While receiving constructive criticism via Twitter can actually be beneficial for a brand, being harassed by a blatant heckler can put a social media manager in a tough spot. How do you decide whether or not to respond when your brand is being thrown under the bus?
According to Laura Perry, director of communications for the UCLA School of Nursing, hecklers are often anonymous and merely crave attention. Responding to a heckler is a difficult choice. “They are experts in shifting the tone and direction of conversation, which can end up making it worse for you,” says Perry.
Joel Frey, senior PR manager at Travelocity, says Twitter is not often used as as a platform to heckle. Regardless, Frey believes it’s important to always pay close attention to your brand’s Twitter feed. By remaining vigilant, you will be able to respond to, and hopefully solve, a problem quickly.
Frey and Perry offer tips for constructively dealing with Twitter hecklers:
Direct them to customer service: Urge the heckler to e-mail your customer service team so that you are simultaneously fixing their problem and directing them away from Twitter. Once you hand them off to someone more equipped to deal with their problem they will most likely not come back to Twitter to complain and may even end up tweeting a thank you.
Keep it professional: When responding to hecklers, you must remain professional. It is easy and understandable to respond to a sarcastic comment with a snide remark, but this will only exacerbate the problem. Think of it as a conversation with a reporter; everything is on the record.
Communicate with community managers: It is important that everybody managing the company Twitter feed is clued in on any hecklers and are aware of how they are being dealt with. There must be open communication between all Twitter managers to ensure that there are not three or four people all trying to handle one situation and providing conflicting responses.
Know when to say when: As with any customer service situation, there may come a time when nothing more can be done. Regardless of how hard you try, there is no pleasing some people. Sometimes it is better to ignore them than to give them the attention they crave. It’s a judgment call, but if someone is consistently using profanity, it may be best to stay away altogether.
Engage with your community: If you are constantly building and engaging your Twitter community, you can develop extremely loyal followers who may feel compelled to respond to a heckler on your behalf. Being hassled by others can quiet them a lot quicker; hecklers like to cause trouble for you, not themselves.
Follow Danielle Aveta: @danielleaveta