This election has been a bit of a wild wild west on social media, with all conventional etiquette seemingly tossed out the window as everyone becomes angrier with the #NotMyPresident movement.
Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of the Clay County Development Corp—a nonprofit providing services to elderly and low income residents in Clay County, West Virginia—posted on Facebook that First Lady Michelle Obama was an “ape in heels.” Beverly Whaling, the former mayor of Clay responded, “just made my day Pam.” Following considerable backlash, Whaling resigned—a reminder to us all that no tweet, comment or post is worth losing your job.
GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney is also under fire. Maloney sent an anti-Trump email to employees, suggesting workers who share Trump’s “hateful attitudes” and “intolerance” resign. This sparked an open investigation into the business as well as massive outrage on Twitter, with users tweeting #BoycottGrubhub. And, in a third and perhaps most disturbing example of deplorable social media use, PacketSled CEO Matt Harrigan publicly tweeted “I’m going to kill the President elect. Getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts.” The CEO of the San Diego startup has since resigned.
While the above are extreme examples of social media gone awry, many others are struggling with how to navigate murky online waters. This is seemingly unchartered territory, with 50 percent of the country extremely unhappy about the election results. So, how can you open up a dialogue without offending everyone you know? Follow these tips:
1. Be mindful of what you are saying. Whether you love President-elect Donald Trump or hate him, do not put out sweeping generalizations such as “If you voted for Trump you are an idiot and please unfriend me.” Many of us have been on Facebook and Twitter for so long that it’s hard to remember who we are are friends with (clients, colleagues, etc) and statements like this can’t be taken back.
2. If you are going to write a politically-charged post, be prepared to defend it. Chances are, if you write a strongly opinionated political post, half of your friends will attack you. If you do this, you aren’t allowed to get upset when your friends go to war against you. Instead, be prepared to defend yourself with facts—and to be sucked into a never-ending online fight that will drain you for hours.
The conversation will continue with or without you. That is the purpose of these networks.
3. Remember who your connections are. To the first tip, many are posting severe knee-jerk reactions without being mindful of who their connections are. When you have over 3000 “friends,” chances are some of them are valuable business aquaintences. Think very carefully before you post, because you will most likely alienate people you may want to work with down the line. If you absolutely must voice an opinion, consider using Facebook’s “list” feature to limit the content you share with a select group of contacts.
4. Establish a personal social media policy. Make it very clear to Facebook friends that certain words, derogatory phrases and general misconduct will not be allowed on your page. Put that out as a disclaimer before opening up a political conversation. If your friends continue to violate these guidelines, consider warning them and then ultimately unfriending them.
5. Weed out the trolls. Some people are going to argue with you regardless of what you write. Value your time and energy. If you are Facebook friends with these trolls, it may be time to unfriend them.
6. Don’t continue to engage. A political post is meant to open up a conversation between friends of varying view points. However, this does not mean you need to defend yourself against single negative comment that comes your way. Let your community engage in the discourse as well. A big mistake people make is feeling like they need to respond to every comment, even if its not directed toward them, because the content is on their page.
7. Delete derogatory comments. This may seem controversial, but if someone leaves a racist, derogatory, or defamatory comment on your wall or page, you have every right to delete it. Do not feel pressured to keep up something that goes against everything you believe in just for the sake of the authenticity of the conversation. Deleting a derogatory comment is deleting something you ultimately (or hopefully!) do not believe in or want to be associated with in any way.
8. Take a break. Engaging in political debates can bring increased levels of stress and is a major energy suck. Don’t make the mistake of being glued to your phone for the next five hours after you post something. The conversation will continue with or without you. That is the purpose of these networks—intelligent debate.
9. Consider why you are posting. If you are posting to win an argument, or to get the “other side” to see your point of view, chances are you’ll fail. Quit while you’re ahead. Posts that are more neutral seem to do better. Anything that feels slanted or attacking one side will typically draw out very hateful rhetoric (even if that wasn’t your initial intention).
10. Fact check. Unfortunately, a number of fake news stories have been published at a rapid pace after the election. Try fact checking the source of the link you are sharing a few times before posting it. We have all been guilty of posting these links (myself included!) only to find out the next day that the link was false. If you don’t realize it is false, your network will, and that will open up a whole new can of worms.
Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and Social Media Agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit www.rubymediagroup.com or www.krisruby.com