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What You Can Learn from the NRA About Dealing with Social Media Negativity
By: Christine Geraci
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Before we get to the subject at hand, I need to say that like many of you, I am sickened by what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. My heart goes out to the victims, their families and the members of that community who must now move forward bearing the unimaginable burden of this tragedy. 

The particularly gruesome and horrific nature of this crime places it at the forefront of social media discussion. Social networks have allowed those who would not normally weigh in on such matters to express themselves far and wide about the tragedy itself, as well as the issues of gun control, mental illness, and who we are as a society. Noticeably absent from that discussion, however, is the National Rifle Association, which since Dec. 14 has shuttered its Facebook page and abandoned its Twitter feeds. 

Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan.com, fired off this rather sarcastic tweet about it:

Did the NRA really skulk away in shame, or are they simply following protocol? Let's look at the facts.

When you find your company's social presence suddenly barraged with negativity, here are some good best practices to follow:

First, wait to see if others will counterpost. Sometimes, the best community management comes from community members.

Next, ask questions about why the person posting negativity feels the way they do. You might be able to resolve the issue publicly or privately, depending on its nature. In the NRA's case, there's no way they could have kept up with the deluge. 

Open a dialogue about the facts. If the negative post contains misinformation, this is your chance to correct it and begin an open discussion. 

Enforce the ground rules. If you don't have basic guidelines for engagement for your online community, lay them down and make them visible wherever your community congregates, such as on your website, on Facebook, etc. With clear commenting ground rules, you're backed up if you need to delete something. 

If all else fails, go dark. If you're find yourself overrun by negative comments, shutter the social medium, whether it's your Facebook page, your blog, or what have you. Regroup to figure out a plan for addressing the heart of the issue, and reopen when ready. 

Seems to me the NRA had to go straight to the plan of last resort. It will be interesting to see if and when the organization responds in any way to the many people implicating its pro-gun lobbying tactics in this horror.

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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