By Kristin Sundin Brandt
As published in New England Financial Marketing Association EDGE e-newsletter
As one who regularly speaks with businesses on the subject of how they can utilize social media channels such as Facebook, I’ve heard many concerns. But the question I am asked most often is… “What if someone says something bad about us?”
After 5 years co-hosting Manic Mommies, I have been accused of being “clueless, shallow, bitter and a bad mother” (go check out the reviews on iTunes), and can personally attest to how difficult it is to face negative commentary.
But, I also believe that for many organizations, the benefits of maintaining a presence on sites such as Facebook can often outweigh the possible risks. You just need to know how to manage those risks:
1. Be prepared
Before launching any social media channel, your institution needs to go through the process of determining WHY you are launching the channel (and to quote my new friend Joe Trafton from COCC, the reason should not be “because the bank next door has one”), and of creating policies and procedures including:
- Content Strategy – Determine how your institution plans to utilize each channel – Will you be posting press releases as notes, or links back to your site? How will you handle posting photos of staff, customers or, most importantly, children? How often will you be making updates?
- Visitor Guidelines – A public document posted within each channel outlining how you will be utilizing the channel, and what actions you will take against unacceptable behavior.
- Administration Guidelines – Documentation for the staff outlining their roles, whether they are an administrator on the account (responsible for making updates, responding to questions or removing comments), a monitor (responsible for regularly reviewing the channel), or a follower or Fan.
- Response Scenarios – A list of possible scenarios – from best to worst case – can help your institution define what level of response will be necessary. For example, what will you do if a Fan posts their account number to your Facebook Page? Makes a disparaging remark about your CEO? Says something nice or even, dare we dream, complimentary?.
2. Control the commentary
Channels like Facebook and YouTube do have settings, which can be used to control commentary.
- Facebook – While you cannot prevent a Fan from commenting on an item you have posted on your Page, you can keep them from starting new conversations or posting links, videos or photos.
- YouTube – Admins can prevent visitors from leaving comments, video responses or even rating your videos.
3. Don’t delete too quickly!
More difficult than deciding to remove a clearly inflammatory comment such as “You suck! I hope you DIAF!” (Die in a fire) is figuring out what to do when a comment is in a grey area. For example:
- I have a love/hate relationship with this bank.
- My ATM card keeps getting declined, even though there is plenty of money in my account!
- Is Online Banking down? I can’t log in.
- Why didn’t you make a contribution to my son’s school?
In these cases it may be tempting to remove or ignore the commentary. But instead, I ask you to consider that most people have many venues through which they can vent their frustrations. So why did they come to your Page? I submit they aren’t just complaining – they are giving you an opportunity to resolve the problem, or make their opinion heard.
Even the “love/hate” comment above could be an opportunity for you to connect with a customer to determine how you can turn that relationship to “love/love!”
4. Turn a negative to a positive
As a way to build up the Fans to their Facebook Page, one of our clients was going to give $2 per Fan (up to $1,000) to the local schools. At the end of the promotion, it was posted that although they had missed their mark by 14 Fans, the bank would still donate the full amount. One visitor to the Page asked “why don’t you give more?”
Rather than ignoring or deleting the question, we worked with the Bank to take the opportunity to tell a new story:
Thanks for your question. We aren’t donating more through our Facebook campaign because this $1,000 donation is in addition to the money we donate throughout the year to local organizations, including schools. In fact, in 2009, the bank donated over $10,000 to local schools, and we are committed to continuing our support for education in 2010.
5. Don’t be afraid to remove and block.
There will be times when you need to remove a comment from your Facebook Page, and I’m here to tell you that that’s okay.
Your Page is an extension of your brand, and should be treated accordingly. Our general rule is bad language, rude comments and complaining about individual staff members are all grounds for removal of the comment. We are also a proponent of the “3 strikes and your out” rule which is to say, if you have a Fan who regularly posts comments that break your published rules, you can as an Admin, remove the Fan from your Page and block them from “liking” the Page again.
And my final piece of advice – don’t be afraid of the negative comments.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve learned to live with the idea that not everyone agrees with me, or even likes me. (Let’s face it, you might not agree or like me right now!)
But I have also benefited greatly, both personally and professionally, from my interactions online. And, I have learned many valuable lessons from the negative comments I’ve received over the years and, hope I’m a better and wiser person for that experience.
And I believe your institution can also become better and wiser if you don’t fear the bad comments.