ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA: ‘Yes, but what happens if people shout at us?’

It’s the standard question people ask wavering at the side of the social media pool wondering whether or not to dive in on behalf of an organisation.

As they consider putting their toe in they’ll think the water will be populated by sharks.

They’re organisation will be deluged with abuse and it’ll all be their fault for having the temerity to start a Facebook page for a council. Or a museum. Or a park. Or whatever.

Maybe, it’s better just not to take the risk.

Maybe it’s a bigger risk not to dive in and swim a few strokes.

In sweariness, reality is different. Even with the weather at minus nine degrees with schools at the risk of closing the sweary ranters are pretty infrequent. I can recall two in three years looking after a corporate Facebook and Twitter.

There’s not many councils that would tear out all the phones and throw them into a skip because someone rang up and was hostile.

So, why should it be any different with Facebook and Twitter? Particularly when it’s so infrequent.

That’s not to say everyone on the internet using a corporate social media channel is sweetness and light. They’re not. But they are in the minority. It’s important to have something in place to act as a Linus blanket.  Especially for the less digitally savvy members of staff who may be called upon to update and monitor a Twitter presence.

Think how your telephone policy works. Or in the front office. At the sharp end most people will be happy to talk to people if they are angry but won’t if the persopn they’re talking to swears.

So, how should you behave? For me, exactly the same as offline. Be polite and don’t get into a blazing row, for a start-off. Having a row in 140 characters is never a good idea.

Criticism is okay

Social media should not be a one way channel where you tell people about the great job you are doing. For it to work it needs to be a two way thing. People tell you if they like something. They’ll be quicker to tell you if they don’t. That’s life. The cracked pavement reported on Twitter should be listened to. The key is how you respond.

Here are two links that may be a starting point.

I’ve been meaning to blog both links for quite literally ages. But maybe that’s the point. Both stand the test of time.

What the Civil Service says:

The Home Office’s code for civil servants was shaped by Tom Watson MP when he was a minister.

Tom crowdsourced what went into the code. In other words, he asked people what should be in it. He stuck up a blog post which you can read here and shaped it after listening to opinions. The finished advice for civil servants is here.

There are five points all of which are common sense. They are:

    1. Be credible
      • Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent.
    2. Be consistent
      • Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times.
    3. Be responsive
      • When you gain insight, share it where appropriate.
    4. Be integrated
      • Wherever possible, align online participation with other offline communications.
    5. Be a civil servant
      • Remember that you are an ambassador for your organisation. Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your department or agency.

What the Citizenship Foundation says:

The very excellent Michael Grimes from the Citizenship Foundation drafted an engagement flow chart a while back. It stands the test of time. You can find it here.

Based on a US Air Force template it softens the language and makes it more politely Anglophile.

It follows a flow of advice on what to do and how to respond online.

Point scoring sarcasm can’t really be engaged with meaningfully, Michael says. Criticism broadly can.

If you’re working with social media as a conversational tool it’s well worth a look at and I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve recommended it to.

Creative commons credits:

Swimming pool: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stignygaard/3837864998/sizes/z/in/photostream/