Back in 2014, Smucker’s handling of Social Media moderation made some headlines, and enraged some of their customers and followers.
The short story is that Smucker’s, following its own Social Media guidelines attempted to silence dissenting comments about Smucker’s GMO labeling policies by simply removing any question or criticism shared in comments on their Facebook page.
This quickly escalated into a backlash. People refused to be silenced (as people will do) and stepped up efforts to get their comments and feedback seen, as well as calling for a boycott of the company.
Smucker’s survived, of course, but could the mess have been avoided, or even been turned into a positive?
Social Media Moderation is About Opportunity as Much as Damage Control
Often companies take a crisis avoidance approach to Social Media policies that allow little room for on-the-fly assessment of opportunity. Here is a section of Smucker’s Community Guidelines from their Facebook page:
Respectful: We embrace the power of each individual. We look for a diverse collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions, all with a sense of humor and good will. Content that includes discrimination, political commentary, cultural insensitivity, or defamation has no place here.
Looks good, right? Seems as though Smucker’s is seeking to create a safe, fun space for their fans that looks something like this.
That’s a noble effort, but that little bit about “political commentary” could be conveniently, and arguably, incorrectly used to try to silence dissenters of the brand, resulting in the escalation and backlash we witnessed a year ago.
It’s also likely included in the guidelines as an avoidance strategy. Avoidance isn’t necessarily a bad strategy, but it can create a rigid stance that instigates, rather than avoids, the very type of escalation the policy hoped to avert.
When Guidelines Don’t Prevent Escalation, Be Ready to Pivot
Rules and guidelines don’t always protect a brand from negative escalation.
Responding to escalation is tricky business, but not impossible with the right people at the helm of your Social Media management. Clear policies and regular moderation are an excellent foundation, but empowered people with high social intelligence on the frontlines of response are key.
In Smucker’s case, this was a particularly nasty predicament as they were on the wrong side of GMO policies according to some of their customers and/or detractors – an issue that inspires activist passion and for many reasons may not be easily remedied. The debate about GMO labeling notwithstanding, sometimes your company isn’t going to agree with, or be able to meet customer or the public’s demands. At least not right away. What then?
Showing that you’re listening is often enough in the moment. Simply responding with, “Thank you for bringing this up. Can you tell us more about why this is an important issue to you?” is going to have an immediate effect of calming a situation, giving the company time to assess how they can and want to make changes.
Reminding the community of policies rather than just implementing them silently helps you not look like a jerk. Attempting to silence people without explanation makes them angry. Combining the response above with a gentle reminder of community guidelines will help fans feel comfortable with the moderation. In cases of passionate topics, polite reminders are not enough, so creating space and opportunity for their voice elsewhere is an important step in the process.
Intelligent synthesis between moderation and response requires real-time observation and assessment to determine the right response given the context of the situation. In other words, be ready to pivot rather than blindly follow policies that cannot prevent every potential escalation and blocks opportunity.
Of course, it goes without saying, that all of the above works best when backed by authenticity.
Photo credit: Smucker’s Facebook Page
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the crunch of year-end deadlines looming, take comfort in the fact that while you’re preoccupied, we’re watching your shop.
This season is a particularly important time to make sure that the online arena for your business is free from cyber bullies or others whose ill-used words could negatively affect your operations. This time of year seems to bring out the trolls – and the grinches – who infiltrate sites with spam and wreak havoc on an otherwise enjoyable online experience.
photo credit: US Library of Congress
Abraham Lincoln has certainly been on our radar these days. A small piece of his presidency is highlighted in the Golden Globe-nominated film Lincoln by director Steven Spielberg, featuring a tour-de-force performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Honest Abe.
While the film covers the last four months of Lincoln’s presidency as he worked to abolish slavery in 1865, it also depicts Lincoln’s gift for making memorable speeches. The 16th president of the United States was very quotable, to say the least. Many sayings attributed to him still resonate today, including these words he once made famous: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Photo credit: FuzzBones, Shutterstock
“Think globally, act locally.” That’s a motto that has guided many of us for years, and while that’s still important, when it comes to your business, you can now act globally, too.
Use of the Internet is exploding in foreign countries, with websites being translated into hundreds of different languages. If you’ve got something to sell, promote or proclaim, consider creating sites in multiple languages, and treat them as you would your English-language presence. Get the gist of your message to online consumers in words the audience can understand.
credit: Image © Glamour Magazine
This year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. As a woman-owned business, we at Scout Moderation feel very inspired by IWD’s initiatives to promote women’s equality and advancement.
Almost everyone knows a red rose symbolizes love, but not many know there is a whole language around flowers, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh is using it to change lives. A bestselling author, Vanessa is using the release of her new novel, The Language of Flowers, to bring light to the plight of older youths in foster care and to ignite a national discussion. The book tells the story of a girl who grew up in the foster care system and can’t trust or communicate with people, so she uses the Victorian language of flowers to express herself.
image credit: Emily Dickinson Library
Scout Moderation is based near Amherst, Massachusetts, birthplace of poet, Emily Dickinson. At Scout, we are committed to keeping the online conversation civil. We wonder, what would Emily Dickinson say about using the social network to hurt and bully? Knowing the power of words to hurt, she once wrote, “We bruise each other less in talking than in writing”.
Emily lived as a recluse for most of her adult life because of a mysterious disorder. It is speculated that she may have locked herself away from life because she suffered from PTSD or some kind of social anxiety. From her home in Amherst, Emily carried out her epistolary relationships and sent her poems as holiday notes or birthday cards. If she were alive today, she would most likely love the positive aspects of social networking; the ability to tweet a poem or post status updates on her Facebook page.