I ran across two different blog posts today that are both fascinating examples of how social media is a powerful tool that you need to know how to wield. Better to not wield it at all than to do it badly.
From the train wreck side of things, we have “Applebee’s Overnight Social Media Meltdown”. I’ll summarize it in the next paragraph, but you really should go give it a read. It’s enlightening, captivating, and amusing (as long as you’re not Applebee’s).
To sum: An employee posted a picture of a guest’s check. Applebee’s fired her. But that’s just the start of the story. Someone on behalf of Applebee’s, or probably several someones, was posting to their Facebook page. They posted a comment that should’ve been a status update. They tagged people with a repeated message, ie. spamming. They deleted comments. Then they deleted entire posts and their attendant comment threads. And as of the blog post I linked to, they hadn’t yet twigged to the idea of turning off comments.
In other words, they didn’t understand how to use Facebook or even how to engage with the Internet generally. There are things you don’t do. Deleting vast swaths of comments for one, spamming for another. And there are things that just aren’t a good idea to do — commenting on a thousands+ comment thread what should really be a status update if you want people to see it.
Was this someone they had hired as a social media expert? If so, the commentors that said that person should be fired as completely right. That person or persons don’t know what they’re doing.
Libraries are not immune to a situation blowing up like this one has. And yet the vast majority of them are probably less equipped to handle it than Applebee’s should be. Applebee’s has the money to high a top notch PR firm and social media experts. Most libraries only have a handful of staff with a hodgepodge of skills. How easy it would be for one of them to blunder along on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, without knowing how badly they’re screwing up until it’s too late.
Of course, maybe if that Applebee’s person had listened to some of the comments they were so busy deleting, they might have learned a few things about social media and Facebook in particular right quick.
Now from the opposite side of the coin, here’s John Scalzi, president of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) doing his best to stomp on a troll. A particularly heinous troll. I’ll spare you the details, as what’s mostly relevant here is how he’s decided to try tackling the situation. “Solving My Racist Sexist Homophobic Dipshit Problem”. Don’t let the title scare you off, the post itself is pretty tame. But feel free to read my summary below instead of or before you click.
To sum: Scalzi has thrown out there that he will be donating money to causes this troll would be firmly against any time said troll mentions him in one of his blog posts. So the troll now has two options. Keep talking about Scalzi, causing money to go to causes he’s against. Or stop talking about Scalzi.
And if anyone can pull this off well, it’s John Scalzi. He’s a well-known blogger and Twitterer. You may know him as the bacon on my cat guy. He’s even more well-known in science fiction and fantasy circles, the community in which this troll is trying to stir up trouble.
Both of these examples can only lead me to the conclusion that it’s better for a business to not do social media AT ALL, than to do it in ignorance. But if you can do it with a deep knowledge of how social media works and of that particular platform’s norms and mores, well, it can be absolutely stunningly effective.