Standing Up to Internet Criticism

Criticism on social media is as easy as pushing a button, making it even more important for organizations to engage and be engaged online.Criticism on social media can be cutting and inaccurate. The remedy is dispassionate and transparent engagement to state your facts and tell your story.

Some business and nonprofit executives prefer to remain aloof from social media. However, all that accomplishes is to allow the conversation to continue without the benefit of your views.

It is true that a post on a business Facebook page can serve as an invitation for a critic to lash out. However, the value of being involved online is to address the criticism, pointing out inaccuracies or adding a different perspective. Most of all, it shows you respect people enough, even when they are critical, to give them a genuine response.

Get beyond the knee-jerk perception that your detractors are adversaries. Yes, some people want to spread misinformation. They are not always patient or polite, but they are engaged enough to connect and be converted from detractor into supporter or advocate.

Responding in social media isn't the only avenue for recourse.

Galena Biopharma, a Lake Oswego-based company researching a cure to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer, is combating an online investment firm blog questioning Galena's management decisions and its claims.  

The company, according to The Oregonian, is fighting back by suing the 4-month-old investment firm and reporting the incident, which caused Galena's stock to plummet, to securities regulators.

Mark Ahn, Galena's CEO, told The Oregonian's Nick Budnick, "No one has the right to lie. If people want to take potshots, we will address it aggressively."

Ahn correctly identified his company's reputation as the chief victim of those potshots, which he warned could impact its stock price and continuing access to investment funding.

Since Galena challenged the online report, its stock price has returned to its previous range.

Also this week, Wal-Mart pushed back against The Huffington Post, which published an online story alleging the retailer plans to drop health insurance for workers with fewer than 30 hours per week.

A Wal-Mart spokesman told Politico, another online news outlet, the HuffPo story was "riddled with inaccuracies," noting the part-time health insurance change is old news. It was announced a year ago and widely reported, the spokesman said, which doesn't necessarily prove an inaccuracy.

The Huffington Post article correctly reported, according to Wal-Mart, an increase in part-time workers enrolling in the company's health insurance. The company spokesman attributed the increase to affordable insurance premiums.

Good marks for standing up for your facts, but it was somewhat lost in the kerfuffle caused by Wal-Mart cutting off communications with The Huffington Post. The petulant action probably made an executive or two in Wal-Mart headquarters happy, but it does nothing to stop HuffPo from continuing as a source of corporate irritation.

You can't be in the battle and on the sidelines, too. Social media is 24/7 engagement. The rules are blurry, but the best results occur when you stand your ground in the face of criticism. Worse problems develop when you go AWOL.