If you’re online for any length of time, you’re bound to get flamed. And in any group of people who are thinking about getting their small business or tourism destination online, there are always several who are seriously worried about being attacked online.
I think this is a natural extension of our small town concerns. We have CAVE People (what Jack Schultz calls the Citizens Against Virtually Everything), we have coffee shops full of people quick to criticize and slow to help, and we have a gossip about every 20 feet. And our experiences with unmoderated online forums, like anonymous comments on newspaper sites, are not positive. So it’s natural for people to worry.
Here are five strategies to help you survive the inevitable flames and even respond appropriately to online attacks.
- Always thank them for engaging. You’re from a small town. Don’t forget to be polite, even to those who may be rude to you.
- Acknowledge the truths. Many online rants are tied to at least a seed of truth. Make sure you are honest about those points.
- Fix what you can. Nothing sucks the life out of a firestorm faster than solving the problem.
- Use your coffee shop skills. When you walk in to your hometown coffee shop, you know that different situations and different people call for different approaches. Sometimes you have to sit down and join them in conversation. Sometimes you have to laugh.
- Know when to move on. This is another coffee shop skill. Sometimes, the best thing to do is not engage them at all, or to end a conversation. Don’t be afraid to do the same online.
Perhaps the best advice I can give you to avoid or survive the flames is to over communicate. Make sure you are getting important messages out to the right people through as many channels as possible. Remember, you may have to repeat your message seven times before people will take it in.
What advice do you have for surviving online controversy?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.