As someone who uses social media for a living (I’m in church communications) – and as a writer who has written the occasional controversial post – I’m aware of the danger of a social media user attacking you or your company. I’ve read dozens of lists of best practices and learned (sometimes the hard way) how to handle a troll or a commenter who just doesn’t know when to stop.
President Trump has turned the social media attack into a wild, strange art form, as this tweet demonstrates:
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
One New York law firm has created a guide on how to handle social media attacks when they come from a position of power.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton published a how-to on “Responding to a Politician’s Social Media Attack.” The guide says that while political statements against companies — known as “jawboning” — have gone on for decades, the current climate is something different. The firm said that jawboning today is “a serious issue for boards and management at a wide variety of public companies, in a way that it has not been in the recent past.”
Many of the suggestions in the guide make sense and belong in the communications strategy of any organization. Some of the recommendations include making sure the corporate board is aligned with a crisis plan, monitoring social media outlets closely, considering the potential fallout from a social media attack, and weighing responses carefully.
In fact, the best advice in the guide is a pretty common sense one – when in doubt, remain quiet.
While preparations for communications are essential, the firm says that public responses can be damaging if they drag out an unwanted conversation. Private responses may therefore be preferable. In some cases, though, it may be best to ignore an attack. As the world has seen, President Trump is not one to let a comment slide. “In some circumstances, the best response,” the firm says, “will be no response at all.”