Social Media Listening – A lesson by U.S. Army Ranger School

When is it appropriate to respond to trolls? And in what way?

This week I have been closely watching all the press surrounding the first two women ever to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger school. Capt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot just completed an incredibly grueling training set. There are a lot of congratulations, but just as many naysayers and those who wish to spout untruths, opinions as fact, and general misogynistic rudeness!

This was expected of course. The debate surrounding women in uniform, women in combat roles, women serving on the frontlines of America’s wars, and women’s capability in general seems to be open for discussion. Women serve in all our Armed Forces. Women have served on the frontlines in combat. Period. They have simply done so without the same designations their male counterparts have, without the same jobs in the military. But they have proven capable, competent, solid Soldiers.

 Soldiers on the Ranger Course at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 6, 2015. 1st Lts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver will graduate Aug. 21, 2015 as Rangers. (U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY PFC. YVETTE ZABALA-GARRIGA)

Soldiers on the Ranger Course at Camp Rudder on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 6, 2015. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver will graduate Aug. 21, 2015 as Rangers. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Yvette  Zabala-Garriga)

As for the Social Media response to those who inevitably will belittle the accomplishment, the Social Media Manager for the U.S. Army Fort Benning Facebook page absolutely OWNED the conversation. They responded to all misinformed naysayers by correcting with factual information, politely but in a manner that did not allow for interpretation. A write up on the topic was done just after on  Army Fort Benning Shuts Down Misogynist Trolls .

Their ability to respond immediately and continuously allowed for control of the conversation. Yes, there were still more posts, more voices adding to the conversation, more negativity. But to each post that was incorrect or deserved a response from the schoolhouse, they got it. Other citizens defended the rigors of the training, the standards being equal for men and women, the timelines and more. But the voice of the official owner of the platform rang loudly.

Then the Ranger school’s number two in command, Maj. Jim Hathaway, wrote a response to the negative comments laying out fact vs fiction. Read it over at Ranger School Officer Combats Rumors About How Women Passed In Pointed Facebook Post . Once again, he did so in a professional manner but left no room for reasonable rebuttal.
Hathaway closed his remarks by saying, “No matter what we at Ranger School say the non-believers will still be non-believers. We could have invited each of you to guest walk the entire course, and you would still not believe, we could have video recorded every patrol and you would still say that we “gave” it away. Nothing we say will change your opinion.”

We as Social Media professionals must be able to listen to our customers, respond to them and hopefully be able to own the conversation, make right where we can and offer accurate truthful information where we can’t.

How would you have handled this situation? Did they perform a textbook response? Leave a comment below.

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