Resisting Temptations: 10 Lessons learned

We all have different considerations that lead us to choose whatever business we are in. Whether it is for financial benefit, a passion or a deeply rooted sense of mission, the hard work we invest makes us venerable to criticism and makes us at times, and yes, emotional.

I admit, I have made quite a few mistakes by allowing those who I like to call taunters (after the ‘French Tounter’ in Monty Python’s Holy Grail) get to me while trying to engage on Facebook, Twitter and sometimes even on Quora.

Having the urge and the ability to respond directly has taught me a few valuable lessons which I am happy to share with you:

  1. Count to 10. A lot has changed since childhood but that tip is still very relevant, even with the need for quick responses.
  2. Anything you say can and will be retweeted against you.
  3. Just because they “like” you, doesn’t mean they’ll always like you.
  4. A back and forth conversation on our timeline can be left for those who really like you and would gladly comment for you.
  5. Your own personal sense of humor or irony can alienate fans who identify with the message but not with its delivery.
  6. The account you manage is not your own. The way you navigate the conversation is part of your brand strategy and reflects on it, not your personal feelings.
  7. Your taunter is not targeting you personally, but they will be happy to use your emotional outbreak just for fun. They are either bored out of their  mind or there with a deliberate intention to criticize your brand/organization/country with no real wish for a dialogue.
  8. Welcome your critics. The human need to be noticed is a large part of how and why social media has grown to these dimensions. Censorship repels even the loyal fans and lessens the engagement.
  9. You can’t always predict or control where that comment/tweet or post will end up.
  10. If your fans are ganging up on a taunter, calm the discussion down, even if you agree with them. But seriously, don’t  give a person or a comment more attention than they deserve. That will only make them want to keep doing it.

At the end of the day, when managing public diplomacy, and particularly digital diplomacy,

monty python french taunter

“Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time”

there are always 3 groups you typically interact with:

  1. The “Persuaded” – Your supporters who will like, share and comment positively if the agree or won’t comment if  they don’t, just to save face (your face).
  2. The “On the Fence” – Those who either have no opinion or are trying to establish one. Put them at the top of your priority list and tip them over to your side.
  3. The “No Matter What You Say, You Suck” – those will always be around, and you will never persuade them, especially if you insist on letting them drag you into confrontation. So just keep your level of engagement at minimum and let their arguments against you gain you the sympathy of the “on the fence” crowd, the solidarity of the “persuaded” crowd and let it work to your advantage.

Always remember that being wise is much more important than being right. Let others do your lobbying, beyond the time it consumes of you and the potential slips of the type, it is in your best interest to mobilize others on your behalf. Especially if you represent a government, because the mere fact that you are the government puts a damper on your credibility.

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Preaching to the Choir

The Russian embassy in London tweeted me an article they posted. A few things caught my eye and I will be writing about them in posts to come, but one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that according to the article, the Russian (600) Embassy’s following is the 3rd largest in the UK after the USA (21,000) and Israel (7,200). I find that interesting, especially due to the size of the countries, Diasporas, trade ties and of course relations and interests.

But how accurate is that? Do we measure only pages that state that their belong to the embassy or consulate? What about pages created for niche markets, festivals or other events?

With this thought in mind, I took a brief look at many of its affiliated pages and I realized that while it is remarkably active in social media, Israel doesn’t fulfill its potential, and stays preaching to its own choir.

After successfully establishing Facebook pages for the embassies and consulates around the world, the Israel foreign ministry and staff, as well as affiliated advocacy groups have turned to setting up unique pages focusing on specific aspects they want to amplify in an attempt to reach out to a broader audience through what would be their own fields of interests such as art, fashion, technology etc. The pages are filled with colorful images, messaging and useful information.

After the initial fan drive effect wears off, their fan base remains pretty much stagnant and they find it very hard to expand. Why? I believe it is rooted first and foremost in their very first step: naming the page. The names they choose are almost always directly indicative of Israel – either including the word Israel or a Hebrew word in English lettering.

The content too, is restricted to Israel, and thought there might be abundance and variety of content the country has to offer, it is very limited and consequentially limiting. The direct affiliation with the country, as well as the lack of local content, deters, to my belief, many potential fans.

I bet that if we take 5 of those pages, averaging in 1,500 fans, and cross them, we will find a 70% overlap in both fans and content, leaving only a few of the fans following purely out of niche interest.

Excluding a few, only people who are actually looking for information about Israel will end up finding and possibly liking those pages and will be exposed to the information the country is trying to share with the world in order to broaden the conversation about it and improve its overall image. That leaves the true target audience – the unaware, the unconvinced unengaged.

Understanding this very basic point can easily give them more for their money, which is invested less in Facebook ads and more in the people who are paid to maintain the pages. By the way, those people have many other responsibilities and are not fully minded and geared towards this task. Most of the time, it is a task they picked up on the way, and they don’t all have marketing or PR backgrounds. In many cases, the job is left to interns who do their thing and leave after 3 months; therefore the very important strategic element, tone and continuity are left behind.

This is of course not restricted to Facebook.

I think that breaking out of the paradigm of Facebook + Twitter = social media is imperative. But I’ll get to that in later posts on this blog. But as I said, first things first. If you have an image problem, why the hell would you name a page that is supposed to attract those who wouldn’t normally flock to you, after yourself?