I’ve heard this somewhere before!
Often when I am speaking about social media, whether it is one-on-one or to an audience while on a panel, I am asked the same sorts of questions. One of the common questions I receive is “What if…”
“What if…” is one of my favorite types of questions. I say this sarcastically because I do not believe they are really asking anything… they are actually looking for validation for reasons NOT to do something. What if it goes bad? What if it doesn’t work? What if someone I work for doesn’t like it?
But the most common “What if” question that I receive is, “What if we start a Facebook page or Twitter and someone writes something negative about us?”
When you realize that this is not a question but rather the number one fear they have, then you know how hard it is to actually answer it. The person asking the question has already decided that social media is not for them, and their misplaced fear of public criticism is why.
Much to many people’s surprise, when asked, I simply respond, “So what.”
So what if they say something negative? The fact is they are saying it anyway. They are saying it on other Facebook pages, on their Twitter account, or even worse, to their friends who listen and trust them. If someone says something negative on YOUR Facebook, it is the best case scenario to not only answer the complaint, but possible gain someone’s trust.
I maintain a Facebook page for the City of Gahanna (and one for the Creekside District). I assure you, there is no shortage of residents, non-residents, businesses and visitors who have opinions, some negative, and they LOVE to post them on our Facebook page. But more often than not, the negative comment is based on misinformation or a misunderstanding. All it takes is a few minutes to clarify the facts, invite them to contact the expert they need, or simply acknowledge their comment.
Almost every time we are thanked for taking the time to explain something, and even if they still disagree, they appreciate our willingness to make sure they are heard and validate their concerns. In the end we have earned their trust, are appreciated for being open to their voice and have gained an online advocate. So where is the downside?
Sure, there will be the occasional troll who simply wants to attack your organization online.
They will post and spam over and over or rant on and on. Having a Facebook policy that is easily found by everyone allows you to control your content fairly and, to be honest, most other readers will see them for what they are (and in that case, people will rally to your defense if for no other reason than to shut the troll down).
When I was in the Navy going through Officer Candidate School, I heard a US Marine Drill Instructor once say, “What if worms had guns? Birds wouldn’t f*ck with them so much.” A ridiculous answer but it demonstrates that “What if…” is a ridiculous question.
So instead of using “what if someone says something negative” as some poor excuse to avoid social media, appreciate it for what it is: A real opportunity to respond to negative comments that are out there anyway… whether you are there with them or not.