I am not talking here about monitoring for all activity and looking for opportunities to engage – that is an important strategy, but a much larger topic for another day.
Here, I’m focusing only on posts that are directed at you (e.g. mention you, posted on your page, tag you, etc.), because this is when the stakes are higher – not responding could be seen as arrogant, incompetent, or just rude.
Respond if any of the following:
- There is a genuine question. You may get questions that are not really questions, such as, “How stupid do you have to be?”, but if you’re asked a question where a meaningful answer is possible, then respond.
- You would like to connect with the poster. Maybe s/he is a leader in their community or an influencer in your sector. It is usually worth responding to something they post on your page even if there’s no direct question.
- You appreciated the post. Maybe they pointed out a typo on your site or posted a statement of support. A polite thank you can go a long way to making sure they will help you again in the future.
- The post is getting a lot of attention. This point is not absolute. Sometimes even a noisy post should be ignored (see below), but in general, if other people are paying attention to it, you probably should too.
Don’t respond if the following:
- You feel threatened. Threatening posts should be reported to the platform (e.g. Facebook) and/or the police. If someone is making threats, take it seriously and don’t respond directly.
- They have a clearly entrenched position. Some people have strongly held beliefs that are at odds with your operations. If you sense this is the case, avoid engaging with them. You want to communicate with people who are open to hearing your position.
- This is the third (or more) time they’ve posted in 48 hours. You are not there to have a sustained conversation with a stranger. They’re probably either bored or attempting to create trouble. Either way, don’t respond.
- The post is inflammatory. Some people (known on the internet as trolls) are looking to start a fight, but it takes two to fight, so ignore them and don’t let it become a fight.
In all cases, try to figure out who you’re actually dealing with. There are countless “fake” accounts and it’s worth looking at someone’s profile and post history before responding.
At the end of the day, you must still exercise some discretion, but if you take the above guidelines as a starting point for deciding whether to interact on social media, you won’t go far wrong.
COO & Crisis Response Manager
T: +44 (0)20 3326 8467