If you’re not careful, your social accounts can devolve into a Wild West of incivility and dubious information. By setting the right tone, and sticking to it, you can encourage your followers to always act positively.
WHEN I WAS a kid, the opinion business was largely civil. If you disagreed with some-thing that a newspaper or magazine had published, you could write a letter to the editor, but only a few of the most thoughtful responses typically made the cut. About the closest we came to real-time commentary were television and radio call-in shows, and producers for those carefully screened callers ahead of time.
The current standards of social media are a stark contrast to those days, however—and the larger your following, the more difficult it is to filter out bad actors. Banning and blocking users isn’t an especially good solution, because it tends to make it look like you’re simply excluding people and opinions you don’t care for. Besides, do you really want to take on the job of policing your followers? Do you have that kind of free time?
A better approach is to adopt a consistently positive tone in all your posts, captions and comments. After all, people are following you for a reason. Granted, there may be a sliver of your audience that loves to hate you for whatever reason and follows you for that factor alone. Unless your aim is to be intentionally provocative, though, people are more likely than not to follow your lead. Here are some ways to ensure positive inter-actions between followers—and help guide negative ones back to civility.
Always be honest and authentic. If you do that, people can certainly disagree with you, but they’ll have little basis for attacking, let alone vilifying, you. I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: Representing yourself or your practice in any way that exaggerates, misleads or isn’t 100 percent true to yourself is going to get you called out. It might even open you up to ridicule, since people online—you’ve perhaps noticed—have pretty finely honed BS detectors these days. Being honest and real sets a strong example, and your followers will feel empowered to do the same.
Be kind and considerate of others—at all times. I can’t stress this enough. A big part of inspiring productive discourse is treating people fairly and consistently. Followers need to know what to expect from you—and for me, that means being nice, hearing people out and treating everyone with the same respect. Rudeness generates only the same in response. Now, it’s true that followers may still sometimes be rude despite your kindness, but your other followers will notice how your integrity contrasts with their negativity.
Always hold yourself to a high standard of professionalism and quality commentary. If you wouldn’t want a post to be published in a magazine like this one, then it’s not fit for social media, either. Your opinions should hold up to journalist-caliber scrutiny. Setting a high bar will increase the quality of your interactions with your followers, and of those among themselves. Remember, ugly things tend to go viral and take on a life beyond social media.
Should negative commentary occur, you have a responsibility as an influencer to get involved and stand up for what’s right—but also feel free to ignore things that don’t deserve your attention. The best social media followings are clubs of like-minded and enthusiastic people who feed off one another’s positivity and intellectual curiosity. Always taking the high road helps keep it that way.
DR. JASON AUERBACH founded Riverside Oral Surgery in New Jersey in 2007. Follow him on Instagram @BloodyToothGuy; his practice is @RiversideOralSurgery.