There is a woman I used to follow on Twitter. As part of a Twitter chat we were both participating in, she said something to the effect of “Remember when building your campaign, there are people behind these platforms.”
I responded with what I thought was a very benign statement. “Interesting point. Are you saying it’s more about people than technology?”
This is a stance, by the way, that I agree with. All the technology in the world doesn’t matter to you or your business if you can’t get PEOPLE to pay attention to you.
She responded saying “That’s not what I said at all and I don’t care for your misrepresentation.”
Now, I may truly have misunderstood her. With 140 characters to make your point and a fast moving Twitter chat, it’s entirely possible I missed an earlier tweet that would have clarified things for me. I’m sorry if I did misinterpret her. But all these months later what I remember is how harsh I felt her response was. Of course, that could be me misunderstanding things again. But that’s the thing though, isn’t it? Online it is unbelievably easy for someone to misunderstand you, especially since they cannot hear your tone of voice or see your facial expressions.
It is entirely too easy to come off like a jerk on social media. Things you may see as direct or even funny may come across to others as harsh.
This is especially true when a follower is already upset.
So how do you manage not to be a jerk online? Well, I suppose it’s not a perfect science. There will always be misunderstandings and differences in opinions. Still, there is are some basic standards for how not to be a jerk on social media.
As a baseline, we’d recommend not fining wedding parties if their guests leaves aÂ negative review of your establishment on Yelp. NotÂ insulting a client’s hometown on Twitter.Â Not tagging your wife in to “defend” youÂ from a customer (whom you’d already insulted). We’d recommend notÂ posting tongue in cheek messages on your website. Essentially, do not outright make fun of or insult your clients online.
If you wouldn’t say or do something in a face to face situation, please, please, do not do it online.
Professionalism is key online. No matter how hurt something makes you, you cannot respond in a public forum with anger or humor that may be taken out of context. Sometimes, it’s best just to sayÂ I’m sorryÂ and try toÂ take things offline.
TheÂ messageÂ you send is important, whether it is in response to positive or negative comments. While you can’t please everyone all of the time, hopefully you can keep from becoming aÂ social media horror story.