5 Steps to Addressing Sensitive Conversations in Social Media | npENGAGE

5 Steps to Addressing Sensitive Conversations in Social Media

By on Nov 4, 2010


For many organizations social media isn’t simply a new medium to learn and manage, its also an exercise in control-or lack thereof. What if users say something inappropriate, out of line with the organization’s messaging, or even worse, downright offensive or problematic? I often hear this reasoning for reluctance to utilizing social media by non-profits, especially by those with an organized opposition and/or sensitive topics.

My response? Those inappropriate comments are happening whether or not you use social media–and by not educating and engaging such commentary, only one message is being heard. Instead, consider what opportunities your organization is missing by not participating:

  1. Educate – Educating constituents so as to reduce future problematic commentary, while increasing the ability of constituents to speak accurately to the organization’s issue–both those making the comments, and everyone else reading.
  2. Engage – Engaging constituents in meaningful ways, via a medium they wish to communicate with you, about important issues–increasing the personal relationship and the likelihood for future action.
  3. Build Your Base – By engaging constituents amongst their social network, you also increase the ability to build your base by finding “friends of friends” interested in your issue. Comments on Facebook Pages appear on the commentator’s wall and Tweets on Twitter within their stream.

Here are 5-Steps to Addressing Sensitive Conversations in Social Media

  1. Acknowledge Purpose & Goals We have to acknowledge that these opinions and misguided comments already exist, with or without our input. Ask yourself, would you rather inappropriate and/or inaccurate comments about your issue, campaign or organization be said with or without an opportunity for you to prevent (eg; educate) or respond?
  2. Create Guidelines & Belief Statements Develop a list of acceptable user guidelines for Facebook, LinkedIn and any community sections of your organization’s website. (e.g.; We believe violence is not the answer to solving violence, as such, calls for violence will not be tolerated.) Likewise, an “Organizational Beliefs” page on your website can outline common comments & questions, and can be linked to in replies on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. Plan Common Responses Most organizations with sensitive subjects or issue-based missions have heard most every opposition message and/or inaccurate comment before. Make a list, and plan on how to best reply.
  4. Create a Response Team If necessary, create an internal team of staff responsible for reviewing replies before responding publicly. This team should be small and understand the organization’s messaging.
  5. Create a Response Plan Not every comment needs a reply–or needs to remain. Create a response plan that appropriately allows your team to most quickly, and effectively, reply to sensitive subjects. A sample plan would include:
  • Green: Comment needs no reply (though still consider replies as a way of engagement constituents)
  • Yellow: Problematic comment needs reply. Utilize Common Responses and Belief Statements as needed, as well as your Response Team, to address comment as quickly as possible.
  • Red: Damage control. If a comment on a Facebook Page or LinkedIn Group needs more than a simple reply (such as a call for violence), document and delete. Also be sure to follow-up with the user directly, or group if needed, with how the comment was inappropriate, and reference the Guidelines. On Twitter, or other social networks where deleting a users post may not be possible, consider a public ignore and personal appeal approach, depending on what will best serve the organization. However, too often, doing nothing, does nothing for your organization or mission.

    Has your organization resisted utilizing social media, but want to give it a try? Check out 10 Steps Towards Building a Successful Social Media Strategy.

    What other tips would you have for organization’s worried about sensitive conversations in social media?


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