Don’t feed the Trolls

I like to consider myself a strong woman. Throughout my communications career I have worked with many strong personalities and more than held my own. Yet, when it comes to social media I find myself holding back. Why is this? fear of trolls… Those anonymous voices that lurk on social media ready to tear about those they don’t agree with. I love a good argument, but trolls are different, their interest is not in having a constructive argument and tearing about a point of view but in personally attacking an individual.

I saw this when a woman I follow on Twitter dared criticize a well liked public figure on social media for an event he was attending. Suddenly the trolls came out of nowhere criticizing her twitter profile picture and resorting to name calling. She chose to ignore these off-sided remarks, most of which from accounts with less than 10 followers. Responding to these attacks only raises their profile and validates their attacks, but I am not sure if I have the teflon skin to deal with such backlash.

When you engage in social media you are to a certain extent opening up yourself to these attacks but my question is whether social media, in particular twitter is doing enough to stop trolls. Even if an account is blocked, it is easy for an individual to just create a new account and go back to launching personal attacks. Are there steps Twitter should be taking to verify an individual’s identity? What is the line when deciding whether a threat is serious enough to involve the police?

Branding Potential of Social Media

When we think of businesses using social media we tend to think of big corporations or small businesses with niche clientele but social media also allows individual stores within big chains to individually brand themselves and create their own identity. My father works for a grocery store that is part of a major chain and has over the past 2 years attempted to use social media, mainly Facebook, to build a sense of community and enhance their community outreach. Facebook is the perfect platform for the audience they are intending to reach. Women 18-65 who do the bulk of their family’s food shopping and are engaged in their community.

Initially, I feared the account would draw negative commentators giving them a platform to share their individual beefs with a wide audience. Instead, the Facebook profile comments are mostly positive and the site has given the owner a great platform to promote his community work, charity BBQ’s, pumpkin sales for the local hospital, sponsored free swims at the local pool etc. While the posts do not get a huge number of shares, users tag their friends expanding reach. Occasional online contests also help increase “likes”

Why is this important? Because like many industries, the grocery industry is very competitive and social media is a way to build customer loyalty if handled correctly. You may have recently seen the below Facebook post shared by a friend, where a father shares his family’s very positive experience at a local grocery store, with over 5000 shares that is tremendous advertising for that particular store for doing something they felt was right.
Had something happen this morning that was just too awesome to not share. Molly and I were out and shopping at Zehrs (Geneva St., St. Catharines) when without warning Molly puked HUGE in the pop isle.
The responding employee (I didn’t get his name, but I’ll call him Mr. Neck Tattoos) was caring and thoughtful about Molly’s well being. Before getting a bucket he brought her a bottle of water to drink and shopping bags for me as her clothes now all had vomit on them (seriously, shirt, pants, hat, mittens, and winter coat). I said I was going to head over to Joe Fresh for a wardrobe change as its -10 outside. Can’t really just wipe it off and hope for the best. Mr. Neck Tattoos had already thought of that and told me to find the lady that works in there, he pre warned he and she was expecting me.
So I head over, she had already picked out pants and a shirt and while I was getting Molly changed she got a winter coat and new mittens.
So this is all awesome in and of itself but when Jenn (the Joe Fresh lady) checked out my groceries she wouldn’t take money for the new clothes. She said they were “compliments of Joe Fresh. We just want your daughter to be warm and comfortable while you get her home”.
Needless to say I was blown away. So in a world of negative messages, I thought I should share this one!
(I’ve already emailed head office)
106 people like this.
5,469 shares (Accessed from Facebook Jan. 15 2016)

Turning a negative into a positive

1-reeses-christmas-candyI think one of the more difficult aspects of social media in a corporate context is knowing when and how to engage to turn negative stories into positive ones.  A recent example of this is Reese’s response to criticism regarding their chocolate covered peanut Christmas trees.  Meant as a seasonal product to capitalize on Christmas gift giving and stocking stuffer purchases, the product attracted negative attention on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram, for their “untree like shapes.”
This attention started to negatively affect the brand overall, IE are they trying too hard to capture the Christmas market with a sub par product. Rather than ignore the comments, Reese’s marketing dept addressed the criticism head on with the hash tag #alltreesarebeautiful.  They supported the hashtag with online ads featuring not only the offending trees but other products in the Reese’s holiday line.
This light hearted approach attracted media attention showcasing their product but also showing that they are a company that takes social media seriously and are willing to poke fun at themselves.  Reese’s twitter account is engaging and responds to negative criticism with humour when appropriate and sensitivity when needed.  I encourage you to check them out at @ReesesPBCups.

Does Social Media make you spend more?

