A brand's guide to handling social media jerks

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There are plenty of social media jerks out there. They are trolling the landscape to stir up conversations and turn the focus from positive to negative, and all to be in the spotlight. You know these people in the real world too, but in the social media world, there is a much bigger barrier between them, you, and the conflict in the middle. This allows them to feel protected, just like the "road rager" in the Suburban.

So, what types of people are social media jerks and how should a brand handle them? Here are the top five types and how to steer them in the right direction.

A brand's guide to dealing with social media jerks

The customer service hog

In this example, which we see all of the time on brand pages, the person is responding to a post with a completely irrelevant comment related to customer service. While the Facebook page is a great way to get customer service, we'd like these people to go through our normal channels. But they don't. So, here is how to respond: Say something. Anything. Even if you know that the customer service is backed up for three hours, comment to this person that you are taking care of it. It gives them -- and others who are also seeing the comment -- peace of mind. Of course, make sure you do the proper follow up on the back end.

The hater

We have all seen it, the person who comments on the latest product release or news story with nothing positive to say about the brand. While social media is an outlet for self-expression and we love our customers owning that space, there is just no room for nonsense. If they hate your brand, then why are they a fan to begin with? Our fans are out avid loyalists, in this case what you need to do it ignore them. Your loyal fans will come to the rescue.

The Howard Stern

This is the guy who likes to write pointless obscene comments for the shock factor -- inappropriate comments, cuss words, and even gross and offensive comments for no reason. In this case, you should use your editing tools to the fullest. Immediately deleting the comment seems pretty obvious, but if you are a brand with over 300,000 fans and lots of comments going on, you may not have time to do this. Use a social media tool that allows you to get alerts and auto block these types of comments. You can also block individuals from commenting on your page.

 

Comments

Katelyn Watson
Katelyn Watson February 24, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Thanks Lucia!

Lucia Davis
Lucia Davis February 23, 2012 at 6:36 PM

I feel like I should step in here and add that it was I, not Katelyn, who insisted on the "jerks" headline, which seems to be muddling her very valid points.

While some commenters are actual customers, it's important to have a system for all the different types of difficult people you encounter, as she has done (I'm looking at you especially, Spammer, Troll, and Howard Stern!)

Katelyn Watson
Katelyn Watson February 22, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Nick - I agree with you, however it is something we have to do to interact and listen to our customers. As for the others, I don't think any brand really thinks of their customers as jerks. You are focusing on what was a catchy title:) Although, some people in social media make it harder for brands to focus on what we want, and yes you are right..it isn't all about us. I don't think any brand in an environment where anything goes has not come across a "crazy" now and then!

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis February 22, 2012 at 3:08 PM

This is exactly why businesses are hesitant to get involved in social media and allow fans and followers to post comments. Sometimes you never know what you are going to get! It's important to have a strategy in place for how comments will be addressed. It's important for followers to know that their voice is being heard, even if the comment isn't a nice one.

Robert Michaels
Robert Michaels February 22, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I completely agree with Peter. In my opinion, the problem starts when you think of your customers as "Jerks".

I agree you should quickly respond to your customers when they complain in the social channels or it can quickly get out of control. But ask yourself why are they bringing their problems here? Is it because this is where they communicate or is it because you have failed to resolve the issue in the traditional channels.

You should change your mind set and look the complaint as an opportunity. These customers are giving you the chance to show how good your customer service is. These are your hardest customers to please make them happy and you have a loyalist who will extend a reach and help your brand. If you are unable to resolve the problem, at least the rest of your customers have seen your attempt which will probably be respected on its own.

"Dropped on their heads as kids” Seriously?

Katelyn Watson
Katelyn Watson February 21, 2012 at 6:53 PM

I agree with you in that social media is a conversation, and we should always join the conversation vs. talking at them. However, there are some people who use social media in the wrong way and these are the people we are speaking of. Regardless of how or why they got there, there are still things a brand has to do to manage presence for the masses. Group think is prevalent in social and you do have to control it or it can get out of control. Any brand marketer would see this.

Peter Johnston
Peter Johnston February 21, 2012 at 12:44 PM

There is a mindset problem here. I suggest that before anyone goes any futher they read this:
http://www.revenuejournal.com/blog/customers-arent-spoiled-brats-they-just-want-what-they-always-did-and-now-they-can-tell-world

If you try to control your audience on social media, you will come up with the "jerk" mindset.
For example there is a complaint here that someone is using facebook for customer service issues
"we'd like these people to go through our normal channels". Probably they are here because they've tried the normal channels and got no joy. Now they're either here because they were so bruised by the experience that they want to hurt you or because it is the only way left to get through.

If you call them jerks and don't engage they will simply take their complaint to anyone who will listen.
You lose. Same with the haters.

Social networking is a communication tool between people about you, not to you. As a company you are the interloper and you must engage and influence, not control. If you treat it this way, you'll find the reactions from people who don't like to be controlled by an arrogant company reduce too.