This is part two of my most-recent discussion about online etiquette. I gave you the background in that essay so today I’m just going to touch on one more piece of this.

Sometimes people who are ranting and raving online aren’t actually looking for a solution. That’s right. They want their opinion shouted loud and clear, but they don’t necessarily want anything to result from yelling the loudest (or typing the most). If you read that post, you’ll know things escalated pretty quickly and that one person was “yelling” at another. The truth is, if he really wanted a problem solved, there was a much easier way to do this – take it offline, pick up the phone and call someone with authority.

Unfortunately, this particular conversation has gone on and the angry man on that Facebook group has chosen to bully yet another parent in the group. My point is, why would he verbally attack her? She doesn’t work for the school, nor can she do anything to solve his issue.

We see this sometimes on our clients’ pages. Sometimes a customer – or a relative of a customer – who isn’t happy with one aspect of a purchase, a product or service will negatively comment on a Facebook post, tag us in a passive-aggressive tweet or leave a one-star review. What we find overwhelmingly to be the case is that the unhappy customer never even called the business. They never stopped in. They never made their negative opinion known to someone who could have very easily said, “I’m so sorry. We’d like the opportunity to fix that for you right away.” Instead, they leave a lasting mark on someone’s cyber history.

As customers, I urge everyone out there to take advantage of a better way: call someone, or even go online and send an email to the company. Try to solve your problem rather than just gossip about it online and in public. Nine times out of ten a company would rather hear about it directly and be able to fix it than be blindsided and have to react to a negative post submitted online. When you get down to it, the customer should want this to so that they remove the whole “venting” aspect and just get their problem solved.

So before you hit the keyboard and begin a new rant, stop and think, “Is this actually going to get me what I want?”

This time of year, this falls into empathy. Remember that what you say online isn’t read by a computer, it’s read by a person. You may be insulting someone’s 60-year-old family business or their career they care so much about. Those of us on the receiving end can take these comments to heart. So be kind, be thoughtful and find solutions.

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