How to defuse social media attacks

Social media attacks can happen, but you hope it never happens to you or your business. While the majority of businesses and brands have embraced social media and online reputation management, there are many more sitting on the sidelines.

By now, most businesses and marketers alike understand the benefits of social media marketing. Social media builds brand awareness, drives engagement and generates trust. You have full control in taking the reigns to tell your brand story using creative resources such as photography, graphics and video.

One reason business owners steer clear of social media is they don’t want to open themselves to online attacks. They figure, “If we’re not participating, no one can say anything bad about us.”

However, that’s not true.

A day will come (if it hasn’t already) when someone will talk about your business online. It’s better to participate in that conversation and communicate your value than to let others do all the talking.

The anxiety caused by doomsday scenarios (both real and imagined) can make even social media veterans think twice about exposing their business to scrutiny.

If the fear of a social media attack weighs heavy on you, know there are strategies and tactics to mitigate attacks and even turn critics into fans.

Here are tips for dealing with social media and online reputation attacks.

Develop a social media policy

A written policy with steps on how social media managers should respond to comments will help you remain transparent while you moderate conversations. Your policy should explain when to delete or hide comments and ban users.

For example, your policy could outline that your business has a zero-tolerance policy and comments that contain malicious links or include violent language will be deleted. Outline the social media platforms you use, and explain that these rules apply to all of your social media accounts.

Additionally, your team members must know and understand your social media policy. The last thing you want is an employee who isn’t sure if they should delete, hide or leave a comment.

In addition, research studies from Psychological Science show that responding behind a computer isn’t nearly as effective as speaking to someone one-on-one. When it comes to a complaint or concern, have some messaging prepared to taking the conversation off social media.

Social media listening

Social media listening should be an integral part of your overall strategy. Know what your customers and fans are talking about, even if they don’t directly mention your brand. This will help you keep a finger on the pulse of the conversation surrounding not only your business, but also your industry.

Sometimes, social media complaints and online reviews come from either bots or people who are not (and never will be) customers. Some people are out to create trouble because it gets them attention. The crowd will often come to your defense.

Before you take action, do your research. Get to the bottom of the complaint or criticism. People often find social media as an easy outlet to vent frustration.

When responding, remain empathetic and non-defensive. This can help defuse the situation and get the problem solved.

Also, keep in mind that social media never sleeps, and users are expecting a quick response. If a customer is having issues, listen and respond quickly to prevent the situation from becoming bigger than it ought to be.

Own your mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable, which is why it’s so important to have a plan and policy in place. It may be hard to hear, but if your company or brand is experiencing a crisis, your critics may be telling the truth.

For example, you’ve probably heard about how Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 16,700 flights in the span of ten days. Not only did this cost the company as much as $825 million, but the crisis also left customers stranded during the 2022 holiday season. Those customers airing their grievances on social media are completely valid.

While, there wasn’t much Southwest’s social media managers could do to diffuse these complaints, owning your mistakes builds trust and reassures customers that you take feedback seriously. Also, be sure to include a social media response into your crisis communication plan.

Let it be

There are times when you should do nothing, and sometimes, it’s best to stay quiet. There are a few good reasons for ignoring a critic. Include these caveats in your internal social media strategy.

You may have heard of the term “don’t feed the trolls.” Unfortunately, there are social media users who only want to causes trouble. You may even have repeat offenders. Responding to these “trolls” only adds fuel to the fire.

Typically, you’ll be able to tell by the commenter’s tone and language if they are open to real dialogue. In these cases, no response is the best response.

Be aware of cybersecurity

Cybercriminals are becoming smarter every day with different strategies. By creating fake social media accounts, they can imitate real ones and execute both minor and major assaults.

These fake profiles can be modeled after profiles that are similar to profiles that like your business page or even public figures. The goal is to spread malware or phishing to your page followers. Comments from these types of profiles should be deleted, but first, be sure to report them to the social network.

Questions to ask yourself to help spot fake social media accounts:

  • Was this profile created recently?
  • Does it have a small amount of followers?
  • Is the content on the page poor quality?
  • Does the content revolve around a single topic?
  • Is there a high volume of posts in a short amount of time?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, you may have a bot on your hands.

If you’re active on social media, you’re prone to criticism. Arm yourself and your team with strategies, tactics and a plan to manage critics and defuse social media attacks.

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