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When Social Media Goes Wrong

February 27
Sometimes Social Media bites.

Sometimes Social Media bites.

OK, so JPMorgan decides to do a Q&A on Twitter. The problem with that? is that there is some anger out there towards this company. Hostility. And sure enough, they found this out the hard way.

The public was invited to post questions for a company executive to answer. You can see some of the responses. My favorite is “How do you get blood from a clown suit?” and “What’s it like not having a soul?”

Ok, so whether or not you agree with the people who posted responses, this is an important example to look at of how using social media can backfire.  And to be honest, it’s the biggest reason I think a lot of small to medium sized businesses are afraid to enter the arena.

When someone heckles you online with social media, how do you handle it? As an individual you can block and report the person. As a company, you can’t really do that. So how can you avoid nightmares like this one?

 Use the Right Platform

This campaign by JP Morgan was not very well-conceived. It should have been planned for a different venue, with a limited roundtable panel discussion perhaps that then could be uploaded to YouTube or sent out via email. Twitter-ers are motivated to get retweets and funny smart-aleck comments will most certainly get retweeted. If you’re a political candidate these days you’ve no doubt been the butt of many acid comments. It’s completely open and transparent and therefore, not exactly the best place to do a professional Q&A. LinkedIn or Google+ would be far more appropriate. The very best place to do such an event would be on a blog, where comments and responses can be moderated.

Have a Plan to Handle Hecklers

Not everyone is going to inspire the wrath of the public like a political candidate will, but should you run into a heckler online, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to handle it. Address issues directly with the person(s) in private and try to resolve them. Make transparent what you are doing. If you’re wrong, say so. There are plenty of jerks out there in cyberspace and you won’t win them over. Hopefully you don’t want to. Great companies handle their failures well, by being honest and apologizing. Doing all they can to make amends. Just like a person. And just like a person, when falsely accused, they present facts to refute them and don’t allow themselves to be shouted down. They recognize when someone has a genuine problem with them and when someone is just trying to be hateful. There is a difference. They make changes.

In the context of JP Morgan, it would have been enough to state that the Q&A was canceled. The rest of the tweet gives their critics fodder and empowers them. “Bad Idea, back to the drawing board” should never have been part of the tweet. How would I have handled that nightmare? I would have had a leaderboard made for best tweets and sent it to Dave Letterman. I would have encouraged JPMorgan to be human, joined in and awarded points on best zinger. I would have laughed with them on the more gently sarcastic of the tweets while ignoring the vitriol. And I also would have made sure a sincere letter to the public, addressing any major issues  got posted asap. I would have found serious questions and answered them as openly and honestly as possible.

When I first started blogging, I got an ebook from Hubspot that stated that Design didn’t matter so much. They were talking about blogs and to be fair, they were right in saying that people tend to focus more on design when they should be focused on content. But I thought they took it too far and I wrote a blog stating that. I told why.
A VP of Hubspot and several of their employees responded almost immediately. We had a good discussion and, where I was previously somewhat turned off by them, by the time it was over I was left with a good feeling.

I also learned a lesson about the power of my own little voice.

Now I was a little independent blogger, not a huge voice, but This company took the time to listen and respond. They didn’t dismiss what I had to say. I still recommend their services and writing to people to this day. They totally turned the experience into a win. You can turn criticism into a win too. It doesn’t have to be a loss. Someone who is talking about you is thinking about you. Isn’t that why you spend the big bucks on advertising?

Learn from your Mistakes

Make changes where needed. Our company, Red Toad Media, made some missteps this year (like every year but this year was particularly teachable!) and we’re working toward making changes so those errors aren’t EVER repeated. Working toward making amends. Learning the hard way is really painful but the lessons are those those you do not forget. If you avoid social media because of fear of what might be said, it might be time to look at what changes you need to make in your business. By making changes before you go into the public eye, you have answers for those who are there to criticize. You’re ready.

If you are going to venture into a public arena to get feedback, make sure you’re ready for angry lions. Some of those lions have legitimate problems with you and you need to listen to what they have to say and adjust. Some of them are just peoople who are jumping on a bandwagon and really don’t care. They have fun being witty at others expense. Some of them are hateful and damaging not because of a legitimate reason but because they deal with life’s frustrations by venting from the safety of their couch, in anonymity. Such trolls can be dismissed.

Don’t be Afraid to Get out There

It’s important that whatever you do with the feedback you receive out there on the world wide web, you listen, use it and respond. The world is changing and authenticity is the hallmark of good branding these days. Don’t let the risks involved in negative responses keep you from venturing forth. Who knows, you might hear something you really need to hear and it could spark changes in your business that are needed in order to survive.

