Steven Gradidge. Hi :)

The Personal Social Media Crisis

Posted on: August 1, 2014

It is a vital element of any marketing campaign to consider the potential rebuff of the community. This is also known as social media crisis management. A term businesses and organisations are familiar with. Yet with the exception of world-renowned artists, actors and celebrities, social media crisis is rarely mentioned in the context of an individual. And why would it be?

Often social media is praised for its philanthropic movements. However, this past week I learnt of the other side. The darker side of social media where opinions are vile, tweets are shocking and Facebook messages are nothing short of sickening.

To cut a long story short, a friend who I shall refer to as Amigo, sent an unsavoury comment to the cyclist community regarding their inconsistent and improper use of bike lanes. Within less than an hour of Amigo publishing the tweet, it had been retweeted over 80 times and notched up 500 @mentions.

Amigo quickly saw sense, removed the original tweet, switched her account to private and tweeted two sincere apologies, acknowledging the ignorance of what she said. However, it was too late. The backlash had gained huge momentum – disproportionate to a flippantly sent tweet from an ‘average joe’. The cyclist community had chosen their victim and were relentless.

The next five days were some to forget for Amigo; death threats and violent tweets, friend requests with bike avatars on Facebook, hate messages across Instagram, Pinterest trolling, Facebook ‘name and shame’ Pages, forum bashing and even LinkedIn hate messages from ‘professionals’ were just some of the picks she had the pleasure of reading.

I took a professional interest in this micro-case study, as rarely does an ordinary Twitter user, with sub-300 followers, expect such a backlash. She was forced to go into digital hiding, not knowing if the pitchforks were getting a literal sharpening or not. Yes, it was that bad.

‘Bikegate’ proved that even through the filtered medium of social media, humans’ primitive instincts kick in. Regardless of profession or parental responsibility, the group unites to defend a potential threat. This reaction was not unique to the cycling world. I believe it was a worrying insight into the post-reaction of many communities or groups.

Certainly the lesson here is that we should always take care of what we say online, irrespective of how easy it is to publish our thoughts, agendas and/or location. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Amigo has learnt her lesson, as have another of family of friends close to her. By sharing her story I hope that I can remind you that everyone needs to be aware of the troubles of communicating online and in social media.

So a few worthy reminders:

  • Also ensure you are operating the tightest privacy settings across all the social platforms where you have a presence
  • If you express private views that are ‘risky’, disassociate yourself from your employer
  • Think before you post any of kind of message that could be deemed as insensitive
  • Be respectful of others. Social media is a level playing field where opinions are equal
  • Always be willing to swallow your pride and apologise
  • Ignore the abuse and don’t take it personally
  • Never say stupid things (regardless of comedic intent!)
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