Social Engagement: When Discretion is the Better Part of Valor


Share on LinkedIn

That snarky tweet about your company is right there — in the public view and oh-so-tempting to respond to with an @reply. But hold your fire, bucko. Engagement is terrific, but kicking a hornet’s nest is still a stupid thing to do.

One of the great reasons to really get steeped in social media is to keep a watchful eye on what is being said about you and your company. Rumors, opinions, complaints, kudos — you want to be aware of them all, and it’s increasingly irresponsible to turn a blind eye. But while social media is a fantastic communications tool, sometimes it’s better for listening than for broadcasting.

A (probably very common) story comes to mind: an enthusiastic in-house PR guy I know was in the middle of a promotional campaign, trying to win over a few influential editors. One of them was a real doozy — sharp, hilarious, a prolific tweeter, and frequently critical of the PR guy’s client. One really biased tweet put Mr. PR over the edge, and he responded with a 140-character rebuttal, on point but necessarily limited in scope. Bad idea.

Shockingly (!), the result was not a public retraction of snark, but a full page article in the next issue trashing the client. No mention was made of the Twitter skirmish, but Mr. PR put two and two together. Perhaps publicly arguing with the editor was not a good idea.

The extreme example highlights an important point: social media can seem deceptively easy. It’s just a tweet; how bad could it be? The answer is, “awful,” but the key is not to be scared away from the medium — it’s to use it intelligently.

In that case, the smart strategy would have been to note the editor’s opinion, and use other channels to work it over with more finesse. Perhaps a product preview; a few exclusive tips; some targeted retweets, even, or positive and insightful comments on other stories. You might even go so far as to schedule a kind of reverse interview, giving a naysayer the opportunity to have his concerns and grievances heard.

One of the hardest lessons of great brand-building is learning to take negativity as useful information. It isn’t always constructive, and sometimes it’s downright wrong, but knee-jerk responses have a way of coming back to haunt you. Media may be social, but that doesn’t mean it’s personal. You can still engage while staying above the fray.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here