Don’t Be Afraid To Go Silent on Social Media

By Andi Barton

Contrary to popular belief, there are in fact times when you can–and should–pause your community management. The daily expectations from your fans set high standards in terms of response management and customer service. However, there are times when it is better to remain silent, times when controversy is present or events are unfolding offline that are beyond your control. While your engagement may decline if you take a pause, it’s nothing compared to the negative response you could elicit if you continue to speak up on social during sensitive times.

Here are 3 situations during which you should reflect on your need for community management involvement:

1. A Time of Crisis:  Strategy is on thin ice during a crisis. Although you might want to show your support, sometimes expressing condolences is not a positive move. From the perspective of those directly affected by the crisis, often it can come across as contrived and opportunistic. While it is a strong gesture to offer support via social media, be extremely cautious in your timing and specific wording. Aside from expressing condolences, avoid all content that can be misconstrued in a time of crisis–or a safer approach would be to avoid posting all together.

2. In The Face of Controversy:  As a brand, from a PR standpoint it is highly important to own up to your mistakes and provide a human element through an apology or statement. However, there are times when the correct strategy is to remain silent in order to avoid snowballing a negative conversation. For example, if there is a particular product you offer that you stand behind, but many in your community disagree entirely with your stance, it may be best to avoid engaging in the banter. When handling a community situation where your fans are riled up, sometimes when you say something (no matter the wording), it can escalate the conversation far worse than if you had remained in the background.

3. When Your Community Can Manage Itself:  Fans are coming to your Facebook page in order for their voice to be heard. If they disagree with your content, disagree with your brand, or just in general are starting a debate in your community, you will often find fans that support you (regardless of whether or not you get involved). Your Facebook communities are  filled with fans that are passionate brand loyalists. When they see that you as a brand are being questioned or attacked, they will jump into the conversation in your defense. Give it time and observe the conversation before you jump in (if you choose to at all), and you may be surprised to see the controversy fixed on its own.

Your social media communities are acting as public forums, where you can control the conversation only to an extent. There will always be potential for negativity. The main point to remember is that it is not always the right solution to constantly speak up. Many situations call for a silence, and it is wise to consider pausing community management whenever the situation calls for it. If there is a lack of engagement on a page for a day during a difficult time, your community will understand. The potential slight decline in engagement far outweighs the potential for a negative situation escalating needlessly.

When do you think it’s appropriate for brands to stay silent on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

[...] Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You don’t have to tweet constantly. If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything. According to Twitter Counter, Anna averages three tweets per day. Over the last three months, the most she’s tweeted on any given day is five times. On average, she gains more than 2,900 fans per day. Sometimes followers aren’t following you (or the brand you manage) to know your every move, but instead to learn key insights you choose to share. At time, silence can be golden. [...]
Amine Mabrouk May 12, 2013
good article, and well informative, well I think in addition it is better to stay silent when you don't have anything to say to your audience, sometime we fall in the mistake of saying anything which is of no importance to the audience nor represent any news for them just for the sake of saying, we are here, we are still alive,
[...] Don’t Be Afraid To Go Silent on Social Media | Likeable Media - A Social Media and Word of Mouth Marketing Firm - http://t.co/W6qJpWT2kM  [...]
Norah Shannon Medlin April 25, 2013
This is wise advise! I see brands fall silent often on many subjects. Most corporations so not speak out about controversial politics, for instance. Unless it is major platform for their brand. Those that still wish to support a project or party with instead donate time and resources without public comment to the cause.

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