure you have full contact information for the complainant and ensure that you provide feedback within the day or next at the latest. When you are well reviewed or praised accept it gracefully and with humility.

There are so many examples and hints I could give but it really just boils down to good manners, a clear head and a big helping of patience. I was always taught that good manners are non-negotiable. So simple to have them and use them to your benefit; and conversely, a disaster when you don’t.

Be a winner. No one likes a loser