Mean Tweets

Have you seen Jimmy Kimmel‘s Mean Tweets skit yet? I finally did when the NBA version came out a week ago (below).

The tongue-in-cheek celebrity response to Twitter’s raucous social media culture pierces through a lot of hubris. Mean Tweets says what many of us involved in online community management feel.

Life as an online community manager, blogger or personality today requires dealing with some idiotic nastiness that people spew on social media

There I said it. That’s what many community managers and corporate online marketers think.

It’s not just the average social media Joe. The nastiness extends to bloggers who take their Klout score and “influencer” status way too seriously, using blogs as a means to make brands kowtow.

Though we kneel (or ignore) because customer service and repuation best practices demand it, one cannot help but think many times we’re just stroking egos and delivering attention.

I don’t need to go any further than the recent Hitler Tea Kettle crisis that JC Penney suffered online. What a ridiculous mess. Frankly, the Reddit community member, media and people who generated this issue were grasping for something to complain about. And I’m saying that as a descendent of the Anti-Defamation League’s founder (you can watch my professional analysis of that crisis here).

In one recent “crisis” I was involved in, a community member called out a blogger who had posted a negative (and rather dramatic) accusation. The blogger admitted they posted the piece to garner attention.

On and on and on and on. It’s hard to take many social media brand crises seriously anymore.

We Must Respond In Spite Of…

The rules say we have to respond and take every commenter seriously. I agree, it’s a basic customer service principle. Responsiveness demonstrates you really do care about customers and brands.

You never know when the issue is real and significant. Consequently, we must vet each complaint and negative remark as a serious matter. By the way, this isn’t something that applies only to social. Good customer service extends to phone calls, in store exchanges, and written correspondance.

At the same time, community managers need to be measured in vetting nasty remarks. Some of them are real. Others are over-charged with emotion. People say things behind a keyboard that they would never say to your face.  Others say mean things for a rise, to get attention, or because they want another free xx or a discount from brand x.

I know one brand has a member of its legal team sit in the social media customer response center. The lawyer  helps  determine when the brand should yield, or when the customer is trying to scam or inappropriately take advantage of customer service.

Most of us respond to the somewhat nasty to the civil complaints, and then shake it off. In spite of social media experts loud proclamations to the contrary our businesses won’t crash. The long term brand impact of a social media crisis such as taco licking pictures is Highly Debatable.

Consider the following:

A more remarkable list of brands would be the ones that have literally failed because of a social media black eye. I’m struggling to think of just one company.

What’s the impact of people  on Twitter (and Facebook and on their blog) and complaining and saying whatever nastiness comes to their mind? Complaints mean less.  People who need to use social media to air out serious issues are the ones who suffer the most. It takes a cacophony of negative updates to bring about serious attention these days.

There’s a great similarity  between responding to online nastiness and parenting. I have a two-year old who screams and whines periodically. I take her seriously, but more often than not I try to find out what’s bugging her. Does she have a diaper issue? Is she hungry? Or tired? Do her teeth hurt? Or does she just want company? I don’t overreact every time she cries.

I’m not sure if there is much of a difference between vetting Soleil’s issues and mean tweets.

What do you think?