When Facebook gets nasty, act like a human

When your Facebook Page attracts trolls

When your Facebook Page attracts trolls (Image by Goosemouse via Flickr)

A Top End publican asked me for some advice this week on how to deal with negative or uncomfortable feedback on their Facebook page and I thought it might be good to share my thoughts publicly.

The most important thing is to remember that online marketing and being active in social networking sites is still a human activity. There are living human beings on either end of the virtual conversation and the more we can remember that the more we can dip into our ‘real world’ social skills.

With that said, here are some factors worth considering:

  • libellous or hateful commentary
  • uncomfortable visibility
  • who’s watching the kids?

I’m the grumpy old troll

I’m amazed by how many times Dora the Explorer seems to illustrate my world (my 4 year old daughter introduced me).

In that show there is a grumpy old troll who blocks people from crossing bridges for the sheer pleasure of causing pain and delay, although sometimes it just looks like he is lonely.

In the case of a bar, restaurant or other service business, you can get people being hateful and libellous through spite, jealously or sheer willfulness.

As with the responsible service of alcohol, these people simply need to have their supply of access cut.

Facebook allows you to delete comments and block users. However, proceed with caution.

Firstly, a spiteful person might decide to make a new Facebook account and return under another name. Authorities need to be involved here.

Secondly, it is considered poor practice to delete comments lightly because a commenter whose words have been struck off the site might well find delight in publishing them elsewehere. So this step must be reserved for purely unfounded and bitter cases.

Uncomfortable visibility

A major attraction to Facebook pages and other online social accounts for consumers is that they feel they get a chance to ‘be heard’.

This means that while people will use it to rave about you and ask questions, some will use it as the easiest way to vent and ‘protect’ others from having the same experience they did.

I had a look through some Facebook pages of clubs and hotels around Darwin and I found that most of the ‘negative’ comments related to things like:

  • we waited too long for our meals to arrive
  • why did you take away (insert regular event like bingo or karaoke, etc)

What’s important here is that you are getting firsthand intelligence from your actual customers. So I find these comments, while uncomfortable at first, absolutely invaluable.

The best course of action, I believe, is to engage with these people who have taken the time to raise an issue or lament a change to thank them and publicly comment that you want to connect with them privately to hear them out.

In the case of a company decision that is irreversible, you just have to apologise for their disappointment but again invite them to connect with you privately if they would like to know more about a change or even make suggestions for further changes (no harm in hearing them out, plenty of good business ideas have been ‘crowd sourced’).

For the rest of us, we will appreciate seeing how responsive you have been to someone making a complaint.

For your team, you might want to include Facebook comments as part of your internal performance reviews, after all, the Facebook comments are simply direct indicators from the market you are trying to attract and keep loyal, so that is worth considering. Just ponder how staff attitudes might change if they knew that (serious) Facebook comments by the ‘punters’ could have a bearing on their employment or bonuses?

Who’s watching the kids?

Every community, online or offline, needs moderation; someone who ‘keeps an eye on things’, and your Facebook page is no different.

Make sure you have your Facebook page connected to your smart phone (iPhone has Page Manager – a free app for monitoring and commenting on your Facebook pages) so you can respond in a timely manner.

All playgrounds run better when participants know the rules.

Consider a simple commenting policy (like the one at the bottom of theriteseries.com.au) which guides users to comment on issues directly relating to your pub or club and reserve yourself the right to remove comments that are nasty or personal or libellous. You will need to think this through in relation to your own audience to find a non-stuffy approach that suits your market.

Then, add it to your About tab in Facebook and occassionaly post little reminders through your wall stream.

I hope these suggestions help you. However, if you like a more regimented approach, click the image below to see a flow chart created by the US Air Force a few years ago, to give members some guidance along the same issues.

US Air Force blog comment guide

Speak Your Mind