Is Your Business The Social Riot Police or The Neighbourhood Watch?

One thing I have debated many times with clients, friends and industry peers is how to deal with virality. When you suddenly lose control of who is saying what about your brand and it’s up the customers to say what they will are you mentally prepared for that?

What I have noticed is that there are generally two types of businesses and I’ll set right from the outset that I have a firm belief in one of those 2.

The Riot Police

I have noted that there are some businesses that do not want their brand being represented in a certain way by their customers or social followers. That is to say that they want the content being associated with their brand to be vetted by them first. This is practical in some ways, all of the networks have a way of dealing with abusive posts and a brand can effectively cull the negativity by this method. The obvious disadvantage is speed, virality is almost ruled by the speed in which a post will grow. If you don’t get dealing with it quick enough it doesn’t make a difference what you have said to get content blocked it is out there in the public domain.

The Riot Police model of social media is one that means your customers are given strict instructions on how to share content, almost making them part of your PR/Marketing team where they will obey the rules you set for them and therefore only the good content is seen. Sometimes this is done through social buttons and call to actions asking people to share positively or not share at all. Sometimes it is done through completely disassociating the brand from the social activity.

The Neighbourhood Watch

This approach is all about see but not be seen. The cogs working in the background while the face of the clock gets all the glory. You might use a hashtag as an example of a great way to run a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ campaign. Give your audience a hashtag to follow or to ask questions on and see how they respond. You have to know that they will undoubtedly be exposed to some of the lunacy of the internet but for those that see true value will get a lot from it.

It’s all about having the right plan on how to deal with the negativity so that you can allow the positivity to shine through. I came across a great example of this approach done terribly when a celebrity used the hashtag #AskXXX and I don’t think they even attempted to answer one question before Twitter and her mighty following started to tear into the celeb and use this as an excuse to create crass, humorous jokes. The Q&A didn’t go according to plan at all and I think this was down to poor planning and preparation.

Things like this are bound to happen and you need to know how to deal with it. Social media is a great source for brand awareness, sales and all of the other amazing things we now benefit from in this hyper connected world. If you are not prepared to risk it and allow your audience to say how they really feel that you should be looking at your offering and wondering why is it that I don’t want people screaming from the rooftops about their experience with my brand. What have I done to lose confidence in my product or service and how can I get that back and get some brand advocates on side.


One of the first companies I pitched was a company that bought and sold armoured vehicles and other military weapons. Their issue was one of secrecy, they simply couldn’t have the average person knowing what they were up to and therefore being social didn’t make sense for them. That I understand, what I don’t get is when a brand or business wants their public to be nothing but complimentary. Things go wrong, mistakes get made. It’s about having a plan of action for when that does happen and seeing it through.

A single post on a social network cannot and will not take down your business, you can go through and see countless examples of large brands making critical errors with their social media but we haven’t stopped using them we just have a slightly more negative connotation of them. I would argue that you can only mess up a couple of times but as long as you say sorry and mean it then recovery is possible. Forgiveness is a strong human trait and just because we are typing doesn’t mean we lose that capacity.

So I say don’t be the The Riot Police, focus on getting confidence in your business practices and make sure you are proud of what you do and how you do it. If you have that then you can afford to let your customers do all the hard work for you and you can simply be a part of your own community. If you make a mistake then people will forgive.


Thank you for taking the time to read this article. You can find other articles covering travel, social media, business, entrepreneurship and the odd ramble about my life over at

If you would like to get in contact you can email me [email protected] or find me on Twitter @MarkyBobs86.

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