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With great social media power comes great responsibility

Before social media went online and became mainstream, complaining about bad service at a restaurant or store was usually started with six words.

"May I speak to your manager?"

Unless you were screaming at some employee, it was usually pretty low key.

Then, after we took to Twitter to make our voices heard, those six words to one or two people turned into 140 characters to potentially millions. Simply put, social media increases the power of our voice and changes the customer service game.

But just because you can potentially reach millions with your gripe doesn't mean you should. Responsible social media starts with thinking about what you tweet, before you tweet it.

I had a confusing experience at a restaurant recently. A few minutes after finishing dessert, a manager came over and asked if we'd accept a round of drinks in exchange for moving to the bar because they needed to free up the table. We politely declined because we were getting ready to leave anyway.

Without outing the restaurant or anything about it, I asked my social media followers on Twitter if they agreed with such a request. I received a few direct messages asking me to tell them the name of the restaurant in confidence, but I politely declined.

I was curious enough to take the topic to Twitter, but there was no reason to embarrass anyone. So how do you get your point across without looking like a huge jerk? Here are some suggestions and points to ponder:

Constructive criticism is good, name calling is not. Some people aren't good at keeping things bottled up. If you must out a business in a complaint on social media, be careful not to insult. Be constructive and keep the conversation going. You wouldn't scream at a manager on the phone, would you? Don't scream online.

Don't let anger get the best of you. If you jump on Twitter the minute something bad happens, you're more likely to say something you'll regret. Your words matter. Whether you have 100 followers or 100,000, you never know when something you tweet or share will be shared by someone more influential. Before you tweet, take a deep breath and assess the situation.

Use social media, then take the exchange offline. There's nothing wrong with using social media to find a store or restaurant manager and then making a phone call. Do you really need to battle this out in public? Are you gaining anything by having an audience? Probably not.

When in doubt, ask yourself this: How would I react if social media didn't exist? If your answer is "with restraint," then apply that to your usage of social media.

So Social is a social media tips column by The Tribune Media Group's Amy Guth and Scott Kleinberg. Tweet them at @amyguth and @scottkleinberg.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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