Sometimes it’s hard not to take things personally.
I am responsible for looking after a number of different online channels, and people will sometimes criticise the way an organisation uses those channels, or the choice of channel itself. For example, ‘why is the Department of Health wasting its time with Twitter’ or ‘this crowdsourcing platform is rubbish because it won’t let me do XYZ’.
Most of the time I believe these comments are aimed a little higher up the decision tree, and reflect a general lack of satisfaction with a broader policy. Social media channels are a quick and easy way to vent that frustration.
But, if you have spent hours carefully creating a space, or choosing the best possible channel based on your audience’s needs and also cost; these types of comments can be dispiriting. Many a time I have wanted to respond straight away, and, to be honest, let rip. Particularly when I feel the person making the complaint should better understand the resource constraints behind the scenes, or, as is the case with #nhssm, appreciate the fact that the work is voluntary.
But it’s no good getting worked up and then coming across as unprofessional.
If I’ve had a busy week, or a lot on my mind, I like to unwind through exercise, or maybe wash a car (very therapeutic), or even better, drive one around a race circuit as fast as I can. Not always practical when you work in Elephant and Castle.
However, the principles behind driving a race circuit are similar to dealing with a difficult comment online:
Approach the corner: plan where you want to be, and get yourself in the right position (what do I need to say, to leave this conversation in the best shape possible?)
Adjust your speed: brake, change gear, get the car in shape (slow down, and think before you act)
Clip the apex of the bend as you planned (make your point, and make it well. Get it wrong now and everything else will unravel. It’s hard to recover)
Accelerate away (move on, but bring the conversation forward. Take the person who was unhappy with you and maybe turn them in to an advocate for what you are doing)
The last one might be a bit optimistic, at least in terms of digital engagement, but if you get everything else right there’s a chance you can make a friend out of a detractor.