Managing the Smacktivist

Smacktivisit: noun

A person who uses social media primarily to talk smack about an organization, business or person. Usually this person sees themselves as an activist for a cause of some sort.

Also see: “Troll”

Social Media has changed business in a lot of ways. It offers an incredible opportunity for companies to share news, connect with customers and employees, and even find talent, but all those benefits come with risk.

Although most social media users are looking to connect with family, friends, and brands they enjoy, there are some users who enjoy bringing controversy and debate to the medium. We have a term for these types of users around our office; we call them “Smacktivists.”

More Than a Bad Review

We’re not saying that all users who express concern over an issue online fit this stereotype, but many businesses who have experienced a crisis could identify exactly the type of person we’re talking about. You may even be able to identify a person in your life who fits this role.

A couple of prime examples of Smacktivisits online:

  • Using under-researched or unfounded information and presenting it as fact.
  • Turning the truth to fit their beliefs.
  • Misquoting information or people.
  • Demanding action on an issue they have little experience or knowledge of.
  • Attacking other people online and picking fights.
  • Then the kicker, sharing all this misinformation on groups or public pages.

So What Do We do?

Experiencing a social media attack from a smacktivist is very stressful for a business owner. Many of us feel connected to our company, and an attack on your company feels like an attack on you. The reasons behind an attack can vary greatly and your reaction may change based on that, but here’s a little anecdote to help guide you.

Being the youngest child, my brother and sister used to love picking on me. My dad always told me to just not react, they’ll get bored and move on.  As difficult as it was, it always worked.

That same advice can be applied to the smacktivist. Social media is a fast-paced environment, where the hot topics change quickly. If your Smacktivist is bored, they’ll find a new victim somewhere else. Don’t give them the fight they want.

Shouldn’t I address every negative comment?

Unlike the general public, in our experience with smacktivists there is little opportunity to engage and have intelligent, reasonable debate or discussion of facts. Don’t engage directly with the smacktivist on your public page. If necessary, engage them privately through email or messenger, but know that your conversation could still be published publicly with a screen shot.

If the Smacktivist is spreading false information or misrepresenting facts, it may be a good idea to address those falsehoods through your own page posts. Instead of engaging the Smactivist directly, help refute the misinformation through thoughtful, fact-filled posts on your own page. Many times other users who see the smacktivist’s posts will go directly to your page to get the facts.

All that being said, if your smacktivist is part of a bigger problem, reach out to professionals for help.

Allison Matz

Matz joins the Boileau team with writing and communication experience from her previous role as Academic Department Coordinator at Grand Valley State University, her alma mater. She earned her degree in English literature and writing and enjoys being able to express creativity and storytelling through her chosen career.

Berkeley Benson

Prior to joining Boileau, Benson worked as a writer and illustrator for both agency and in-house organizations. In 2018, she graduated from Cedarville University with a bachelor’s in professional writing and information design.

About the Author

Leanne Schaeffer
Leanne joined Boileau after directing marketing for a hospitality management company. Through her experience, Leanne developed a rounded knowledge across industries and thoughtful insight into stakeholder perceptions. Identifying creative solutions to tough communications issues, Leanne serves as a valuable partner to our clients and asset to our company. A Grand Valley alumna, Leanne earned her bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations. Outside the office, she can be found spending quality time with family, rocking first base in slow pitch softball, or sitting down with a good book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.
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