Managing Social Media

Engaging with customers online can be challenging, but the results are worth it

Clockwise from left: Chad Carmen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Trent Marsh, SpyPoint Cameras; and Jack Hennessey, Brothers & Company.
Clockwise from left: Chad Carmen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Trent Marsh, SpyPoint Cameras; and Jack Hennessey, Brothers & Company.Shot Business

On a recent TV series for songwriters called Songland, Black Eyed Peas frontman said he was looking for his next hit, and would record the winner’s song. The winner was Adam Friedman, with the song “Be Nice.” The chorus goes like this:

Hey, be different,

Be nice,

Just smile, I promise it’ll change your life.

Be nice. In the outdoor industry’s social media world, being “nice” can be difficult with the barrage of false media claims, keyboard warriors, and irate customers. But it can be done and, frankly, it should be done.

If opening up your company’s social media feeds gives you anxiety, then a change is needed. Let’s visit with a few social media marketers to see how they ensure their organizations’ feeds are a kinder, more positive place for their fans and followers.

Share the Love

The quote “you get what you give” couldn’t be more appropriate when handling social media for a large organization. Take Kryptek clothing (Booth #13912). It built an entire company on brotherhood and friendly competition.

“In order to keep and foster a friendly and nice social media environment, we make sure to show our fans love,” says Sydney Butler, Kryptek’s communications manager. “We share photos from Kryptek’s messaging boards, letting our fans know that we see them. We congratulate them, and we celebrate their endeavors. It takes little to no time at all, and we have seen excellent feedback.”

Be Authentic

Part of being true to who you are is being authentic. Trent Marsh, social media manager for SpyPoint Cameras (Booth #2625), says people don’t want to feel like they are talking to a brand or an account. They want to talk to a person. “Since social media exists primarily to have communications, the mindset of how you approach it can ensure that you are starting from the right spot,” he says.

Entering your company’s social media pages with a positive attitude will help. And offering the benefit of the doubt to fans and followers will go far. One group who sees a bit of everything with their clients is Brothers & Company, an advertising and public relations firm that works with Under Armour Outdoor (Booth #11040), Remington Outdoor Company (Booth #14229), and Hodgdon Powder Company (Booth #16738). Jack Hennessey, of Brothers & Company’s social public relations department, says he treats each case as an isolated incident. “I don’t assume because a person makes a negative comment that they are, at heart, a negative person. I give the commenter the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he or she is having a bad day. Perhaps they had too much afternoon caffeine. We’ve all been there.”

What About Those Negative Comments?

If you are a retailer, you should respond to the good— and the bad. The complicating factor in social media, though, is that’s it’s a public forum. Most retailers interviewed said they respond publicly, but then ask the customer to share more with them in direct messages to take it offline.

Butler says the code of conduct is simple for Kryptek. “We respond to all comments because we want to say, ‘We see you, we hear you, we’re sorry, and how can we fix it?’ Taking the time to make each customer feel heard, even those who have publicized their negativity, increases the likelihood that others will see your response and that you took the time to fix the problem. It just may encourage the original poster to delete the negative comment or edit it to say something nice.”

For Leupold & Stevens (Booth #13023), social media is just another aspect of the company’s core values. “Leupold is a fifth-generation, family-owned company. This hasn’t happened by chance,” says Scott Rousseau, Leupold’s digital media manager. “One of the core values we live by is that every customer is entitled to a ‘square deal.’ That means our customer is always entitled to quality, value, and, most of all, respect. While we respect everyone’s opinions, if a negative comment does warrant a response, we do our best to educate and provide value in return.”

Scott Rousseau
Scott Rousseau, Leupold’s digital content specialist, says he tries to turn negative comments into teachable moments that emphasize the company’s core values.Shot Business

Sometimes your social media followers will go to bat for you. Jon Bash, who also handles social media accounts for Brothers & Company, says, “What we’ve found is that if you respectfully engage with negative sentiment and ignore the trolls, the brand’s loyal followers will usually engage with the trolls and defend the brand on our behalf without the brand ever needing to enter into communications.”

Offering Grace

It is also often said that we don’t know what others are going through. That is especially true online. Marsh says if he feels frustration building, he just has to remember everyone is seeking a satisfactory resolution. “I’ve been there. What would I want to hear or see to feel I have a resolution? If I can get in that line of thinking, I can usually work through it.”

Along with offering grace is remembering the written word can easily be taken out of context. Have you ever read an email from a colleague where you thought they were saying something disrespectful when, in fact, that wasn’t the case at all?

Chad Carmen, who handles social media for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (Booth #11755), offers this advice: “Aside from the fact that many people get ‘keyboard courage,’ most simply don’t mean to be aggressive online. All it takes is one or two misunderstood comments to fuel a rage match. The best tactic you can use is to stick with facts and do not continue to engage users you know have their mind already made up. You simply don’t have to respond to everything.”

Social Media Management For When The Going Gets Tough

If you handle social media, you must have a thick skin. Remember, the larger the brand, the bigger the target. The brands we interviewed shared the following advice:

“If you spend enough time on social media, it will wear on you. As great as modern technology is, the most important feature of any of these is the ‘off’ button. Get away, so that when you need to be on, you can engage in as positive a way as possible.” —Trent Marsh, SpyPoint Cameras

“When we have industry-wide circumstances that blow up, it can result in hundreds of negative comments pouring in within less than 24 hours. We step back, relax, and realize that not every person needs to be responded to. If you don’t have people ‘hating’ what you are doing, then you probably aren’t doing anything substantial.” —Chad Carmen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

“It helps to sometimes take a break from responding to comments. I have compared social media comment sections to The Upside-Down world from Stranger Things. Stay too long and you don’t come out the same. Not everyone is going to like what you do as a brand. You can’t take it personally, and you can’t please everyone, but you can always be kind, and kindness is contagious.” —Jack Hennessey, Brothers & Company

“This is just the world we operate in—and we signed up for it. To say you need to have thick skin is an understatement. Working with the brands we are privileged to service is a huge reward and one that greatly outweighs the days we’re running the gauntlet that is social community management. You definitely have to learn to unplug, though.” —Reagan Renfroe, Brothers & Company

“Put some thought into a social media policy. This can be written down or just a general set of known guidelines for those who run your social media accounts, governing exactly how comments and feedback should be handled. Having a clear idea of what to do and how to respond to comments so that everyone in your company is on the same page will ensure consistency in your social media practices.” —Sydney Butler, Kryptek