Personal and Business “Bullying” in Social Media: Ways to Manage It

It’s been a year since one of the persons I know well was attacked in social media and had to struggle with the consequences.

Imagine a successful top-level manager (let’s call him John) who’s good at achieving his goals, but probably not so good at building strong relationships with his colleagues and subordinates. However, John knows how valuable a good specialist is and “steals” one from another top manager (“Mark”).

Time goes by, and the company holds a corporate party, where John gets caught by a photographer in an awkward situation. The picture gets published on Facebook. Mark gets too many beers on one day and starts a commenting war against John inviting everyone to participate. The comment feed grows so fast you have to refresh the page every three seconds reaching 200+ comments! And those were not the comments you’d love to see under your pic.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that John and Mark work in an international company that largely relies on the Internet properties as a source of new leads. And yes, both managers have company’s customers as their Facebook friends, which makes it even more “fun.”

Another frequent situation is when you get tagged by somebody you know in the picture you don’t really like. Ok, you can remove a tag, right? But you cannot remove your name mentioned in the comment like this one:

@Kate, why are you removing the tag? Didn’t you like the party?! O_o

Which means that your family, friends, and colleagues will see the picture anyway.

Or a freaky competitor leaves angry reviews at Yelp on your biz page:

Found a cockroach in the cake. Disgusting! Would never recommend the place…

Someone can argue that this is what social media is about—complete openness. But the cases when social networks become bullying arenas are not that rare. What are the right ways to behave in the situation when you get attacked or humiliated and this can damage your reputation or business?

1. Never Attack Back

Starting a fight in social media is the worst thing one could imagine. It’ll only attract more viewers and more potential bullies and trolls. Someone can recollect more awkward and unpleasant stories, pictures, URLs, etc. Instead, stay polite and neutral. Your being self-confident and calm will most likely disarm the attackers.

2. React Politely

If that was a friend of yours who posted something you wouldn’t like to see in public, send a polite direct message, stating that you don’t feel good about the information shared, and it may be better to delete/hide it (or make it available for several persons only) for some definite reasons.

In most cases, people will react with understanding if you contact them without SHOUTING.

3. Humor Works Perfectly

If, however, someone really keeps on torturing you, just … laugh at it! Right, you can have a laugh at any situation, and even laugh at the person who wants to hurt you. Switch on your imagination and create a parody (e.g. a meme for instance). The war of humor is the safest one. Just make sure your jokes are not wildly sarcastic!

4. Actively Communicate with All Customers

If you have a business, and there’s a competitor who keeps on leaving negative comments and reviews (as the one I mentioned above), it’s time to be more proactive.

First of all, make use of the SMM tools that help you stay updated on who’s talking what about you and your brand (e.g. BuzzBundle and the like). If you monitor the brand mentions, you’ll be able to avoid the situations when the amount of negative spam escalates on dozens of forums and pages you don’t get alerted on.

Secondly, if you are sure the comments are fake, you can contact website administrators and provide the data that proves it. It’s a frequent situation, so they’ll understand you and will probably delete or mark the false statements.

Finally, if there’s nothing you can do to have them removed, reply in the most polite manner:

“Hi, John! That’s a pity you’ve left the place without telling us about what happened. We’d be glad to provide some refund to you to make you feel better! You can reach me any time to discuss the issue. :)”

In addition, managing an online reputation for a business is getting tougher, since there are many channels and loads of information to take into account. Not to get lost in SMM issues, focus on such basic but critical factors as your response time, issue resolution time, and customer experience rating.

In some very severe cases, when you get personally bullied on social networks, remember that you can always quit if you wish. Turn off the laptop. Breathe in and out. Go and meet your friends. Life’s going to get much better.

If you are not a vulnerable teenager, but a grown-up person with some social media related activities, focus on the tips I mentioned above. SMM-literacy will help avoid difficult situations and keep your online reputation flawless.

What about you? Can you recollect any “tough” SMM stories? How have you managed to cope with them?