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When to Respond on Social Media: Some Rules for the (Frequently Rough) Road

Q. How do I know whether I should respond to a negative social media comment about our organization? 

A. We’ve worked with several clients recently that faced the challenge of negative social media posts going viral, attracting thousands of comments and shares and threatening the reputation of the organization involved. Before it reaches that crisis point, at Hennes Communications we recommend analyzing the on-line atmosphere, monitoring posts for potential explosive negative media attention, deciding whether to respond, attempting to contact and talk with the critic offline and drafting sober, professional responses intended to deescalate the situation.

Hard-and-fast “rules” often don’t apply in a constantly evolving social media world where each post can bring unique challenges. But there are some best practices you can apply when faced with an online social media threat.

First, don’t let factual mistakes live on.  Respond and correct misinformation in real time in a straightforward, professional way. BUT make sure it is an error of fact, and not opinion.

Second, don’t arm wrestle with trolls. Resist the urge to get caught up in exchanges with rude or obnoxious people on social media. Respond to correct errors of fact once, but don’t feel compelled to continue the conversation should the person then challenge you or your response.

 And finally, remember your audience.  Responding on social media means you are speaking to the larger audience reading this exchange, not necessarily your critic.

Social media is a powerful tool and your customers, clients and employees are already on it, posting, commenting and sharing news about your organization. Monitoring social media for  information about your company should be part of your everyday operations.  And                knowing what to do when a potentially explosive post appears may be critical to protecting your reputation, online and off.

Got a question about crisis communications, issues management or reputation management? We’ve got the answers. Send your question to

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