Friends & Frenemies on social media
Like a family vacation to the zoo, Twitter should be exciting and educational. But not too exciting. You can do without your toddler feeding the lions his leftover donut just like you can do without the high school drama that sometimes comes with social media.
It’s called social media for a reason – it’s social. It works best when we communicate as human beings, sharing tidbits of our real ourselves. Not when we’re living in “Brand-Land” and touting the party line. Like real life relationships, communication breaks down and feelings get hurt.
Whether you’re using social media personally, professionally or to represent a brand, the emotional jungle can be tricky to navigate. Instead of giving up or putting on false airs, dive in and have fun. Just remember to engage your emotional IQ before letting your inner child throw a temper tantrum.
I like you, let’s be friends
Being on Twitter is a little like knocking on the gates to the Emerald City. Oh, the wondrous opportunities waiting on the other side. But it comes with a price. Opening an account and tweeting is an invitation to the world that you’re available. You’re here to talk, get to know people, do business – whatever it is you want to do.
You have to give to get, pay to play, insert whatever cliché you like best.
With each person who follows you, an implicit contract is written. For their valuable time and attention, you agree to be authentic and honest. Although they’ll tolerate some marketing messages, you don’t have permission to fill up their stream with links to your products or services. And it’s mutual. They sign the same contract, which gives you the right to unfollow when they misbehave.
Key point – it’s your choice. Twitter doesn’t lock you into following someone just because they follow you. The choice is always yours. Stay and play or take your fun elsewhere.
Talk to the hand, Dude
Like real life, Twitter is filled with a smorgasbord of personalities. From weird Uncle Harry who’s always 3 sheets to the wind (even at 7 am) to that frenemy who says she likes you to your face but as soon as you’re not around, the air is blue with tales of your treachery.
And because Twitter can be like high school (filled with narcissistic, all-about-me people) getting caught in conflict is far too easy.
But let’s be real for a minute. We’re all on Twitter for a reason – we have a story to tell and we want people to hear it. That story might be about a product or service but it might be about your joys and frustrations and financial struggles as a single mom. It might be your way of staying in touch you’re your grandchildren. Understanding why your followers are on Twitter (think active listener) will help you communicate better with them.
When the importance of telling your story shifts to actually hearing other stories, you naturally eliminate conflict. You’re no longer competing for attention. And when you’re the listener (think the bartender) your relationships become stronger and people want to engage with you – because they know you’re there for them, not using them. When you remain competitive about telling your story, emotions run high and no one wins.
If these walls could talk
Nothing on Twitter is private. Every joy, frustration and conflict lives forever in this fishbowl we’ve created. Regardless of whether you’re on Twitter personally, professionally or to represent a brand, why would you engage in conflict knowing that?
My Dad used to tell me that the bigger person walks away from a fight and I have to tell you, it’s no easier to do it on Twitter than it was when I was kid on the schoolyard. But I can also tell you, turning away, keeping your back straight and walking with purpose has the same effect now as it did back then. Dad was right.
When emotions get out of hand, there are ways to deal with it.
- Offer up the olive branch and save the other person’s dignity.
- Pick up the phone and talk to them
- State your position and move on
Some people feed off of conflict and are happiest when they’re stirring the pot. When you’ve exhausted all other channels – or if the conflict is just not worth the drama – move on. Unfollow the person and carry on with your other relationships.
And if that person doesn’t take the hint that you don’t want to engage, block them. It won’t prevent them from doing their paranoid checks on your stream but it will slow down their access to you. It also won’t prevent them from tweeting to you – but your response is your choice.
Define your rules of engagement and stick to them.
There is no “one” right way to engage on Twitter – but there is a wrong way. I asked a few of my friends on Twitter if they’ve ever blocked someone. The answers were thoughtful, smart and, in my opinion, emotionally mature. Unlike some people I’ve blocked…
Dhatfield – If someone gets blocked – there’s a reason. Each of us create our own online experience and blocking is one way to do it. We should never have to explain or apologize for blocking someone online that is not contributing in a positive way.
MitchPopilchak – I tried to unfollow but that wasn’t enough, and it should have been. Personal circle. And I was grilled on it. I just did what some others wanted to do. Still standing firm. No regrets.
Benjaminbach – I’ve blocked people, and been called on it. I explain why I blocked them.
Karen_C_Wilson – I probably wouldn’t block someone I know unless we had a falling out. I have blocked non-bots tho
FlourishFlorals – Someone who tweeted racist remarks.
BrianJacklin – Absolutely! It’s my feed after all, right?
AMotherhoodBlog – I haven’t blocked anyone I know personally but I’ve blocked mean people who’ve upset me via twitter before.
What does your Twitter stream say about you or your company? What are your rules of engagement?