One of the big questions companies always ask when setting up Facebook fan pages is how to manage negative comments. It’s such a big fear that companies often opt for disabling public posts, only allowing comments or likes. The result is a fan page that ends up being a notice board
--plenty of corporate announcements but very little actual engagement. A well run page is in effect a community, and in any real community you get as many dissenting voices as you do those who are in strong agreement with the dialogue.
The starting point in your efforts should be identifying the difference between people who are being constructive in their comments, and those who are just being insulting, abusive or negative for the sake of gaining notoriety. The former you could term as real fans, whatever they are saying, and the latter, trolls.
Begin by publishing a few guidelines that outline what is acceptable, and what type of content is not welcomed. For me, this revolves around four key areas: 1. Obscenity
- Mostly around offensive language. It is your corporate space, and it is reasonable to outline some boundaries as to what is acceptable. 2. Promotions
- There’s a big difference between suggesting a tool or technology that might be useful to readers or the discussion, and posting a self-promotion. Be clear on this in your guidelines. 3. Respect
- Insults, bullying or personal comments are out. I actively encourage disagreement, but disagreement with respect and discussion. That means not making personal comments or insulting statements, whilst stating your case. 4. Relevance
- One of the problems with public social places is that people can post their causes, pictures or links to your personal or business time line without invitation. That can mean that you attract some weird and wonderful content that has no relevance. Be clear that these will be removed.
When you get constructive criticism, you should regard this as brilliant. Anyone visiting your page seeing this type of content will know that you are open and transparent, and that you welcome dialogue. Always thank people for their feedback, and apologise for how they feel. If you are getting the same comments from lots of people, you have a problem that needs acknowledging and fixing quickly. All people really want is to know that you’ve noted it and that you are actually bothered.
If your page is all positive and sugar coated, visitors are just going to regard it as a brochure, and who trusts a brochure? Set up a process for monitoring comments. Empower your people to acknowledge comments, answer what is in their authority and remit and direct problems to the people who can solve them. This will be a welcome addition to your business.
If you get a troll it’s a different story. Don’t try to fuel the flames by trying to justify or argue. All that achieves is drawing attention to them, and trolls feed on attention. You also run the risk of attracting the car crash rubber neckers, who love to watch an accident unfolding. Thank them for their comments. If you need to remove their comments, be clear why. Don’t get riled or feel the need to return insults. Don’t poke that troll with a stick!