If you’ve ever been to a hockey game, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a fight. And if you’ve ever seen a hockey fight, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a fan screaming at the combatant from the visiting team–like this guy:
As you probably know, most hockey players are big, tough, athletic guys. And most fans aren’t. So what would compel out of shape fans to scream obscenities at someone who could knock them unconscious with a single hip check?
The answer is so clear you can see right through it. Fans are comfortable screaming at hockey players because they’re protected by a wall of plexiglass. Take that wall down, and it’s very likely that those same fans would be a lot more quiet, and a lot less bold.
There’s an analogy here for anyone who moderates a social media presence–a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter handle, for example. If you sustain that presence for any length of time, you’re going to get negative comments. They may even get downright nasty, personal or irrational. When this happens, you may wonder what you did to deserve such a response. There’s a good chance, however, that it’s not really about you. It’s more about the fact that you and the audience are separated by a computer screen–another sort of protective pane of glass.
So, what should you do to change the game, so to speak? Work to remove the pane of glass. Turn it into a one-on-one conversation, via email or a phone call. Make it person-to-person, not person-to-brand/ corporation. It might seem like it’s not worth the effort, but if you’re using social media to build relationships–and what other reason is there to use social media?–it very likely will be time well spent. You might just end up turning that raving lunatic into a raving fan.
Don’t take down the pane of glass so you can confront your critics. Take it down so they will act more reasonable, be more accountable for their actions and see you as a human being. Take it down to even score and to put one in the win column for civility.