Dealing with Unruly People, Oh Joy.

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

One part of social media is dealing with unruly people. Actually, let me restate that – a large part of social media is dealing with unruly people. The open web has enabled everyone’s voice to be heard and many times, those voices are voices who are reactionary, irrational, and/or both. This is all just part of it. You have to be prepared for uncontrolled, unhappy people who engage with your brand. I’ve found a couple of things to be extremely helpful when dealing with these people and subsequently, the issue that they may spark:

  1. Don’t overreact – breathe. I’ll say it again, breathe. Step back from the situation and get your wits about you. The worst thing you can do, as someone who engages with your community, is to let your emotions respond to the situation. Your brain should respond to the situation in most all cases.
  2. Put things into perspective – often, especially in times of crisis, it’s hard for those closest to the community – that is the social media team or the community managers – to gain the proper sense of perspective. It’s easy to think if one or two people are causing a ruckus, then the same feeling reverberates across everyone in the community. And a response is needed immediately. This is not the case. As much as you can, look at the community as a whole compared to the unruly people at any given time.
  3. Understand who is talking – this is extremely important. Everyone behaves differently in social channels. Some people talk. Some people only share. And some people are just passive observers. Before responding in any way, understand who that person is, who they influence, how active they are in the social channels, and even more, what their personality is in those channels. If they’re constantly snarky and antagonistic, then it should be of no surprise when they are that way with your community. When thinking about how/if to respond to someone like this, detail these things out for the team. All of this context is important to help dictate the proper course of action.


There is a sense of immediacy that comes along with social media. In fact, responding/engaging in a timely manner is actually a responsibility. But this does not mean that the urgency should dictate the level of thinking, researching, and communicating needed to properly address the circumstance.

Now, with social media, anyone can create content and more, technology has enabled it to be shown anywhere, on any screen. The less controlled the content is and the more channels it is distributed on, the greater attention we all need to place on the finer points of relationships and communication.

Years ago, my old boss and mentor told me, “be the voice of sanity.”

Always be the voice of sanity.

Simple enough, right?


Especially with unruly people.

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