Last night as I was watching the Democratic Debate, Bernie Sanders said something that resonated with me more so than many of the other things that were discussed throughout that entire powerful debate. He mentioned how it’s very important to "meet with enemies" to address issues head on. Why did this especially speak to me? Well, quite bluntly it’s because I’m a professional in the social media and community management field. Not many people really realize this, but the individuals typing words in real time to represent your business/brand are on the forefront of that company’s reputation. We deal with crises in real time. We genuinely interact with passionate fans and keep conversations alive (whether it’s online or offline.) Have you ever critically thought about what would happen to your company’s reputation if online users were out in cyber space saying terrible things about your company, and those terrible things were left unaddressed? While maybe it’s to a different degree (certainly) than that of which Bernie was speaking, catastrophe could indeed be in the works.
That’s why it’s important to "meet with the enemy."
Addressing these issues head on, and in a transparent manner will show your online community that you care about what they think and that your company truly wants to fix things, or at least discuss the issue openly. It also will give some degree of control back to you, as you can typically ask these individuals to call you directly. Taking a heated online discussion into person-to-person discussion offline can make a huge difference. Have you ever noticed how awkward it is to attempt to nail down someone’s tone in a text message or email? (That’s a huge reason why people resort to emojis these days!) Speaking to people over the phone or in person adds character and personality, it adds humanity. As fun as emojis can be, they’re not always appropriate (or taken seriously) by an angry online customer. Meet with the "enemy" head on. Stay transparent. Many times, just this simple act of going the extra mile can turn an enemy into an asset. It’s like Jay Baer always says, "Hug your haters."
Hug your haters. – Jay Baer