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Correcting the Record: When Social Media Does You Wrong

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c 2010 Barbara DeLouise

The recent uproar created by the Forbes Obama article–and no, I’m not going to provide a link!–reminds anyone functioning in the public space how important it is to know how to react to information you deem factually incorrect, mis-informed, or downright salacious.  The echo chamber of social media means that anything that is published gets instantly amplified through re-purposed media, tweets, Facebook mentions, and news aggregator sites.  So when and how do you respond?

1. First, determine how loud the negative voice really is. That is, does this person/entity have a significant and established following? Will what they say be re-tweeted and picked up by major news organizations?  In the case of the Forbes story, the answer is clearly yes. In the case of one angry person responding to one of your blog posts, maybe not so much. Depends who s/he is and who’s in their network. Responding could just feed the echo chamber and make it worse.

2. Get out your set of facts. You can’t change someone else’s information, but you can put out your own. If you don’t have your own version of Robert Gibbs (hopefully more cheery), get your followers/supporters to put out your side of the story through their own social networks.

3. Make sure you are getting good advance intel of what could be brewing on your issue/company/clients. Use the Twitter subject hashtag (#) to search for tweets that are relevant. Set up Google Alerts not just on yourself and your organization, but that of important donors/clients/thought leaders in your industry.

4. Don’t forget to follow competitors and folks with an opposing viewpoint. Trying to understand where they are coming from and to whom they are speaking is helpful in crafting your response (or lack thereof).

5. Don’t panic. The nightmare of social media is it promotes the 24-hour news cycle. The bonus is it’s only a 24-hour news cycle. How soon they forget.

Finally, a note about disabling discussion on YouTube and Facebook sites. When my clients do it, it concerns me. They always have valid reasons–typically really nasty, obscene or racist comments. But I always prefer to see the community self-correct. Also, when comments are blocked, you have many fewer hits to your site (thus potentially promoting the antagonist sites). Just have a thoughtful discussion if you feel the need to stop comments, and re-consider after a brief interval.