How to Handle Haters in Social Media

It started innocently enough.

Someone mentioned me in a tweet about a business-related dispute.

I read the tweeter’s bio. I researched the issue. I realized there was nothing meaningful I could do in response.

Then the tweets came more frequently. Three, four and more times a day.

It became harder to ignore the notifications button on my Twitter app. I started to wonder if my non-response strategy was a good idea. In talking with some colleagues in the social space, we concluded that it was.

Still, it was painful being the subject of increasingly negative tweet after tweet. Generally I believe in responding.

This is especially true if it’s a customer, and it’s gratifying to help people solve issues. However, this particular case did not involve a customer.

The same as the schoolyard bully, the best response is often no response. Act indifferently for long enough, and the hater will eventually go away.

But the escalation of hate concerns me. With all of the positive energy surrounding this month’s Women’s Marches around the globe, I was disappointed by the level of vitriol in my Twitter feed.

It reminded me of Ashley Judd’s talk at the TEDWomen talk last fall. One of her tweets at a basketball game a few years ago incited a cyber mob of hate. Yet rather than responding to the haters themselves, she became an activist for a safe and free internet for everyone.

She had, from time to time, tried engaging people. She met with varying degrees of success. One person in particular had a refreshing response and actually apologized.

That made me think beyond the awful posts and comments themselves. What kind of pain must someone be in to post hateful and threatening material? What has happened to them to make them act that way? What are they most afraid of?

A Facebook friend posted recently that she was leaving the platform for a while. She was tired of the negativity and felt the best solution was to step back.

The outpouring of encouraging comments was heartening, including the advice to ignore the haters and focus on the connections with friends and family.

She still chose to take a break. But I hope she’ll be back.

Because we need positive voices. We need realistic optimism. We need civil dialogue.

And we need empathy. That was my takeaway from a bestselling book called Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It’s an up close and personal look at rural America – the challenges, the issues, the highs and the lows.

Everyone is dealing with some kind of challenge, whether it’s visible on the outside or not. So be kind. Be caring. Be curious.

This is a strategy that has worked for Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. Like Ashley Judd, he’s engaged haters with respect for their views. He asks questions to better understand the underlying issue.

That’s where your judgment comes in. Should you ignore or engage? Every situation is different, so what might work in one instance may not work in another.

Try seeing things from another point of view. And see where that takes you.

This is also about exercising control where you can. You can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control yourself. This includes your thoughts, your attitudes and your actions.

This concept of empowerment was beautifully expressed in the Academy Award nominated film Hidden Figures. It tells the story of three brilliant African-American women who worked as mathematicians and scientists at NASA in the early 1960s.

These inspiring and accomplished women continually had to decide whether to ignore the slights and snubs of daily life or to speak out and engage others in their struggles.

And thank goodness they did, time and time again, because they changed the course of history in the Space Race.

I couldn’t be more proud that my employer is offering free screenings of the film to students in major U.S. cities. (This is where I remind readers that opinions in this blog are my own.)

The positive actions that we take individually and collectively have the power to change the world.

What are you doing to make a difference?

What is Social Savvy?

“If a company or a person does something great but no one knows about it, does it really matter?”

That’s a question I asked in my very first blog post.

Yes, there are random acts of kindness intended to be done under the radar. Yet, hearing about them can be inspiring when others share the news, like my sister did on Facebook.

While getting coffee in her Connecticut town, she overhead another customer buying a gift card for the police officer outside who was directing traffic. That’s an instant day brightener. And maybe it will inspire others toward similar acts of kindness.

Data and information are collected about us every day, according to The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik. The question is what we want that data to say about us as a person and as a professional.

Do we want it to open doors or close them? Do we want it to augment the hard work we do every day or detract from it? Do we want it to make our life better or make it harder?

More and more, everything we do has implications for our own personal reputations as well as the companies where we work or that we own. This is both in real life, or IRL, as well as how that becomes represented in social media.

This means we each have great power to do good in the world, to a larger extent than has ever been available to us. And it also means we have the potential make major missteps.

This means each of us needs social savvy.

What’s that?

SOCIAL SAVVY: the vital ability for people to personally brand and market themselves successfully in social media in our ever-evolving world.

This skill is important throughout our lives.

It applies to high school students who are preparing their college applications or moving into the working world.

It applies to college and grad school students who are getting ready to transition into the working world.

