Feb 22

When (and not) to engage in sensitive social media conversations

Social media is by far one of the most useful tools for sharing information quickly and regularly with followers, whether for business or pleasure. However, it can also be a hurtful and unproductive space when not used for its intent. We’ve all experienced the latter more than we might care to admit — especially when doom scrolling in this pandemic era.

Unfortunately, there come times when your organization has to share potentially bad, controversial or upsetting news with its audiences on social media. Perhaps an employee went rogue, your database was significantly hacked, a customer left a scarring review or your organization made a serious error. Whatever the case, while planning how to handle sharing this information with stakeholders, it’s important to prepare for questions that may be asked.

While social media will only be one part of your communications plan, it’s a critical and often loud channel. Here are a few things to think about when engaging:


When they’re asking a question that’s clearly been answered

It’s frustrating when people who’ve only read a headline and/or the comments rather than the full story start asking questions and taking uninformed stances. Sadly, there’s no avoiding this. When it happens, make sure to put on your best customer service voice, remain patient and gently provide the correct answer. You can even point them to the exact location where the information is found — without being too sassy.

If you didn’t see their question in time and someone else answered correctly, make sure to like the correct answer. This will verify information with all those participating without you needing to engage too much. If the person who answered was incorrect, you’ll need to set the record straight. 


When they add something new to the conversation

When someone poses a new perspective or question not yet been brought up, it’s critical to engage with them as quickly and accurately as possible. Whether supporting or critiquing your post, this is an opportunity to provide the facts or additional information straight from the source. Not only will this answer the individual’s question, but also inform others watching the conversation unfold. It may have the added benefit of keeping others from potentially starting an entirely new thread based on speculation.


When they’re ranting or just being rude

Sometimes, if commentators are just venting or asking rhetorical questions, it’s best to just leave them be.  However, when online discussions are close to getting out of hand, it’s helpful to remind the public to keep it civil. You can comment with a link to your social media policy or directly message instigators with a note that your platform does not permit such language, reminding them of your rules of participation.

In this case, it’s also helpful to like other people’s more positive or accurate comments. The more likes a comment will get, the more visible it will be to others scrolling through. 


When they agree with you

When a person or group of people agrees with or are supporting you, it’s also key not to make too much of a big deal. While you may want to sing their praises for being on your side, it’s better to like their comment, perhaps provide a short response and then move on. If you start showing too much appreciation or begin ranting about other commentators, it looks unprofessional. Remember, you want to get out of your current situation with your brand — and your sanity — intact.


It’s incredibly easy to let social media discussions bother you. Not only is this a waste of time and energy, it can also negatively impact your work and mental health. It’s just not worth it. When you do come to this, it’s always better to take a step back and breathe, connect with a colleague before acting and take everything with a grain of salt. It may be a little rough for a while, but you’ll get through it.

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