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Unsocial Me TO Social Happy: How to Turn Online Negatives Into Positives

As the timeline of social continues to deepen, the antithesis of social has began to rear it’s ugly head. Here is a real-life example of an unsocial incident, with my tips on how to the turn the commenter from ‘unsocial me’ into ‘social happy’.

I remember the day when I first set up my Facebook profile; full of curiosity, hope and excitement. It felt like the beginning of a valiant unnamed quest. An adventure that kept changing, with daily challenges to test the most worthy socialite.

When business pages kicked in, I was pitching and rolling with the best of them; eager to slay the social dragon, grab a golden egg and walk away victorious. This victory I termed ‘social happiness’ and life was good.

Unsocial behavior

But in recent weeks, it seemed that this enlightened place had metamorphosed into a somewhat faded replica of what once was. For the first time I found myself dogged by an unfamiliar presence.

I likened this new place to the ‘Matrix’ where the phoney outer layer was ripped away to reveal a painful truth. In this new and unfamiliar place I experienced unsocial behaviour that was the antithesis of social. That is; the opposite.

But like all milestone events, there comes a point of realisation and reflection to put things into perspective:

  1. I realised that social is the now AND future of online communications.
  2. I reasoned that any social activity has an ‘ebb’ and ‘flow’, and that by understanding this natural movement, I could harness the positive, leading to social happiness.

The social world righted itself again almost instantly and I watched the unsocial instances unravel, with a renewed sense of understanding.

I’d like to share an example of an unsocial instance – how they were handled and how they could have been handled. The idea is to switch unsocial into social happy ; 0 )

Related: The 10 Tell-Tale Signs Of Social Burnout

The incident

A business with a natural ease and flair for online communications, has taken it upon herself to share daily insights on the art of healthy relationships on her Facebook page. More often than not, she was rewarded with shared experiences and ‘ar ha’ moments from fans. Overall, her friendly tips were well-received.

To promote her services on a promising marketing platform, she created a Facebook advert with a message about her support in this area.

  • From out of the blue she was hit with a string of negative comments accusing her of ‘making money from someone’s pain’ and ‘hitting them when already low’.
  • They remarked that she had ‘no shame’ in nice big caps and ended the comment.
  • To many a page owner, this type of attack would come as a huge blow.
  • But for a relationship guru; to sell a cliche, the response should have been a walk in the park. I was instantly confused (and disappointed) then, when the comment was deleted and never referred to.

Whilst deleting comments is your choice, it does signal that you are afraid of two-way communication or that you cannot handle the issue. We may not be all trained to diffuse awkward situations, but if we think logically about the situation in an intelligent way, we can break down the comment, understand what they are saying and why, then offer a solution or next step.

Here’s my break down:

  • The guy in question had seen the advert when on Facebook and misunderstood how the advertising system worked.
  • He felt singled out and intruded upon after a painful personal experience.
  • The timing was poor and his mood was a mix of anger and deep sadness.
  • His outburst was a way of lashing out. He may have been eager of a retaliation OR he may have been seeking help.

Related: The Not So Sweet 16: Common Mistakes Businesses Make With Social Media

How to turn a negative into a positive:

Consider your reputation, the pitfalls and pluses of your action and how you can gain the best advantage for you and your business.

As an example, I would:

  • Explain how the ads are shown on Facebook, with an emphasis on not singling him out.
    and the advert may have spoken to him directly because of his current hurt.
  • Provide a next step –  I ‘heal’ not ‘hurt’ and that I would be happy to offer my time to help him come to terms with his pain.
  • State he is always welcome on the page and to speak privately.

Internally, weigh up the possible outcomes and have a plan to deal with each one. This guy could become your best client. He could have reached rock bottom and this your cue to help him.

From the above, he could:

  • Decide to not reply (but leave you in a positive positive as you have used your knowledge to respond, thus showing others you know how to handle people).
  • Reply with an apology.
  • Privately reply (anger fashion or not – it’s then away from the page).
  • Respond again publicly with anger.

My guess is that the latter is unlikely, as by drawing attention and offering support in the face of his anger, his anger has dissipated.

Just because social networking is an online communication method, doesn’t mean that we don’t all suffer from the usual misgivings experienced at face-to-face events. In fact, it’s easier to comment antisocially when there’s no physical person to look in the eye.

Being socialable 24/7 is not healthy or natural (sorry, it really isn’t!) and you can’t expect that people will constantly be upbeat and jolly.

The benefits of having a social presence are less to do with the platform itself and more to do with what you do on it. You cannot treat your content as a press release, because the action doesn’t end when you have sent it to a newspaper.

You must consider the after affects and the reactions of your viewers and readers. Each one has the ability to be your greatest advocate or worst enemy, and switch between the two at leisure.

Related: The Holy Grail of Online Engagement (In 15 Steps)

Have you experienced a similar incident to the one above? How did you handle it? If no, what advice would you give to a business experiencing this?

