Do you make social media managers despair?

I’ve been talking to a lot of community managers of high-profile New Zealand companies, and there’s a trend to what they have been saying lately: They are getting worn out from trying to deal with unreasonably emotional people. People who say they are upset about changes to products they get for free, having a go at marketing campaigns for products they would never use, angry that a service isn’t 100% perfect.

It has been a hard couple of years in New Zealand. We’ve had Pike River, the hideous and ongoing situation in Canterbury, a really bad summer, the financial crisis, an election, and although we won it, the World Cup came at a cost. It’s no wonder we’re all a little short-tempered.

Adding to that, in general people have a burning desire to feel innocent; to feel not guilty for our actions. We justify horrible behaviour by saying we are righting a wrong, fighting injustice, protecting others. We convince ourselves that tweeting or Facebooking our thoughts, no matter how rude, is justifiable.

There’s also the commonly-used argument that you shouldn’t be in the public arena if you can’t handle a bit of fire. That’s an okay point, until you start using it to justify swearing at company employees, constantly slagging off celebrities, or hacking websites.

It’s never okay to wish a company’s employees would get breast cancer so they would know suffering. It’s never okay to tell anyone that you want them to commit suicide. It’s never okay to say a product is so terrible it makes you want to kill yourself. It’s never okay to post images of aborted foetuses to a Facebook page, saying you wish this had happened to the product’s makers.

Believe it or not, these are real examples of recent New Zealand abuse on high-profile Facebook pages.

You can, however, have a bad experience and take to social media to offer constructive feedback in an adult manner. I believe that this kind of feedback is welcomed, as it’s incredibly helpful, doesn’t make the community manager think you’re a knob end, and can be presented verbatim to decision-makers for resolution.

Just take a minute and ask yourself if you are being a jerk, but justifying it and absolving yourself with lame excuses.

We’ve had a hard go of it lately, but here’s a way we can start to make the world a tiny bit nicer.

10 Replies to “Do you make social media managers despair?”

  1. Well said. I’ve begun selectively calling people out when I see they’re being unfair idiots. I don’t want to get into it with everyone, but many of them should really know better.

  2. Forgot to add in a comment about how community managers actually advocate for social media users within companies, and pissing them off or giving them a hard time isn’t going to help anyone.

  3. Nice post Cate. As an online community manager, I regard myself as a customer advocate within the business. Bit idealistic perhaps, but a lot of us work hard to get customer feedback in front of the right people and to push for change based on it. It’s really hard for us to make a serious case for customer-driven change when we simultaneously have to present expletive-laden, irrational and sometimes downright cruel comments. It makes it easier for people to write off social as the voice of a ‘vocal minority’ as opposed to constructive and useful ‘real time customer voice’.

  4. Having just had to formulate a polite response on a brand page your timing is perfect.

    It’s particularly frustrating when it is obvious the poster has not tried to resolve their issues before resorting to ‘throwing stones’ in public. On the other hand we do try to infer a direct link between Social pages and the customers actual experience, whether it’s retail or a service. It indicates a measure of success if they assume the social face (TM) is the same personality as the store face.

    In the two dimensional world of ‘social media guru’s’ there is a common mantra directing us to never delete comments on platforms we control. Misguided obscenities such as those you listed must surely fall outside this remit?

  5. Yes I agree, I think people are interacting thru social media in ways that would never happen face to face, or over the phone. I run a small online business, and even just the way customers interact, and the expectations they have of the business are very different to how they would act in real life.

  6. That was a very well thought out article Cate, and very helpful. I hadn’t realised that others out there get as emotionally taxed as I do. It’s all very well saying “it’s just a client/job/customer” but when you care about what you’re doing it’s hard to take yourself out of the situation. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  7. Cate! Preach it. Unfortunately I think for too long we’ve taken a ‘customer is always right’ approach for social. It’s time we pushed back more, because examples like that are out of order.

  8. Unfortunately I think this is the end result of the self-publishing culture. There is no-one to censor us, there is no stand down period where we can retract hasty tirades, and there is no immediate feedback from body language and facial expressions.

    I think setting clear expectations of standards for your community is okay, it gives you the right to delete posts based on the criteria you set up front. I think the “never delete” thing has morphed into “never delete an opinion just because it’s contrary, deleting filth is fine”.

  9. Completely agree! Thank you so much for this. As a Digital Manager I’ve seen some really appalling comments from kiwis – even on Facebook where their name and photo is often included. I agree that the public need to be educated that insults and impoliteness won’t be tolerated.

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