Choose your venue with care, choose your distribution method with care, listen to your detractors, be authentic and change when it’s warranted. Social Media going wrong doesn’t have to be a disaster. It can be a catalyst for improvement and an opportunity to make positive changes where arguably there is already a problem. You won’t know till you try it. And ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

What do you think? How do you think you should handle social media hecklers and deal with open criticism online?




Responsive Design: Why you should know what it is even if you are not a web monkey

May 31

Chances are if you are a business owner, you have a web site.

Unless you hang out with a geek like me, you have never heard of Responsive Design. Why does it matter? What is it?

Responsive design is what happens when a website meets a huge big screen monitor, and a little laptop monitor and a Kindle screen and an iPad screen and an Android phone. The design addresses all of those. It looks good and works on all of those.

Really? how does that work?

In the example below, we have different designs for different devices. This particular example is one where we built different layouts for mobile both portrait and landscape, as well as an ipad version, and they are all loaded at the same time.

Responsive Web Design Example

RWD we did for


The way it works is that a design is done for mobile first (hopefully) and then built to add content and scale up as the screen changes. That way, mobile elements only load what is necessary and each interface is optimal for each device. The code on the page determines what size either the screen or device is, and serves up the right layout to accommodate it. It’s really cool.

There is debate among geeks as to whether building a separate mobile site is better than building a site that has multiple designs at once like this. If you know geeks and have an opinion, you can argue with them about it. Me, I fall on the side of mobile-first responsive design. Nuff said.

If you have a well built site, this type of approach is an easy add-on. If you haven’t updated your site since 2005, you might want to think about doing so… and make sure to use responsive design. It’s going to become more and more important.

Online Marketing in the B2B Space

April 26

Marketing works like this.

Had a meeting this week with a business owner who wanted to know if we understood marketing in his field. His field is different than ours. Suspicion is understandable.

Here’s the thing though? Some ideas are applicable to every industry. Basic principles about marketing are global. Marketing is really about getting yourself into the position to be at the right place, at the right time.

What we believe about marketing in the B2B space is pretty simple. You are good at what you do. You tell the truth about yourself, what you think and in some cases what you are doing as loud as you can, in as many formats as you can. You make friends. You make friends online, using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (or whatever channel applies to your industry.) You make friends in local groups as well. Those channels are sort of like ongoing conferences. You blog, which is where you let people in, online. Let them get to know you.

When you connect with others in your industry, you occupy their mind space, even if they just see your name. You do favors, answer questions. You be a friend. It’s important to go to conferences and networking events to meet people face to face too. But basically, you do good work and work on people -knowing who you are- in your field.

This is marketing. It’s not going to see an immediate return. But what will happen is all of these things, daily things that you choose to do consistently, build a wave for you. The wave translates into work and sales.

Did you hear me say consistently?

One of the things we do for our clients (try to do) is to help set them a routine. We want to program the people and give them a tool to use (the routine) so they can stay consistent in their marketing. If they don’t follow the routine, we email them, write persnickety blog posts knowing they will read them…as a reminder. We might bet them or challenge them to do the routine for a few months, with a hard deadline to check back in and see what happened.

Because we know, if they use the routine, they will see results.

We know you can’t just program tools, you have to program people. It’s the people who use the tools. Ultimately it’s their habits that will determine their success or failure. If you have a beautiful website and a wonderful blog but you don’t tweet, write or post? If you’re not making friends, taking part in the global conversation going on online?

Well, you’re not marketing. That’s what we think.

You have to be consistent. Consistent does not mean you try Tweeting for two weeks and quit. Consistent means you commit to a regular routine for a year. Yes, I said it…a year. Marketing builds a wave and that wave doesn’t happen overnight.

That doesn’t mean you have to do those things daily. You just have to do them regularly. You determine what regular is for you. The most important thing is to begin, to find your voice and to use it.

So do we know how to market for your industry? Maybe we don’t know which cliques are important in your field or the industry jargon that you use. But we do know the landscape and the habits you need to get results.

Try it. What do you have to lose?

Red Toad Media is a family company specializing in interactive design, marketing and strategy. We’re located on the outskirts of Louisville, KY, but we work with businesses in NYC, Chicago, Portland, LA, Atlanta and Dallas so don’t be afraid to call us if you’re out of market. Established in 2001, Red Toad is known for creative design in varied media, social media (inbound) marketing and smart web solutions.

To get to know us, follow us on Twitter.

or visit the main Red Toad Media website

And yes, we drew the Toad.

Around the Web

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What Web Designers Can Learn from Video Games
Blogging for Small Business (to be published 12/4)
Creative Perspectives

And you may find slides of talks Anne has given at WordCamp here:
Red Toad SlideShare