Beware: online fights are popping up all over the Internet, and the next fight might happen on your blog, Twitter account or Facebook page. It is easy to become drawn into an online fight. In fact, you may not even realize an online fight is developing until it is spiraling out of control. An online fight can begin with a single comment or a controversial post that sparks a heated conversation that eventually leads to an online “fight.” We have all watched Facebook friends post opinions that have resulted in an explosion of comments in a span of just a few minutes. You may have also witnessed a fight break out on a business’ social media platform. Thankfully, online fights are avoidable. Keep reading for seven public relations (PR) tips to help you come out on top when it comes to online feuds.
1) Remember Newton’s third law of motion.
Remember, that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For each opinion you hold strongly, there are others who hold just as strongly to an opposing opinion. The inflammatory nature of the comments you receive is often in direct correlation to “incitefulness” of your content. If you post on a controversial topic, be prepared to receive a heated response.
2) Don’t let your brain play tricks on you.
As a natural part of reading, our brains anticipate what will come next in a sentence based on context. While this skill can help us to read information quickly and smoothly, it can also play tricks on us when we read something that is not there. Be sure to carefully read content before responding to make sure your brain reads what is really written and not what you expect to be written. Misreading one word or letter can change the entire meaning of a sentence.
3) Hold your horses.
Posting anything online in the heat of the moment will likely lead you to trouble. A good rule of thumb is to make yourself wait at least 24 hours before posting anything to allow your temper to cool and your mind to clear. This is even a good idea when you are developing original content. Don’t post the content the same day you write it. Take a break from the content for a day and then review it again before posting.
4) Listen to your mom.
Do you remember when your mother said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” This advice still holds true today. There are many instances where it is better to not respond at all.
5) Beware of the “text magnification effect.”
When we communicate face-to-face, we have the benefit of seeing someone’s facial expressions, observing their body language, and listening to the inflections in their voice to create context and help us interpret the meaning behind their words. However, when we engage in communication through text, all of these nonverbal signals disappear. As a result, the intensity of a message can be magnified by a person’s own mood or perception. For instance, if you post a slightly negative comment, someone with a sour disposition may read it as an extremely negative comment. Lessen the text magnification effect when you are posting your own content by creating sufficient context. When you are reading others’ content, always give people the benefit of the doubt and realize that you may be reading too much into someone else’s statement.
6) Learn the peace-keeping power of the question.
Asking a question (instead of stating an opinion) can be a good way to diffuse a tense online conversation. Questions are disarming when they are asked in a genuine attempt to gain understanding. Ask questions to verify meaning and clarify any statements that may be misunderstood before offering a response.
7) Call in the cavalry.
When in doubt, call in the cavalry (i.e. trusted individuals who will review your response before you post it online). Asking for an outside perspective will allow you to take into consideration how other people may interpret your message. Make sure you call your levelheaded colleagues and not your buddies who might egg you on.
When it comes to online posts and comments, it is best to take the public relations high road and avoid online fights altogether. No one ever wins an online fight. Both (or all) parties involved usually end up looking foolish and tarnishing their online reputation. Remember, you are what you post.