An article in the November 2015 issue of Canadian Living caught my eye.  The article entitled Keeping up with the Instagrammers (available online under the title “does social media make you spend more” describes the effect social media can have your personal finances.
According to a recent study by PR firm Citizen Relations, quoted in the article, 56 percent of Canadian millennials “feel driven to live beyond their means because of social media”  Seeing pictures of friends’ vacations, new cars or other major purchases drives a sense of competition or feelings of inadequacy. What is missing from these pictures is often the cost of such things. A TO financial planner quoted throughout the article has even gone so far as to post her receipts on Instagram to show what that fabulous restaurant meal, or shopping spree actually cost.
One of the overspending triggers identified in the article are blogs,  it is not just what your friends have that you covet but also products that bloggers you follow are promoted.  I admit that I sometimes feel tempted by this.  I tend to feel a connection to the bloggers I follow and when they post about an amazing new product I cannot help but think do I need this too?
Another trigger are emails or social media posts from retailers regarding sales or promotions.  You may not NEED anything from a particular store but may be tempted by the 40% coupon which just arrived in your inbox.
In light of the holiday season I found the article very interesting and it has made me stop and think about the impact social media has on my spending habits.

Cabinet building by Twitter

The new Liberal Government’s recent cabinet shuffle is an excellent example of the opportunity social media offers political parties to bypass traditional media and convey information directly to Canadians.  The naming of a Cabinet is one of the most speculated decisions by a Prime Minister.  The Parliamentary Press Gallery loves to float their theories, every member of the governing party has their own views on who would make the best ministers and what portfolio they should have. Cabinet shuffles are also very secretive with only a small number of people knowing who will be in cabinet and those named are sworn to secrecy before they are officially announced.  Usually this announcement comes through a news release from the Prime Minister’s office as the cabinet is sworn in at Rideau Hall.
But with his July 15th 2013 shuffle, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper put a new spin on the traditional news release by announcing his new cabinet by Twitter.  As Bridget Coyne mentions in her blog, the Harper PMO’s decision to embrace social media in this way created opportunities for Ministers to engage with their followers, thank the PM and gain exposure by providing media with their twitter handles. Over the course of the day, the PM’s office used their twitter account to share short videos of Minister’s responding to their new roles and tweet facts on the cabinet such as the number of women named.
Harper was not the first world leader to live tweet an event but he was one of the first to tweet a cabinet shuffle.  David Cameron and other world leaders have since used similar strategies.  By releasing the news themselves, the Prime Minister’s office had the opportunity to control the timing of the news being shared as well as create media interest in this new approach.  Using Twitter also meant that all those interested received the information at the same time without media commentary.
The Trudeau Government’s November 4th shuffle built upon the Harper Government’s announcements by Twitter. In addition to announcing which individuals had been named to which roles, the Liberal Government tweeted a photo and interesting facts about each Minister.  These tweets intended to look like trading cards not only introduced the new Ministers to Canadians but also gave media interesting facts  about the new Minister’s backgrounds to shape their commentary on the shuffle.  These tweets were eye catching and easy to share across a variety of social media platforms.

Social Media Analysis of TripAdvisor

In preparing for an upcoming vacation, I was struck by how social media has changed the way I approach trip planning. While I still turn to hotel websites to book a room, I increasingly research hotels on sites such as TripAdvisor before making a booking. These sites create niche communities of travelers to particular destinations and provide a platform to discuss not just the hotel but also nearby attractions and local customs.  For example, how far of a walk the hotel is from the city centre, or whether there are family friendly restaurants nearby. On TripAdvisor, reviews can even be filtered into categories such as families, business travelers and couples.

From a social media perspective however, TripAdvisor presents an interesting challenge to those in the hotel business.  By letting travellers post their own photos, owners and operators lose control over how their business is portrayed online.  A good example of this is the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.   The photos posted by hotel management are very polished and professional; showing off the hotel’s best aspects and rooms: 

The photos posted by travellers are generally favourable and highlight positive aspects of the hotel such as its beautiful lobby, however  the photos also show a much more dated hotel and standard hotel rooms.


After reading the attached article: I began to notice the different ways in which individual hotels engage with negative reviewers on TripAdvisor and the impact this has on how I view their establishment.

Going back to the Chateau Laurier, management at the Chateau Laurier respond to negative reviews with a simple boilerplate response. This means that negative reviews can be responded to quickly but it also means that the interactions lack the human element  Mitch Joel talks about in the above article and fail to connect with potential guests.

The Westin in Ottawa however takes a completely different approach The hotel’s general manager responds to specific concerns raised in the reviews. This not only provides a human element to the interaction but also allows the hotel to tell a bit of their side of the story. For example, a person who complains about the AC in their room not working when in fact the hotel offered to transfer the guest to a different room but they declined.

I admit that I am more inclined to discount negative reviews when I see that hotel management has taken the concerns noted seriously and if necessary, explained what steps they are taking to correct the problem. It is a reminder that in a competitive business environment such as the hotel business a personal touch and paying attention to social media sites are very important and well worth the time and effort.