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Image: “positive attitude or optimism concept/Shutterstock

Christina is a complete geek, hence a perfect web + online marketing consultant. After ten years working with Premier Recruitment Group, LA Fitness, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Travel and a host of other companies, she now owns CG Online Marketing ( in Ireland and is an associate of the Ahain Group. She's qualified in most things online such as web server management, digital design, Google Analytics and SEO. Specialties: Social Media Marketing, SEO / PPC,Google analytics (qualified in GA IQ) Web trends + insights, Data segmentation and targeting, Customer Behavior analysis, Digital design, Writing, Ethical marketing Green marketing / Sustainable tourism and Hotel + travel online marketing

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  • Brilliant post  Tina, I love your example too.  I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are also fans of my pages.  My profile settings are pretty tight and is for me to express myself away from work…I have noticed however that some of my friends don’t like me expressing opinions or certain posts on my wall as they clash with their own views…and then feel that it is okay to tell me off for doing so.  I usually don’t respond for about a day for  a few reasons:
    1 to emotionally detach from the attack
    2 to consider a response that won’t encite more attacks
    3 to see who else wants to jump onto the band wagon – might as well get it all out in one go 🙂

    If it continues after my reply, I respond with a message letting them know that this is MY space and that they are free to unfriend me if they wish, but just as I wouldn’t accept that type of behaviour in my home I won’t on my wall either and ask them to stop or be blocked without further notice. 

    I’ve usually got an apology shortly after.  Like you said above it has hit a raw nerve with them and they’ve lashed out at without thinking it through.

    It is the deliberate insidious and less than subtle attacking of competitors by some professionals that bothers me most. It sets a really bad example for newbies of what it’s like to be on Social Media.

  • Christina Giliberti

     Hi Mairead, You’re right. People can be negative on personal profiles, as well as business pages.
    I think people fail to see a person behind the page.

    There should be a post next week on online bullying and ethics (in relation to your last paragraph) from a pair of TYB contributes. This whole area is a hot topic because its growing out of all proportion.

  •  I don’t think it’s getting any worse than it was 5 years ago or last year. I left other social networking sites back then due to the same type of attacks.  I think it is just that it comes in waves and at the moment I seem to be surfing them 🙁  In a couple of weeks it will have died down again.

  • A hugely important lesson is within the words of this thought provoking post – whatever we say publicly, or privately will instigate a wholly subjective reaction. That reaction (from another) comes directly from them, and portrays what they are feeling more than it portrays anything about us. In short, whatever another person says to us, thinks of us or does to us, it tells directly what they say or think or do to themselves.

    As humans, we are infinitely more concerned about our own feelings when communicating with another person (unless we are counselling, coaching, empathising, or telling them what we think they want to hear). Often too concerned to be judging them. We think others take too much notice of us, and judge us, when really they are reacting to how they feel about what you’ve said or done.

    And of course then you have the trouble makers and shakers, chancing their arm, I wonder how best to interact with them – or perhaps not at all?

  • Christina Giliberti

    Lets hope this isn’t a trend, but I actually feel it could well be. Boredom? Pushing the limits?

  • Christina Giliberti

     Agreed Elaine. To understand that is the golden nugget to solving and dealing with it.

  • Epobrien

    Great stuff Tina – this was a popular topic at one of the IIA’s workshops yesterday.

    Dealing with negative behaviour can be a toughie and your point about categorizing ‘what’ you’re dealing with and ‘motives’ are important before decided if and how to respond.

  • Gillian Riordan

    A very good blog, Tina, and I agree with you that all comments must be honoured – the positive and the negative ones.  I think it is important to manage the negative comments and to not take them personally and be defensive or reactive in any other way.  I am reading Mari Smith’s book “The New Relationship Marketing” as I, like you, think we need to learn to use Social media and understand the different ways it can be abused – often unknowingly.  It’s a wonderful way of reaching out to others and giving of one’s best and showing you care.
    I have had an experience of receiving a negative comment on my page and when I came to respond to it, it was gone.  I do believe it’s important to take time to respond and not jump in too quickly so that you have thought about your reply and ensured you’re not taking it personally.

  • Christina Giliberti

    Thanks for commenting Gillian. I’m sure you will learn a huge amount from Mari’s book.

    It does show you care and it’s customer service 101. I believe that anyone worthy of managing social media pages will be prepared to deal with this side of things in a way that places them in a positive light.

  • Christina Giliberti

     Hey Eamonn, Well if the IIA are teaching it, it must be highly relevant AND there must be a great of us not dealing with it well.

    Its easy to get angry, but a good idea is to use your internal chatter to rant and then write the thought-out version.

  • Nic

    Appreciate the warm welcome Niall! And how very true. The big challenge for me is to ‘forget’ what I know about our product and services when pretending to be the customer and really try to be in their shoes. One alternative I find helpful is to get someone that knows little to nothing about your product/service and shadow them while they go through the experience. If you can have a few people do that, you can learn a great deal. Thanks again

  • William Shuhaibar

    Thanks! It’s a great business management concept, and if used correctly, it could really help you make better decisions.

  • William, the Hedgehog Concept is a great business plan for SEO. I believe it doesn’t hurt to invest in SEO as part of your marketing campaign, but as far as allocating resources go, only when you’re sure it’s driving your economic engine can you see the value it will bring to your business.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you Sian! Glad you enjoyed it and are almost fully cloudy! 🙂

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