And it applies to people throughout their professional lives. For corporate professionals in particular, the stakes for social media are higher.

Social media can help or hurt careers. It can add to or detract from a corporate reputation and an employer brand. It can make acquiring top talent a breeze or a burden.

The risks are high, but so are the rewards. And in our ever-evolving world, no one can afford to sit on the sidelines. The pace of change is too fast for that.

Corporate professionals often ignore or short-change social media. Why? They don’t have the time, they don’t see the value and they don’t want to make a mistake.

Developing social savvy is how professionals can create and implement a social strategy to highlight and share their own thought processes and achievements, along with those of their organizations.

Social savvy is a powerful way for corporate professionals to build their personal brand, advance their career and embrace their future.

What are some examples of social savvy? What does it look like?

  • Using social media to build and amplify your personal brand, the unique value that you bring to the world
  • Positioning yourself in the most favorable light, for a number of career and life paths
  • Positioning your employer or company in the most favorable light
  • Advancing your career through a positive social strategy
  • Helping others advance their careers
  • Helping your company achieve its goals
  • Building your employer’s corporate reputation and employer brand
  • Knowing what to do and not to do in social media
  • Seeing the links between real life and social savvy
  • Knowing when and how to engage with critics

How are you demonstrating social savvy?

Lead with the Lead

Start with your key sentence. Your point. Your theory. Your ask.

Whether it’s a talk, a text or an email, lead with what’s most important.

Three things got me thinking about this.

First, how do we grab people’s attention from the start? I heard two days of incredible talks at TEDWomen 2016 this month. The speakers did not start with, “Hi, I’m glad to be here and I’m excited about what I’m going to share with you and I’d like to thank a few people before I get started.”

No, they grabbed us with their opening words. With a bold statement or a question or a story. Here are examples from some of my favorite TED talks.

“So I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes.” So begins Amy Cuddy‘s talk, Your body language shapes who you are.

“What makes a great leader today?” There’s no mistaking what Roselinde Torres will address in her talk, What it takes to be a great leader.

“It’s the fifth time I stand on this shore, the Cuban shore, looking out at that distant horizon, believing, again, that I’m going to make it all the way across that vast, dangerous wilderness of an ocean.” Diana Nyad grabs the audience right at the beginning of her story in Never, ever give up.

Second, how do we help busy people easily respond us? Quite simply, by putting the key information in the opening words of our emails and texts.

Beyond putting your main message in the subject line, use your first 10 to 12 words to make your point.

Many people have email preview screens that show these words. Make the most of that space by getting to the point. Because your recipient may not read anything else.

Third, how do we spot the key idea in any interaction? When a meeting ends, can you summarize the most important point in a single sentence? What’s the headline? The tweet? The snap?

Take a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to identify the one key takeaway. Share it with your colleagues.

Given the complexity of many projects and the extensive collaboration that’s required to meet goals, this helps others see the forest for the trees.

This keeps a team focused on what’s most important. It guides their actions. And it increases the likelihood of success.

How do you keep your lead front and center?

What If?

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Have you ever spent a day trying not to cry?

For me, there are always moments that prompt tears. Our national anthem at a school event. The doxology at church (with the gender-neutral, more inclusive lyrics for me). Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation ceremony.

Thank goodness for sunglasses. Because one of the last things I want to do is reveal my emotions in public.

After this week’s experience, though, I wonder if that’s because I go to extremes to avoid being labeled as an emotional woman.

But it may be pointless to try, because as a woman I’m going to be labeled anyway. And I can’t control that.

I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions. And there’s power in that.

What made me want to cry for an entire day this week? None other than the TEDWomen 2016 conference. Phenomenal speakers with ideas worth sharing took the stage, with the theme of “it’s about time.”

I was drawn to TED for many reasons. As a communicator. As a lover of ideas. As someone profoundly saddened by our national conversations – on race, on religion, on gender, on guns, on others. 

As in, people who don’t share the same worldview. People who can’t or won’t listen to each because they’re so busy screaming about how the other group is wrong. And not even wrong, but deluded, dumb and not deserving. Of a voice. Of dignity. Of empathy.

What if our conversations in the world could be more like what I saw, heard and felt on the TED stage?

  • A famous singer talked about channeling her pain from the abusive household where she grew up into her music.
  • An actress shared how she fought back against cyberbullying and violence.
  • A couple who work to improve a Nairobi slum spoke of the randomness of how privilege or poverty are bestowed.
  • A journalist and author talked about the death threats she received when she came out as a lesbian.
  • A rape survivor and the perpetrator shared the stage and their agonizing experiences.

