Fear of Facebook

You sit down at your desk, fire up your computer and check your Facebook page. You notice that someone posted a critical review of your product or company. You are shocked, angry and maybe a little bit scared. What do you do about negative comments on Facebook?

Facebook is arguably the largest social network out there, and certainly one of the most active. There are 845 million monthly active users, who on average spend 20 minutes a day on the site. They upload photos, they like pages, they interact with brands.

But, with Facebook’s power comes risk. When you allow public participation on your Facebook page – or Wall – you also allow negative opinion. Some criticism may be valid, some may be simple disagreements, and some may be folks – sometimes referred to as “trolls” – looking to stir the pot. Regardless of the reason, you need a plan to manage negativity when it happens.

You might think that blocking people from posting on your Wall altogether, or moderating posts before they go live, will help you avoid unwanted comments on your page. But, if you block user comments, you will lose all of the benefit of being on Facebook – namely, your fans promoting your business for you. Facebook is the largest “word of mouth” platform on earth. People trust their friends, not advertising.

If you hold articles for moderation, you can prevent the posting of original negative posts to your timeline. But Facebook doesn’t allow for the moderating of comments. Instead, they go live in real time. (You can create a “spam” list which will block some comments, but this is an imperfect science for another post.)

So, how do you handle negative posts on your Facebook page? By following a few simple rules.

  1. Post a Facebook terms of service on your page. Tell your users your planned content for your page, as well as behavior that won’t be tolerated. Not all comments are appropriate for conversation. You don’t need to subject your business or your fans to abuse. You do need to define which conversations you will engage in. Coca Cola has a great and often copied policy. If you should need to ban someone from posting or delete content, you can point to your public terms of service as justification.
  2. Plan ahead. No one expects to see negative comments on their Facebook wall. But, as with most business operations, proper planning prevents poor performance. Who will respond to negative comments? He or she is your Facebook spokesperson. What authority do they have to craft a message for your brand? How well do they understand your business? These issues need to be ironed out before you publish that brand page.
  3. Respond quickly. Yes, this means checking your Facebook page 2 – 3 times per day. The web is a 24 hour business. You should assign someone to check comments evenings and weekends, as well as during normal business hours. If negative content is found, it should be reported to the designated spokesperson from Step 2.
  4. Respond calmly. Defensive responses will only get the naysayers riled up and more motivated. Just like you, they hope to see viral returns on the content they post to your page. The more you fan the flames, the greater the likelihood it will get out of control. Instead, at all times, just as when responding to any customer complaint, stay polite and professional.
  5. Don’t delete negative posts unless they violate your terms of service. While it may seem uncomfortable to keep negative posts on your Facebook page, remember that doing so demonstrates your commitment to open conversation.
  6. Take the conversation off-line. The last thing you want are accusations flying back and forth on your Facebook page. Remember our designee from Step 2? Post a polite response indicating their contact information and their willingness to engage in a conversation.

Have you had negative comments on your Facebook page? How did you handle it? What troll managing tactics did we miss? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Jess Weiss

If you think all Web people are geeks,
 that’s ok—this digital strategist actually considers 
that a compliment. A lawyer in her former life,
 she is multi-talented and
 adept at making the Web a world we can all understand. She has worked for Children’s 
Hospital, Boston University, and even the 
Governor of Massachusetts, and makes sure
 each of our clients is just as recognizable. In addition to creating standout online ads and websites, Jess directs our clients’ Search Engine Optimization campaigns and is our resident social media guru. Whether you want to make sure everyone can find you on Google, or find new ways to connect with your audience on Facebook, Jess has the plan to make it happen. When she’s not busy coding, tweeting, or keyword-monitoring, you’ll find Jess working 
on her next home renovation or seeking out 
new travel spots with her son and husband.