Yellowstone National Park - Big Geyser BasinMarketers like control. I’m currently in leadership training and took this test to determine thinking style. Turns out I’m an intuitor / thinker – which didn’t surprise me as I tend to have a lot of curiosity and penchant for learning new things. Apparently many  marketing executives (according to their profiling) are sensors – very competitive, strong need for control. But that doesn’t always work so well anymore (although there are certainly parts of me that really like to be in control).

I also just finished reading Tara Hunt’s The Whuffie Factor which is all about building social capital. The biggest takeaway is how we really need to embrace the chaos – the antithesis of control. We can write detailed marketing plans for each year, set goals and measure our progress – and don’t get me wrong, planning and goal setting is important, but to succeed, we must be nimble and willing to change those plans. Quickly.

We need to adapt to changing markets, unforeseen events. People are not predictable. We DON’T know exactly how the year is going to shape up. Which clients we’ll get, which we’ll lose. No matter how detailed our spreadsheets.And moving into social media, control becomes even more futile. You have to let go. Hold tight and you’ll fail. What you need to do is plan. Plan for handling the positive and negative. and just go with it. See what works. And what doesn’t. But don’t get too comfortable because what works today may not work three months from now.

So how do you manage the good with the bad online? It depends on your specific situation, but here’s how I’d recommend you start:

  1. Talk in advance how you’ll handle negative comments. Don’t think you’re never going to get them. It’s not all happy out there. Know who in your company needs to be kept informed and who’s the point in responding in a timely manner. Remember that the web is open 24/7/365. Just because you’re not working on the weekend doesn’t mean someone’s not talking about you.
  2. Respond quickly, publicly and decisively. Acknowledge the negative commenter and evaluate whether they have a legitimate gripe or they’re just looking to stir up the pot to grab the spotlight. Let them know they’re being heard and what you’ll do about it even if it’s nothing. Give the reason why – perhaps you can’t but appreciate the feedback. Be as specific as you can about your reasons. Whatever you do, don’t spin.
  3. Always take the high road. Never let someone drag you down into the muck. Your audience is watching you – and even if the negative individual doesn’t like what you have to say, others will see that your intentions are sincere. And that’s what matters. Do make sure you’re sincere and authentic. Don’t fake it. We can smell fakery and won’t be kind about it.
  4. If in fact your commenter just wants that attention and persists, ignore them. Don’t give them the air time. Focus on the positive and spend your time engaging with those more constructive. Eventually they’ll likely realize they’re not getting any attention and go elsewhere.
  5. When you do have a real problem and are working to fix it – follow up and let everyone – not just the individual(s) affected know what you did. Again, you’re being watched. Whatever you do, don’t shut down the conversation, close the thread or delete it. People will simply take it elsewhere – and there are always “elsewheres”.

Control is an illusion. For those with kids, when did you really ever have control? So keep planning. Keep setting goals. And keep measuring. But be human. And to be human is to give up control. Marketing is messy. Communication is messy. It involves emotions. And feelings. And egos. The online world is relatively immature and we’re all still figuring it out. We are however, all naked online. You can’t hide behind a firewall and that’s why you need to embrace the chaos.

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