The dark side of the web

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Ever experienced a shitstorm in the world wide web? I did. This blog post is about critical community management in the vast of the internet.

A few years ago, I had a remarkable experience in my role as owner of the company facebook page. I was young, I learned all about social media in learning by doing and I guess, I was pretty naïve this time. We posted a contest on facebook and it totally went viral. We got so many likes in such a short time that we decided to cancel the contest. Together with my colleague, I wrote an honest and friendly comment and stopped the contest this way. Unfortunately, a few users did not seem so happy about that and started a shitstorm. In this phase, I experienced how it feels when you stand in the pillory and get all the bad words you can imagine. It was interesting to see, how people can react in the shelter of the anonymity of the internet.

The whole shitstorm lasts just 36 hours, then everything went back to normal. I guess we had luck that it was so “short”. Imagine a B2C company whose product everyone knows. Anyway, this experience made me stronger and more sensitive of the power of the community in the web. The article “Shitstorm as a chance” describes well, how you can deal with this unexpected event and what you can learn out of it. It helped me to understand why the proper handling of such a shitstorm is so important.

Don’t feed the troll

It is important not to emphasize too much on a few internet trolls who would like to get the attention. If there is no big deal, you can risk to kick of a real shitstorm. Therefore, have a second look on rabble-rousing comments and if you deal with them.

Don’t panic

Situations get uncontrollably when the user act out of fear, reluctance or lack of knowledge. Therefore, keep cool and focus on the topic before you react.

Manage the crisis

To react properly in an adequate period of time, it is necessary for companies to define a clear strategy and to nominate a responsible person.

Shitstorm as a chance

If the shitstorm creates a lot of wind, try to sail with it. Use the big amount of attention and focus on targeted Guerilla Marketing. If you are communicating in an honest and smart way, clients might accept you more than before.

The most important thing for me as the responsible person in the company was, not to panic. It is important to keep a cool head, do not delete comments (it would make you vulnerable), act with your name and not anonymous and try to stay as trustworthy as possible.

Now I can understand what Sascha Lobo is talking about in his presentation (How to survive a shit storm) and how to handle the community out there. I am pretty sure, that community management and especially how to deal with a shit storm would be interesting to analyze from a psychological point of view as well.




Silvia Sprügl

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