Online Discourse, Social Media, and Branding

pop-rocket Image courtesy of Clipartpanda

It’s not easy to hold an online conversation. You have to delegate time to state points, cite sources, and prepare for rhetoric ranging from insightful to vitriolic — if the person even responds. Or you can go off half-cocked and use emotion to make your points; screw civility and sensibility.

That’s the best case when dealing with individuals. But what about when dealing with celebrities? Figureheads of companies? Corporate brands?

I’ve learned a few things in my brief time as a social media manager regarding conversing with others, and these tips come in handy with discourse in personal and online spaces:

  1. Be as helpful as possible. If the person registering the comment needs something, find the answer; if you can’t find what they need, offer resources to get them the answer.
  2. If someone is challenging your content, explain your reasoning for your position. Offer to hear them out, feel free to disagree, but acknowledge that you hear them.
  3. Don’t belittle anyone. That person can complain to others, and a scorned person is more likely to give a negative impression of you and/or your brand. If word gets out to enough people, those less-than-positive impressions can make an impact you might not want.

A podcast that I enjoyed listening to since its inception has a Facebook group for fans to converse, so I joined — after being approved. The podcast’s hosts regularly join in on chats and offer articles of interest. One of the hosts that is referred to as an “academic,” which is a red flag for how he sees himself in the word, is the most well-read of the group and makes sure to come across as such on the podcast and online.

So here’s where the branding and conversation come into play. Said academic posted an article from the New York Times that bemoaned the changing nature of The Hamptons. I offered a reply, saying that the Times’ race-biased reporting and out-of-touch articles (like crying for the rich paradise of The Hamptons) made them appear to be the GOP candidate of newspapers. Not the most insightful opinion of a lauded publication, but I thought it was warranted.

So said academic replied “Uh… no.” And I was mad. Is this how a professor/book writer holds court in class or book readings? Whether he was being flippant, joking, or condescending, it made a negative impression upon me. And I am no longer in need of having negative experiences online with others.

So I left the Facebook group, tweeted the podcast on Twitter about the rude comment, and wrote this blog. And I don’t plan to download or listen to the podcast ever again. And it’s a shame, as three of the four hosts are witty, intelligent, and worth listening to on their own.

This may be an overreaction, but it was based on a detrimental conversation with the host (figurehead) of a brand (podcast). And I am now typing my dissent to whoever will listen. Whether it will affect future impressions remains to be seen, but I hope that my viewpoint is not as rude as the experience I had. And if I can help others, all the better.


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