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Tech Forum: The Best Approach to Dealing with Negativity on Social Media

Brian Fraley


There have been some glaring examples of negativity by some construction professionals on social media recently that we can all learn from. It’s hard to determine whether this activity is increasing without data, but it does seem more frequent than usual.

In one case, an equipment dealer was celebrating a major purchase by a certain contractor and an individual was compelled to slander that contractor in the comments with an expletive. In another, several people on Facebook took turns insulting a piece of equipment with various nasty comments. And in yet another instance on Instagram, someone trashed a competitor’s product as outdated technology.

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Unlike the jobsite where an argument can usually be resolved with an apology, the damage is harder to undo and can even follow you indefinitely on social media. The attorneys have a process called eDiscovery. That basically means that virtually any and all digital activity can be dug up as part of litigation process. They can retrieve virtually anything you’ve ever posted as it was explained to me.

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It’s important to think about possible long-term repercussions before you make a negative comment. The construction industry is a small industry where many of us are continuously recycled among different companies. All it takes is one memorable post or a vindictive person with a good memory to cost you a sale, a project or a job. Is the temporary satisfaction of posting that nasty comment worth it?

Most people don’t like negativity and pessimism. Have you ever noticed how committees respond to the lone pessimist? It seems like we’re especially sensitive to this as the dark clouds move out and people are starving for positivity. Avoiding negativity on social media right now is more important than ever.

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The construction industry has straight talkers, hot heads and even roughnecks, but we’re also known as a group that respects traditional values. And, of course, this is an industry starving for new talent. Setting a tone of professionalism and decency is far more likely to attract good people.

One of the best remedies is silence. There was a generation back around the 1940s that believed many things were best left unsaid. That approach is invaluable on social media.

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Most of us know at least the basics of social media, but let’s revisit some ground rules:

Is it Strictly Business, Personal, or Both?

Who are you representing on social media? If it’s professional and your employer wants you to publicly represent the company, it’s okay to mention them. If it’s personal, don’t mention your company name.

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Respect Your Employer’s Reputation

If you’re on social media as an individual and you choose to engage in debates and controversial topics, that’s a personal decision. With that said, it’s best to distance yourself from your employer to protect them from any liability. That means leaving the name of your company off your social media profiles, and possibly adding such language as “opinions are my own.”

Know the Platform

Some social media channels are geared toward business and others are personal. LinkedIn, for example, is for business, so don’t post funny memes. Make sure you understand acceptable behavior before you start posting.

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Determine Your Objective

What are you hoping to accomplish on social media? Most people are trying to promote themselves or their companies, learn or network. Whatever your reason, it’s doubtful that making negative comments will help you to make progress.

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How to Handle the Competition

Trashing the competition in the comments does more harm than good. When you take a potshot at a competitor or its offerings, it reflects poorly on you because your insecurity is on full display. Have you ever noticed that no one responds to your comment?

The construction industry is a small community and the trenchless market is even smaller. It’s easy to forget how accountable you will be held in the long run. Will it come back to bite you on a future job, sale or partnership? You might never know. Is it worth taking the chance to blow off steam?

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Be professional, positive and keep it clean. Focus on promoting your offerings instead of disparaging the competition. Taking the high road is always the best way to reach your destination on social media.

Brian M. Fraley is the owner and chief strategist for Fraley Construction Marketing, a marketing communications consultancy with a unique 100 percent focus and deep understanding of the construction industry.

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