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What To Do When You're Bashed Online (Part 1 of 2)

 

 

 
A quick look at the Facebook pages of major insurers illustrates the yin/yang of social media. While many boast thousands or even millions of likes, most also contain negative-even vitriolic-content. And, while the big guys may weather this with minimal impact, what does it mean for smaller companies and independent agents? Does an online presence represent more risk than reward?

Be Alert-and Responsive
While it can be human nature to want to overlook or run from negative comments in a public forum, a quick response is the best response, says Joel J. Ohman, CFP. Ohman is a licensed insurance agent, the owner of an insurance agency in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and the founder of InsuranceProviders.com​. "Time is of the essence when it comes to repairing damage done to your name or brand online," he says. It's important to stay on top of what is being said online.

Dan Fowler agrees. Fowler is an instructor for social media strategies for the University of California-Irvine, Webster University and Concordia University and assists clients with how to respond appropriately online. "You must monitor this yourself or hire someone to monitor it for you," he says.

This can be done through the use of tools like Google Alerts, a no-cost tool that allows users to enter various search terms and receive real-time email alerts to track any mentions of them, their organization or their staff members. Tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck provide a means of monitoring and managing social networks in one place to track mentions and references that may be both positive and negative. Other sites, like Radian6 provide higher cost options that may appeal to larger organizations.

Amy Littleton, senior vice president at Chicago-based PR agency KemperLesnik, advises clients in the insurance industry on social media and reputation.

"The immediacy of social media means that the conversation is going to continue, and that negative comment or negative stream is going to get pushed further and further along," she says, unless it's nipped in the bud immediately and managed effectively.

Not all comments deserve, or even require, a response, says Littleton. "Sometimes you'll see something negative and your immediate reaction will be 'oh, I need to say something,' but that person may only have a few followers, so it's not worth your time to communicate." But if you do, be aware of the forum you choose. "More often than not," she says, "it's not a good idea to engage in a debate through social media."

Next week... read how to respond to online bashing in a professional way.

Lin Grensing-Pophal has written on topics ranging from health and wellness, to careers and HR-related topics, to marketing and social media. Her most recent book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Strategic Planning" (Penguin), was released in spring 2011. Lin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.