Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Irony of Revenge in Social Media

I really disagree with a recent blog post by a good friend, and the idea to unfriend someone on facebook because of a comment determined to be "negative for negativity's sake." I appreciate the candid feedback given and for sharing the story, but from my perspective the blog post basically tells peers, clients, competitors, and readers it's OK to just delete their critics if they want to. I know there is more of a story behind this post, but I still feel the approach is wrong whether it's a customer, peer, or competitor. There is a time and place to "fire" a customer or friend, but I don't believe it is on facebook. My friend didn't even take their own advice and privately call or message the person they fired. Instead, decided to not "give it a second thought", unfriended the person, and then ironically blogged about it.

I'll admit, I'm no saint when it comes to online criticism. I do have a tendency to dish it out, and it could be interpreted as good or bad. A few months ago I chose to call out someone on Twitter for being too critical. I was blocked from their account and accused of "attacking" them. Was it right for me to say what I did? Did I deserve to be blocked? I was being critical of that person being critical. Criticism happens frequently in social media, and even by many of the top bloggers and experts in the space. Maybe I took it too far, and maybe I should have called them or emailed them privately. We did exchange a few messages after my comment, but then the Twitter relationship ended. My bad I guess, but I felt at the time something needed to be said and I chose to do it publicly, right or wrong. We all make mistakes, and, yes, sometimes it's not cool. However, haven't many of us agreed that criticism is an opportunity? Shouldn't we be accepting the good with the bad? I suppose many times it is hard to swallow, but maybe we're often too quick to judge as well.

How often, as voices in our space or online in general, do we have a tendency to be overly critical or critical too often? In reflecting on some of my own comments and looking at what a number of others I have friended or follow say, I can definitely tell you that many are more critical (including myself) than we may view ourselves. Some may be considered hyper-critical, but it's all open to interpretation by others. We all look at brands or people differently, and we all have differing levels of acceptance or tolerance for criticism. This is something I think we should all keep in mind when interpreting a customer's viewpoint or comments, and possibly judging too quickly.

Wouldn't we all love if our customers would pick up the phone and voice their concerns vs. turning to social media commenting or rating sites like Yelp! ? Of course, but the reality is that people can somewhat hide behind the internet and reduce the amount of confrontation they take on. They feel good about voicing their concern, and they get it off their chest whether or not it's in the most appropriate form. So, yes, ideally make a phone call please or send a private email/message if you have criticism to share, but let's not stomp on the people that don't.

These critics (regardless of where they come from or how they communicate) are customers. Someone that has made a statement maybe we don't like. Does that mean the person is wrong? Do we sometimes get too defensive and not put ourselves in our customer's shoes? We talk about responding to negative reviews on ratings sites, so how is facebook any different? It's only different in that we have more control I suppose. What would happen if that person created a Yelp! review page for you as an individual (your personal brand) and decided to post a negative review? What would you do then?

So put yourself in my friend's shoes. You essentially just had a negative review, but instead of responding in an apologetic way or a way seeking to improve the relationship you've decided to fire the person. Then your friend blogs about how he doesn't like your approach, thinks it's ironic that you chose to blog about the experience, and essentially criticizes you for not eating your own dog food. What do you do now?
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