Ask the Consultant: Twitter can be risky

  • Updated: October 13, 2013 - 1:55 PM

Question

My company, Day Translations Inc., based in Tampa, Fla., provides translation services to customers throughout the world. The company continues to expand rapidly and maintains physical offices in locations such as New York City, Dubai and London. I am wondering if it is risky to engage with competitors on Twitter because you are providing them with free promotion.

Sean Hopwood, Day Translations Inc., www.daytranslations.com

 

Answer

It depends on what you mean by “engage.” Regardless of the social media channel, if that means directly confronting and/or participating in public arguments, this represents a risk to your firm’s reputation. No matter how “right” you may feel (or may be) about your position, coming out the “winner” offers great potential to alienate everyone following the conversation.

However, if another organization (or even the media) “engages” you by posting or publishing statements for which you have alternate facts, world-renowned crisis communication consultant Jim Lukaszewski suggests an approach similar to the following.

Rather than playing he said/she said on the forum, simply link to a landing page on your own website. There you can take the single diatribe or consolidated musings of the aggressor and build a table. On the left, the statement attributed to the naysayer and on the right, the facts about your organization and its position, in simple, straightforward language. This helps defuse the argument, and at least moves it out of the public exchange.

As far as being the first to “engage,” consider that whatever you communicate directly about a competitor will likely stir the pot rather than represent a definitive statement.

Instead, make engagement in social media about the facts regarding your products, services or agenda. This keeps the conversation oriented toward the positive, or at least more neutral territory.

About the author: Mike Porter, director, Master of Business Communication Program, University of St. Thomas, Opus College of Business

 

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