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How to Handle Social-Media Criticism

Sitting at a computer screen, people often get 'keyboard courage,' freely criticizing others without considering ramifications. When this happens to you, here is how to handle it.
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"Keyboard courage" has some people posting cruel things they would otherwise not say to someone's face.  Hiding behind a screen is not a shield.  

As a social-media consultant and strategist, I have seen my fair share of rude behavior on various platforms and personally experienced this on several occasions.  Everything from gossiping, not following through with deliverables and jealousy has come my way.  While my first reaction is to fire back, I have learned this isn't an appropriate response.  By firing back in social media, this is exactly what feeds the beast.  Don't feed the beast!

Flying off on a rant and private messaging or calling the author to give them a piece of your mind will definitely delist you in my opinion.  Yes, I have experienced this once and was cursed out.  Being graceful is the way to go. 

Plus, a sense of entitlement is an extreme way to alienate yourself in social media.  You may make certain social media lists one year but fall off the list next year.  Ask yourself this: How do I stay on the radar?  In social media, you really need to work hard to be noticed.  Make the effort and your work will speak for itself.

Related: 3 Social Media Rules Most Entrepreneurs Don't Follow

When you are being criticized online, I have found the following advice has helped me.

Rise above it.  You cannot change people's behavior, but you can change the people you choose to stick around or follow on social media. You can choose a negative or positive attitude.  Pick your path wisely.

Remain neutral. Always take emotions out of the discussion to aid productivity and possibly provide the other person with a reason to shift his or her mindset. This will allow both parties to examine or re-examine both perspectives.

Keep in mind no one is perfect. Everybody has flaws.  Power magnifies the flaws and cracks. You have to amplify the strengths and focus on what is productive rather than all the weaknesses.  If an individual asks for your opinion online (or if you are extremely close to them) you can provide positive suggestions about possible improvements.

I tend to stay positive and helpful, but we cannot be a caretaker for all.  You can make suggestions of books or articles that could assist them.  Set your boundaries so you are not drawn into the drama of social media.

Stay data focused. Be professional and stick with the facts.  There are some discussions that will neither warrant your time nor your effort in your social media steams.  Be diplomatic, be fair and be factual.

Be courteous of people's time.  Just remember, social media provides us with a tool to access so many opportunities. Be cognizant that people have a life outside of social media. If you are going to make an argument or deal with critic, make it succinct. Don’t get dragged in to a hour-long ordeal.

Related: What Would Jane Austen Do? A Guide to Social Media Etiquette

Try to take the conversation offline.  Before you do, you may want to peruse their tweets and posts to determine whether it is actually worth your time and energy.  You may even want to Google the individual.  There are only so many hours in the day, so pick your battle wisely.

Take action.  Do you ever block someone? What if someone is extremely rude and starts making personal attacks.  What do you do?  I remain cordial because eventually you will run into the person at a tweet-up or a conference.  When you stay polite and courteous, you will not feel uncomfortable or awkward since you have not done anything wrong. 

When all fails, I do block the person. 

I hear this quite often: “It's quality and not quantity.” Although this is true, that number is a gauge of success. One can reach a larger audience, but also remember that with a larger audience, careful curation of your social channels is also part of the formula.  And minding your P's and Q's can make all the difference.  Remember, you could eventually meet these people face-to-face, so treat people online like you would treat them in person.

Related: Social Media Etiquette: 5 Questions to Ask Before Posting About the News