Community Management: A Lesson In How Not To Respond To Social Dissenters

Experience Life magazine recently featured The Food Babe, a food blogger and activist, on its latest cover. As with all things in our interconnected world, Experience Life, which touts itself as “the no gimmicks, no hype health and fitness magazine,” began immediately hearing from its subscribers on social media — specifically those who were unhappy with the magazine’s cover model choice.

Positive: Experience Life responded to its Facebook page fans.

Negative: Experience Life responded with this status update on September 22:

social crisis

Update: As of 2:45 pm on September 25, this post has 133 shares, 223 likes, 955 comments and countless comment likes and replies.

To put it lightly, Experience Life has created a social crisis for itself. Since the post went live on September 22, the Experience Life Facebook page has continued to share magazine content but has yet to directly address any of its dissenters, which has only further propelled the crisis. Looking at the latest posts, most of the comments and feedback are still directly related to the lack of response that the magazine has provided — with, for example, September 23rd’s sole post racking up 47 total comments.

Let this be a lesson to all community managers out there — if your audience doesn’t like something you have done, do not respond like this. Play nice. Assume that your fans come from varying opinions and backgrounds; don’t respond in a manner that may incite more vitriol and enflame an issue even further. An already tense situation has now blown up and will definitely cost Experience Lifesubscribers.

Beyond Facebook or the initial social response, a dare-we-say condescending message will bleed into other online channels, including Amazon.com reviews. Of its 34 reviews, 12 have been populated in the last 48 hours with one-star ratings and comments ranging from “Bad PR” to “No ethics nor credibility.” It’s clear that when Experience Life and its social or communications team posted the initial response to negative Food Babe comments, little thought went beyond the short-term.

Looking toward its other channels, it is clear: The magazine has created a long-term credibility issue with its audience. And it has done so in a world where online commentary lives on in infamy…

What to do when your audience disagrees with you

What Experience Life should have done instead was post that it understands that opinions vary and thatExperience Life explores all aspects of the food industry. And then quickly book an interview with someone who can provide an opposing viewpoint to give equal space for an obviously important topic toExperience Life readers. Journalism is all about unbiased, well-researched articles, and this includes interviews.

How do you handle hot topics with varied viewpoints in your social communities? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

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