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’s Your Social Media Game in 2017?

It’s a new year. It’s time for a fresh set of goals. And it’s critical to think about them in novel and different ways.

In your professional life, how will you use social media to achieve your goals? How will you use social media to tell your story about your wins?

To start, think about how social media will change for professionals this year. Check out the post, along with Dorie ClarkAlexandra SamuelBryan Kramer and William Arruda for some fascinating ideas.

Then ask yourself these 4 questions to make your own social media game plan.

  • What are your company’s big goals? Is your CEO sharing the company strategy with employees this month or quarter? How about other C-suite leaders? Access any and all information, internal and external, about your company’s strategic plans for the year. Be clear on the top goals and the order of priority.
  • What are your team’s goals? How do the company goals translate into your department’s goals and ultimately your team’s goals? Where does your team help drive the strategy toward execution? What new and different approaches can you and your team try this year?
  • What are your professional goals? How do your team goals translate into your own professional goals? What do you need to accomplish this year? What stretch assignments do you want to tackle? On the development side, what do you want or need to learn? How will you accomplish that?
  • How will use use social media to achieve your goals and tell your story? Does social media play a role in achieving your goals? If it hasn’t before, could you incorporate it this year? When you achieve goals, how will you use social media to tell your story? What conferences are you attending? Where are you speaking? What are you blogging?

At this point, focus on “what” your goals will be. Don’t worry about the “how” at this point.

Why?

If you’re not sure about how to execute a goal, that can stand in the way of setting it in the first place. And just because you don’t exactly know how to do it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You’ve probably had many “first times” in your career. What did you do when your boss asked you to take on a new project, something you’d never done before? You can reflect on and use those experiences in the same way when you get to the “how” part of actually accomplishing your goals.

A former boss came to me some years ago and said the CEO wanted to do an employee engagement survey. My boss asked me to lead it.

That was beyond my role at the time as a corporate communications leader. There was a moment of terror, but after a few minutes it sounded like a fascinating project.

In thinking through the “how,” I realized I could build on the communications-related surveying I’d done, engage with experts and partners, create a team, map out a plan, execute it, learn and adjust as we went.

With so much information available online, you can research any topic and come up with ideas. Being able to figure it out is a skill that becomes more important every day.

I’m ever inspired by a talk that business leader Mark Cuban gave at my employer’s headquarters many years ago.

Most striking were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I. And so can you.

For now, take some time to set your social media goals for the year.

Here are mine:

  • Amplify my employer’s social media strategy through its Social Circle, by sharing 3 posts each week.
  • Share appropriate highlights of my work in social media, by posting something at least 2 times a month.
  • Learn about how social media is changing and evolving, by listening to 5 podcasts each week during drive time.
  • Help others by sharing and commenting on their valuable content, at least 3 times a week.

Each goal is measurable, with a number attached to it. As the year goes on, I’ll assess if this is the right frequency or if tweaks need to be made.

None of my goals have anything to do with followers. In part that’s because I can’t completely control those numbers. Sure, the goals I’m pursuing are likely to attract followers. But I’m focused on actions I can 100% control on my own.

Here I’m influenced by Gary V‘s ideas on Building a Personal Brand, a Udemy course I finished today. One of the biggest takeaways? “Consistency almost trumps everything,” Gary says.

Another pearl from Gary? This one is for combating fear of failure: “Spend all your time in the in-between space, the time between starting and stopping.”

What’s your social media game plan for the year?

Don’t worry yet about the “how” of making it happen. “How” will be the subject of many future posts.

How Social Media Will Change for Professionals in 2017

It’s a new year. A fresh start. How will you revitalize your social media strategy?

You can start by thinking about how social media will change in the coming year.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but here are some interesting trends from personal branding expert William Arruda.

And at a macro level, Bryan Kramer has a roundup of  2017 predictions in social media and content marketing. This includes one of the best in personal branding, Dorie Clark.

As a communications and marketing professional in the corporate world, I think the following changes will have the biggest impact in the year ahead.

(This is where I remind readers that opinions are my own).