Throughout each electrifying talk, a common question emerged: what can I do?

What if I made it a point to seek out different points of view? To listen to a different newscast or podcast. To get out of my social media stream and hear different voices. To seek out people with more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

What if I spoke up more forcefully to inappropriate comments? The next time someone says something offensive about another group of people, I will ask why they think that and why they would say that.

What if I was more curious about people and their stories? What has their journey through life been like? What experiences shaped them? What do they struggle with? What brings them joy?

What if I used every means of power available to me for good? How can I encourage people to reach higher? How can I help people expand their networks? How can I empower people to open doors to more opportunity?

What if I took action? While I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I do know it starts with better educating myself on multiple perspectives about what’s going on in the world. Kimberle Crenshaw‘s eye-opening #SayHerName is where I’ll start.

Hearing from so many inspiring people reminded me that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others, every day.

As Kennedy Odede said during his talk with Jessica Posner Odede, “We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together.”

Who are you walking with?

Is Everyone Faking It?

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Yes, everyone is making it up as they go along.

And that means you can, too, as you work toward your biggest goals.

I’ll tell you why in my post on the USC Annenberg Alumni website.

I’m a proud Annenberg Alumni Ambassador this year, sharing all the best of this distinguished school for communication and journalism.

Some of my fellow ambassadors, pictured below, were featured alums at the Annenberg NETworks event this fall with students and recent grads.

What a fun evening it was, full of interesting people and fascinating conversations.

#FightOn!

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Cut Email Time in Half with this Simple Trick

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Need a simple hack to motivate yourself to slog through your email backlog?

Here’s a great one from author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg: as fast as you can, write a one-sentence reply to each message.

But don’t send them right away.

Just read and write a sentence in response that “expresses an opinion or decision.”

And if you can exercise control over the situation in your response, you’ll be more motivated to continue, Duhigg says in his book Smarter Faster Better.

Then you can can go back into your draft messages and add the rest of each message – salutations, specifics and signoffs.

This is a terrific example of two ways Duhigg says you can generate motivation.

The first is to “make a choice that puts you in control.” And “the specific choice itself matters less in sparking motivation than the assertion of control.”

The second is to “figure out how this task is connected to something you care about.” If you can “explain why this matters, then you’ll find it easier to start.”

Duhigg’s book is full of fascinating science behind motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation and absorbing data.

You’ll learn “the secrets of being productive in life and business” – not only for yourself, but also for your colleagues and your kids.

If you’re looking for an interesting and insightful summer read, this is one to download on your mobile device or pack in your beach bag.

What Inspires You?

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“Find Your Inspiration” greeted us on the tram today as we arrived at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

What a great way to build community. It created connections through social media with #GettyInspired.

Not only was I inspired myself and in how my family responded to our visit, but I could also see how others experienced this architectural and artistic treasure.

There was a common experience in being part of something bigger than ourselves. This is a hallmark of all storied brands, and the Getty sets a great example.

The Getty has been the site of many a previous inspiration for me. The DIRECTV annual leadership development program. A National Charity League gathering for an architecture tour. Many family visits, including today’s.

Today was by far my favorite. We checked into a tour of the collection’s highlights. It was led by a passionate and knowledgeable docent who ably linked art history with current events.

We learned how Rembrandt, who never traveled more than 40 miles from his home, had haunted flea markets of his day to collect props used in his paintings.

We learned how Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder had collaborated on a painting about the transience of peace in The Return from War.

We learned how Vincent van Gogh painted Irises, the vibrant view outside his window in his first week at the sanitarium in Saint-Remy, France.

And it was only a few hours later that we heard the news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia‘s passing. Whatever your politics, it underscores how each day is really all that each of us has.

That was poignantly clear in today’s New York Times article about an AT&T leader who overcame great adversity.

(Full disclosure: I work at this company and this blog represents my own opinions.)

This leader’s mother encouraged him to imagine himself in different circumstances.

That’s the power of inspiration.

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What Are You Reading This Year?

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Reading is all the rage among many business leaders.

As a lifelong bookworm, this is welcome news. Something I’ve always loved to do has (finally) become on trend.

The lesson? If you do things you like long enough, they might become popular at some point. Then you can say you were ahead of the curve.

