I had an interesting conversation recently with the social media director for a Fortune 500 company. A few years ago they had a disastrous PR situation when their advertising agency released a TV commercial that apparently wasn’t vetted well, and their customers – and the general public – hated it.
In fact, they hated it so much, social media lit up to the point that the company had 40-50 people monitoring their social media accounts 24/7. The social media director told me that the flare up lasted about two weeks, and then everything went pretty much back to normal.
In spite of that experience, I asked for his opinion about dealing with critics online and he was surprisingly calm. He told me that anytime you have a controversial message, take a bold stand, or deal with the culture at large you’ll get online critics.
Accept it. Understand that it will happen, and don’t feel obligated to respond to every one. Certainly there are posts that should be responded to, and some critics can be taken offline so you can talk directly to the critic. On the other hand, there are also a lot of jerks and trolls out there who will dedicate an enormous amount of time to trying to destroy your reputation online. But as awful as it feels to see wrong information, lies, and misinformation about your organization, client, or you, you shouldn’t always or automatically respond.
Monitor it, and keep aware of what’s happening. But to focus on it – especially to the extent you neglect your future – is to let the enemy win.