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The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)
Colleen Burns    

imageThe Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)
By Holly Nielsen, Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility

In the Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2)  I defined the terms of social media, social networking and social business, reviewed why you might want to include social media channels in your marketing plan, and how to define your objective before you select a channel(s) and get started.

Here are my thoughts about the current top pros and cons of each of the Big Five (in alphabetical order) to help you decide which social media channel might best meet your needs.

Social media channel Pros Cons

Some general rules apply across all of the social media channels and you must be prepared for them before you execute your social media plan:


  • All of the channels take significant resources to maintain, whether you trade off among staff or dedicate one person. One of the worst mistakes is to start an account or page, then neglect it. Your followers will drop off and not come back, a potentially paralyzing blow to a corporate brand.


  • Spend the time doing your competitive research. Which channels are your competitors using? Are they using them well? Could you do it better?


  • There is no avoiding negative feedback. Professional naysayers, known as trolls, are also a fact of life online. Consider social channels as a mechanism to address legitimate customer concerns promptly and publicly. Ultimately, resolving customer concerns in these highly visible public forums can improve overall customer loyalty and satisfaction. Acknowledge complaints immediately, even if you don’t have a resolution or you could become a case study in a blog like the one I wrote in January 2012, Preventing Customer Service Fumbles from Going Viral: A Social Media Cautionary Tale.


When a troll tries to engage you, keep your responses professional and on topic. As a rule, if trolls can’t get the emotional reaction out of you that they’re seeking, they will eventually leave you alone and search for easier targets. If the interaction becomes profane, offensive, abusive, or continues for more than a couple of interactions, don’t hesitate to ban the troll and delete posts. Your followers don’t want to see that stuff either.


Note: Arizona just passed a law against online trolling that is waiting for the governor’s signature. It’s not expected to hold up in a court challenge, but it does show that trolling is an annoyance, and unlikely to go away, so having a strategy to deal with it is the prudent thing to do.


  • My recommendation is start slowly. Pick one social media channel and work on building your following there, then add more channels as your bandwidth allows.

  • Engage in conversation, be a resource for relevant, related content and build your community. If you do nothing but push your products and services, you’ll turn off your potential customers quickly. A good rule of thumb is to only mention your “stuff” every 10 posts, tweets, or pins.

I manage social networking for IBM Accessibility, and for now, you’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. At some point, we may increase our presence in additional channels, but we’re meeting our objectives with our activities in these three.


A few resources to get you started (I can hardly do this justice—so many talented and knowledgeable people are out there):



Readers, if I missed your favorite social media experts, please add them in the comments section.




Holly Nielsen is the Social Media Manager and webmaster for the Human Ability and Accessibility Center, IBM Research. Located in sunny Northern California, Holly manages the IBM Accessibility social media program and the www.ibm.com/able website. She is passionate about accessibility and social networking, and frequently blogs about social networking trends and assorted topics that spark her interest.


Holly is an IBM Redbooks Thought Leader



Apr 20, 2012
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