The benefits of reading are vast – there’s focusing your mind and calming your soul. There’s learning new information relevant to your career. There’s exposing yourself to a diversity of viewpoints to understand how different groups of people think and act.

In the year since I posted News Rituals of a Communicator, my own reading habits have evolved and changed.

New on the scene are 3 daily digests pushed to my email.

  • theSkimm. This filters news through the eyes of Millennials. It’s a fun read with a fresh take on the world, with quotes of the day, a main story and things to know.

Thanks to colleague Lauren Brown for the recommendation, during a meeting of our company’s employee resource group for women.

It starts with today’s agenda, moves into the world in brief and wraps up with market activity.

  • L.A. Business JournalThis is the local look at what’s going on in the Los Angeles business world. It aggregates sources with news that impacts Southern California.

And since I work for a Dallas-based company, I’ve become an avid follower of The Dallas Morning News.

Isn’t this a lot to read? Not really. Similar to other news sources, I scan the headlines in each digest and choose at least one story to read in full.

That’s why I focus so much on the importance of headlines in any corporate communication. Often it’s all people will read. The main point has to be captured in it. If someone read nothing else, would they get the key point? Is it something that could be easily found later in a search?

Beyond news, there are blogs for a variety of viewpoints. And what about books? There’s less of a method to my madness here in creating a reading list.

I keep an eye out in Harvard Business Review posts for upcoming books. Sometimes I’ll discover books through TED talks. Other times it’ll be on best business books lists.

Usually I discover books before their publishing date. So I pre-order on my Kindle app. It’s a fun surprise the day they download. This week’s gift is Adam Grant‘s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Because I’m such a book lover, I haunt my local library‘s new releases section. It’s like browsing the latest titles and taking all the best ones home for free. Even better, they get returned after 2 weeks and don’t clutter my home or office. There’s also an option to borrow electronic books.

How is there time for all these books? They’re always available on my smartphone or tablet. That way I can read on the go whenever I have a few minutes. It makes time fly when you’re standing in line or waiting for an appointment to begin.

When time is tight, I’ll read the first chapter, last chapter and any other chapters in the table of contents that catch my eye. There are plenty of book summaries out there. And you can listen to books in the car.

And I’m endlessly inspired by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and her reading habit. Her post on How I Read 200 Books a Year gives great tips for how to fit more reading into your life.

What are you reading and how do you make time for it?

Are Great Leaders Persuadable?

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Are the hallmarks of great leaders confidence, certainty and decisiveness?

Or as our world grows ever more volatile and complex, are the best leaders open to influence? Are they persuadable?

That’s the premise of a great new book by Al Pittampalli called Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World.

How did I find it? By reading one of my favorite marketing blogs. Seth Godin had a great plug for it last week in his post “When I want your opinion…”. And if Seth is recommending a book, it’s going to be good.

With only slight sheepishness at being a marketer’s dream by buying the Kindle edition of the book after reading the post, I dove into it this week.

What did I learn? In a nutshell, I’m going to be much more comfortable evaluating new data and information as it comes to light. And I’ll be more willing to change my mind as a result.

Some of it harkens back to the classic principles in Robert Cialdini‘s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The reciprocity principle in particular has stood the test of time as a key driver of social media.

John Maxwell‘s writings about Becoming a Person of Influence also made an impression. Maxwell says you have to be open to the influence of others, in order to have an influence on them. I’m still tickled that he was one of the first people who “followed” me back on Twitter.

Why is persuadability to important? “In a world that is unpredictable, ultra competitive and fast changing,” Pittampalli writes, “being persuadable is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

This gives key advantages, he explains — accuracy, agility and growth:

  • A better understanding of the world fuels more accurate decisions.
  • Quickly seeing and responding to changing conditions enables necessary pivots.
  • And honestly evaluating your performance and getting feedback creates growth.

How do you become persuadable? Pittampalli outlines 7 practices of persuadable leaders. Here are 3 that most resonated with me.

First is “considering the opposite.” It seems straightforward, yet we have to overcome our own cognitive biases to actively seek out information that conflicts with our current thinking.

A simple way to counter it is by asking yourself questions, starting with “what’s the opposite here and have I thought about it?”

Second is “update your beliefs incrementally.” What works in leading change in general also applies to being more persuadable.

As more evidence becomes available, we can update our beliefs along the way. That way, beliefs evolve naturally over time. It’s easier for your own brain as well as for others to embrace smaller changes in thinking.

