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Social Media Is Getting Nasty. How Can You Rise Above It?

In a world infatuated with social media, one-on-one private interactions have become a thing of the past.

Gone are the days where praise was exemplified by a literal pat on the back, as is the premise of keeping disputes behind closed doors.  The latter concept, of publicizing private quarrels has led to the advent of what a new VitalSmarts study calls “social rudeness."

After analyzing the interactions of 2,698 social users the survey noted that 78 percent of people reportedly witnessed an increase in online rudeness and 88 percent had no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person. Additionally, VitalSmarts found that one in five people reduced face to face contact after an online run-in with the same individual.

Fortunately, whether you, as a young entrepreneur, are attempting to protect your personal reputation or your company’s brand, the man behind VitalSmarts, Joseph Grenny, has provided three ways to avoid digital confrontation and prevent defamation. I also added a few pointers myself.

Avoid monologues.
They’re out there -- the rogue Facebook friends that frequently publish lengthy monologues outlining their views on a certain, usually controversial topic. While expressing your thoughts is great, there is a time and a place for everything. By posting drawn out soliloquies, you open yourself up to a barrage of feedback, both positive and negative. Although not always a bad thing, in a space defined by retweets and shares, where a post intended for a certain group of friends or followers can go viral, as a young entrepreneur it’s best to avoid them all together. Keep the conversation light, engaging and interactive.

Related: 5 Daily Habits for Effective Social Media Marketing

Eliminate personal attacks.
Everyone has arguments, whether you’re upset with a colleague, vendor or had a bad experience with a customer. But young entrepreneurs need to be diligent about keeping these matters private and addressing them offline. It’s okay to be upset, but broadcasting your issues on social media won’t necessarily solve them. While it might temporarily ease your frustration, it usually just adds fuel to the fire and draws out confrontations. Instead, when a problem arises, address it immediately (offline) and put it behind you.

Exclude judgmental words.
We’ve all done it -- posted or tweeted something that while not overtly rude or derogatory was laced with sarcastic undertones and directed at a particular individual or brand. Although, they’re not always easily identifiable to the trained eye, posts like these usually have a red flag hidden somewhere in the text: a judgmental word.

These words are frequently used by frustrated albeit eloquent social media users to subtly sway the opinions of their friends or followers. A few too many of these posts around a certain subject can easily be categorized as something you may not necessarily be. No matter how delicately you lobby, your digital image can change. Social can be a powerful influencing tool, don’t abuse it. Rather, replace your pejorative vocabulary with words that get your point across and help others understand where you are coming from.

Related: 5 Ways Social Media Can Ruin Your Reputation

Don’t delete.
Just because a post has been deleted doesn’t mean it never happened. Whether you rashly incited an argument and rushed to delete the post or your social properties were the subject of negative commentary, deletion is not always the solution. While any issue that becomes profane or offensive should be removed, minor disputes that spill into the social space should be publically acknowledged and privately addressed.

If negative feedback is directed at you or your startup, advise the publisher that you’re sorry for the inconvenience and that you will be reaching out to them offline to discuss it further. This leaves your reputation intact as you appear as forthright but tactful enough to handle the situation with discretion.

Omit controversial topics.
Everyone loves a bit of controversy now and again, but if you want to remain reputable and retain mass appeal, avoid controversial topics like religion and politics. Instead, stick with subjects that provide value to your followers and are on target with your market.

Has someone been rude to you on social media? If so, we would love to hear how you handled the confrontation in the comments section below.

Brendan Brandt is founder and alumni of Coast & Canter and The Brandt Group. He is a leading social strategist with an emphasis on integrated digital solutions.

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