Life is lived on stage. Every day when you leave your house, you’re in the public eye. You could be photographed, recorded, tagged, tweeted and snapped, all without your express permission or even your knowledge.

The upside to all this? It’s one more incentive to live a high-integrity life. To do the right thing. To make the world a better place.

In the words from the film Ocean’s Eleven, “there’s always someone watching.” Make sure you’re presenting yourself as who you authentically are and how you want to be seen.

It’s not even clear how long our own homes will be a sanctuary from the public sphere. On Thanksgiving day in my leafy town, I spotted a drone in a nearby yard. It made me rethink my window coverings.

It also made me think about feedback. I used to work with a chief marketing officer who was a fantastic speaker. He owned the stage. And he always wanted to improve. After a big speech, he’d ask me for the video so he could critique his performance.

That’s a wise move for every professional. Take some time each month to evaluate how you’re coming across in video, in pictures and in words.

When I’m giving a big speech, I record my practice sessions on my phone. That has two benefits.

The first is a way to improve my actual delivery by assessing how I look and sound.

The second is a way to memorize the speech in advance, so I can deliver it in a more natural way.

How? By listening to the recording while I’m driving and when I’m about to go to sleep (a proven method for studying and remembering information).

Images trump words. As a word lover, it pains me to write that images are more powerful than words. But it’s true. Even my iPhone keypad is suggesting emojis in place of certain words.

Every social post needs an image. Research shows that articles with images get 94% more views.

Wherever I go, I take pictures on my iPhone. I may not use them right away, but I’m building a library of images for the future.

On New Year’s Day, for example, I wanted to share a personal picture.

The year before, my family attended the Tournament of Roses Parade (with reservations about the early hour and the relatively cold weather, by Southern California standards).

The perception of frostbite aside, my camera roll was filled with pictures of beautiful, colorful floats. A photo of South Dakota’s float of Mount Rushmore caught my eye. Four great presidents. In a month when our country will inaugurate a new leader. There was my timely and timeless image.

In addition to using my own photos, I subscribe to a few image sites, iStock and Canva. They’re well worth the investment, because they make content more eye-catching and professional.

Video trumps stills. For as much as photos are better than words, they’re starting to seem almost as dated as mere words. It’s the moving image that captures the eye. From Facebook Live to Periscope to over-the-top video, the moving image reigns supreme.

This will be an area of experimentation for me in 2017. I’ll start with a few short videos in my Instagram feed. I’ll try Facebook Live. And maybe I’ll turn some of my blog posts into videos. That idea that jumped out at me in Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Udemy course on building a personal brand.

Snap isn’t just for teens. Now that Snapchat is just simply Snap, it’s unavoidable in the news and the cultural zeitgeist. It’s how my teenage daughter and I enjoy spending time together, checking out her snap streaks and laughing over the funny moments she and her friends capture of every day life.

I’m still figuring out the basics, like how to take a decent picture that won’t be obscured in all the wrong places by the filter du jour. It feels like having all thumbs, like I did when I first joined Twitter and I hadn’t fully figured out why I was there yet. More to come on this topic as this learning project takes shape.

Professionals need a plan. With so many ways to share your professional expertise, ideas and achievements, a plan is essential.

It starts with setting goals. What do you want to accomplish? What social media networks should you be on? What are good ways to curate and create content?

From there, you need a calendar. I’ve been searching for a ready-made one, unsuccessfully so far. Right now I’m using an Excel spreadsheet. As this evolves into something better, I’ll share updates in future posts.

Right now, it’s organized by date, broken into weeks and months. For content ideas, I look at upcoming:

  • Blog posts on social savvy for professionals
  • Work news and events
  • Conferences and training sessions
  • Speaking engagements
  • Hashtag holidays
  • Personal milestones

For each piece of content, the calendar includes:

  • Posting date and time
  • Content headline
  • Content summary
  • Content type (e.g., blog post, photo or video with caption, etc.)
  • Category (professional, personal or a mix)
  • Creative (photo or video)
  • Channel (which social network or networks)
  • Hashtags (especially for Instagram and Twitter)
  • Status (whether in development, posted or in the comments stage).

What changes are you making in your social media strategy this year?