Third is “avoiding becoming too persuadable.” Just because you choose to become more persuadable as a leader, there are still plenty of times when it’s appropriate to make decisions that may be unpopular and take action.

Like many things in life and leadership, there are tradeoffs to be made. It’s valuable to get input up to a point, but then there are diminishing returns over time of each additional piece of feedback.

Perhaps you’re embracing on a course of action and finding it difficult to decide whether or not to proceed. A good question Pittampalli puts forth is asking yourself, “Is it worth it?”

My experience in business reinforces for me that it’s more important than ever to be open to new evidence. The world is constantly changing, and information used previously to make decisions is likely to have changed.

By extension, it’s important to become ever more comfortable with changing you mind. Along with that, it’s critical to clearly articulate the reasons behind the changes in your thought process.

As Simon Sinek so compellingly outlined in his TED talk How great leaders inspire action, understanding “why” is the first thing people need to know in order to change the world.

What’s Your Sunday Routine?

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How do you spend your Sunday?

Inspiration abounds in the Sunday Routine series in The New York Times. Each week, a different New Yorker shares their weekend rituals.

And Laura Vanderkam‘s book What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend made me much more thoughtful about planning and enjoying the precious 60 hours from Friday night to Monday morning.

She helped me understand the important of planning “3 to 5 anchor events” every weekend. These might be fun day trips within a short drive from home, dinners with family and friends, time for yourself and more.

It’s especially important to plan fun, relaxing and meaningful weekends as a means of refreshment after a busy work week.

Here are a few activities in my Sunday grab bag. They aren’t things on every Sunday’s menu, but they’re favorite things that I order as often as possible.

Enjoy exercise. Sundays are perfect for longer-form exercise than during the week. Today, for example, was cardio on the treadmill, followed by a yoga class.

The added bonus during treadmill time? Catching up on favorite shows with TV everywhere on the DIRECTV app. (Full disclosure: for many years I’ve worked at DIRECTV, which is now a proud member of the AT&T family. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own.)

Spend time with family. Whether it’s an excursion to a park or other local landmark, a religious service or a special meal together, Sundays are perfect for family time.

In our house, we often have an early Sunday dinner. My husband loves to cook, thankfully, so we often get to enjoy new recipes he’s trying. Our teens are in the middle of high-school finals and college apps, so there’s plenty of work to be done on weekends too.

Get a jump on the work week. Before the hustle and bustle of Monday begins, it’s great to create a plan for the week. In the relative calm of the weekend, it’s an ideal opportunity to spend focused time on an important project. And it’s a good time to clear the decks of accumulated email and open actions.

Focus on special projects. What side projects do you have going on, separate from your day job? For me, it’s blogging.

Although my blog often explores professional topics in marketing and communications, blogging is filled with intrinsic motivation for me. I enjoy it so much that I get lost in the flow of the experience. Whatever your flow state is, devote some of your weekend to it.

Spend time in nature. Especially in the winter during the shorter, darker days, it’s important to spend time outside on the weekends. Whether it’s exercising, gardening, dining or a myriad of other outdoor activities, the outdoors has a restorative quality to it. Connecting with nature is grounding and soothing.

Of course, those on the east coast of the U.S. will have to do this on a weekend other than this one. The snowstorm there is one instance where no action can be the best course of action.

Catch up on reading. Weekends are a great time to read a wider variety of materials than during the work week. Maybe it’s reading the longer news stories you didn’t have time for during the week. Or maybe it’s the latest business book. Or a novel that has lessons about leadership and life.

Enjoy favorite TV shows. If you work in an entertainment-related business, as I do, this really fun homework for my job. Streaming shows on the DIRECTV app (see: exercise, above) is a great twofer – exercise and entertainment.

Today during treadmill time I streamed Jobs for G.I.s on the AUDIENCE network. It’s a compelling look at the challenges veterans face as they transition from military service to civilian life. It makes me proud of my company’s focus on hiring and supporting veterans.

Learn something new. What do you want to learn this year? Whether it’s personal or professional, weekends give you the time and space for learning, whether it’s in person or online. A new book out this month called Stretch is full of ideas for how you can future-proof yourself and your career.

Have fun and enjoy life just as is it. Perhaps most important is to enjoy the moments and the special people in your life. The past is done, the future isn’t here yet and the present is right before you, waiting to be savored.