Today, social media and harassment are rampant. Social media has become a daily habit for people.

Cyber-bullying and online harassment aren’t just the domain of school kids and ex-girlfriend. It can happen right at your company, too.

Social media is an integral part of the social media marketing mix for many B2B and B2C companies today. However many businesses owners, CEO’s, and HR departments still hesitate because of concerns about what might go wrong.

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What Counts as Online Harassment?

Americans agree that certain behaviors make up online harassment, but they are more divided on others. Have you seen comments about political candidates? WOW!

As far as marketing goes, social media networking sites have proven to be an unparalleled advantage for businesses. There are two sides to every story. While social media might allow more personal interactions with consumers, it also puts you in the crosshairs of online trolls.

Now, while the average person may get into an online war with these annoying individuals, companies canít. You have your brand to think about. Before you get frustrated, though, know that there are still plenty of other options available to you.

Below, you will find useful tips for dealing with online harassment including how to go about things professionally. Here is what you need to know.

The stats for online harassment

Share of adult internet users in the United States who have experienced online harassment. Did you know 41% of U.S. adults have been harassed online? Over 1 Million Have Been†Harassed Online.

Discern Between an Upset Customer and a Harasser

Prior to taking action, first make sure you are dealing with a harasser. As mentioned, social media is one of the few places that a customer can reach and in full view of other people. Therefore, it isnít uncommon to find people airing out their complaints here.

41% of U.S. adults have been harassed online. Click To Tweet

Now, if a client is making a genuine complaint on your social media platform, then you need to handle very differently. Therefore the first thing you need to do is to be certain just who it is you are contending with.

A true harasser will have the following characteristics:

  • Personal attacks against the company
  • Inflammatory language or comments
  • Use exaggerated language

So, before you respond to anything, make sure that these markers are present. Also, check it is the same person Ė or account Ė that is lobbying the attacks against your brand. If you can verify these things, then you can consider taking action.

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Create a Social Media Policy

It will be helpful to all if you have a social media policy from the beginning. Put up a post outlining these rules or place them in the description. Now such rules of conduct will not scare away the trolls. So, what is the point of this?

Well, it keeps everyone on alert that the comment section is, in fact, being moderated. Also, it gives you some leeway in deleting or blocking comments that donít follow the companyís rules of conduct. Therefore, when they are removed, they are less likely to cause a stir.

A social media policy is only effective if you have someone minding and moderating the comment section. So, this is something you should look into. Consistency is key Ė make sure that all the comments and commenters are treated the same. All bad behavior must be ďpunishedĒ in the same way.

Make Direct Contact with the Harassers

If you find one person leaving negative comments, you should message them directly, away from othersí eyes. This will give these harassers an opportunity to vent and get their mean intentions out of their system. If you are lucky, then your correspondence may surprise them and they may leave your account alone, voluntarily.

If this is something you do, make sure to not indulge these harassers. This means you should reply to them twice at most. If you arenít making any headway with them, it is best to stop corresponding with them.

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Take the High Road

Remember, social media harassers are good at getting under your skin and provoking a response. This will not cast you or your company in a favorable light. Rather, it can show people that what these harassers were saying about your business is true.

In many cases, it is a matter of taking a step back and ignoring the people that are spewing hate and nonsense. Most of these people will just tire of launching an unreturned attack and will move on. If this should happen, the problem will go away on its own. But, do you want to leave this to chance?

Counteract Attacks with Evidence

Most of what social media harassers will say is untrue. Despite this, some of these ďclaimsĒ may be too juicy for people to ignore. Because of this, it isnít uncommon for rumors to spread like wildfire. This isnít something you should do as it can damage your brandís reputation.

Here, it is best to respond to the comment directly, with the proper evidence to back you up. Now, when replying to these falsehoods, remember to do so in a calm and respectful manner. Donít belittle or be harsh with these individuals. Such a tactic will only rebound back on you.

Instead, point out they have made a mistake and back this up with statistics, reports, or any other evidence you may have on hand. This is sure to take some of the wind out of their sails. Not to mention, it will also force the rest of your followers to see the truth about the situation.

When to Ban a Social Media Harasser

Most companies donít like to ban people from their profile and this is understandable. However, if an active user is creating an intimidating hostile environment you have to do something about it. Banning a user can seem like a rather dictatorial thing to do and no one wants to be seen in that light. Still, there may be some instances when this is the only action to take.

For instance, it becomes unacceptable if the harasser abuses or harassing other followers. Also, if the comments are hateful and fall under the categories of racism, sexism, or similar offenses.

When banning an individual, though, you will need to do so on all of your social media profiles. Also, it is important to check that the same person will not crop up again. Take screenshots of their comments before banning them so you have proof to back up your actions.

There are several ways to deal with harassment on social media. The above steps should help you handle such a situation with a level of professionalism and calm befitting your brand.

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Crossing the Line: social media harassment and business

What Counts as Online Harassment?

Social media sites are stabilizing but the harassment is not. Business managers need to get their employees active in social media, monitoring for discussion opportunities, sharing resources, and engaging audiences. Thatís how you amplify your message and brand.

It depends on your business situation, including your internal resources and willingness to take part, your responsibility maybe as a social media advisor or managing the accounts.

Americans agree that certain behaviors make up online harassment, but they are more divided on others. What do you think? Have you been harassed online or your brand?

Weíre listening.

Have something to say about social media harassment on social networking sites and business? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn.

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