Social Media Engagement Dos and Don’ts

10 Tips to build your community and deal with trolls

An important issue asked about in a session I attended at ACFC14 was exactly how to talk to folks who are against agriculture, but the answer that was received was more about how to use the platform itself. There are a few things everyone needs to understand about online interactions, and hopefully this will help agvocates say what they want to say effectively.

The importance of knowing how to interact became even more exacerbated by the occurrences of the #farm365 hashtag, giving agvocates and farmers a chance to engage directly. The interactions I experienced and witnessed there helped this post to develop into what it is now. 10 Tips to guide engagement, especially with trolls and in community building.

I had the privilege of making these tips a presentation at ACFC15 with TruffleMediaJohnBlue and we have provided the presentation on Slideshare and on Katch via Meerkat as it was streamed live during the conference. The original text of the tips is below the embedded media.


The Katch via Meerkat Live Stream

1. DO: Make connections

Say hello outside of people you know. It is 100% acceptable, encouraged, and awesome to talk to people that you don’t know! That’s what the internet is for. Always be nice. Always.

2. DO: Ask Questions

Show that you are interested in what someone has to say, and that you are trying to understand their perspective. Ask questions if you don’t understand something they are saying. Delve deeper to gain insight on this perspective, even if you know it is wrong or you don’t agree.

3. DON’T: Be a “hater”

no matter whose side you’re on (and why are there sides anyway). Resorting to name calling is never the answer. Be prepared to be challenged in one way or another. If you are doing something that matters you will likely get attacked for it.

4. DO: Use your brain

This might seem like common sense, but when an activist or a concerned consumer asks an accusatory question, it’s better to have an actual answer that makes sense and that they will be able to understand than just telling them they’re being rude and are wrong. You may just reap the rewards in the form of a new friend.

5. DON’T: Spam Hashtags

Take the hashtag out of personal or one-on-one conversations. Doing so only draws other people in and can derail the conversation you were trying to have. It’s much easier to keep a one on one conversation going than an all-out brawl of words trying to talk to multiple people at the same time, and chances are folks viewing the hashtag’s feed don’t need to see a side conversation.

6. DO: Share like a human

You’re not just a farmer/rancher/whatever you champion. Find moments to share that let everyone know you are real and relatable. They don’t have to be personal, but something as simple as what your morning cup of coffee looks like can evoke a connection and help build your social network and human credibility.

7. DON’T: Tag Team

Don’t answer people who jump onto a one on one conversation, especially after it is over. No matter how hard it might be. There is no need for tag teaming. If it’s a friend or fellow agvocate, you can simply tell them the conversation is over and thank them for the support.

8. DON’T: Feed a troll

Engage them but once they start being a troll, stop responding and they will go away. Don’t respond to something that’s not a question. You can let them have the last word. Just state that this is what you are doing and then do it.

9. DO: Answer All Questions

Respond to all or as many questions as you can. Act as if there are no stupid questions and even those framed accusingly deserve to be answered nicely. You don’t know who the other person is and if that’s the only way they know how to ask the question, you wouldn’t want to turn them away from trusting you as a source. Understand that there are words non-farm folks don’t know and spare no expense (be it time or characters on twitter) to help them understand. They will respect you for it.

10. DO: Say Thank You

Thank people for their contributions to your social media. Interacting on a personal level, one on one, in a one-to-many situation (as social media is designed to be), will build individual relationships that eventually lead to a large and loyal audience.

A screenshot from my live stream of this conference presentation.