One of my guilty pleasures in life is “The Incredibles” from Disney/Pixar. There are so many great life lessons in there for adults as much as kids that I probably watch it more than my little ones do. As a public affairs professional I am constantly reminded of scenes from the movie in my daily work.
This weekend I was struck by the problem of “adoring” fans. If you have seen the movie you may recall that the downfall of Mr. Incredible started with his “Number 1 fan”, Buddy, who was constantly getting under foot and creating havoc with his attempts to help out his hero.
The Republican National Committee learned the problem of having adoring fans on its Facebook fan page last week when it was widely reported on a number of blatantly racist and inappropriate fan postings on their page. The RNC took a ridiculous amount of time to notice the postings and remove them and opened itself up to charges of supporting the bizarre ramblings of just a few supporters.
Newsweek commented on the episode here: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2009/10/26/more-rnc-internet-follies-racist-images-on-fan-photo-page.aspx
As a government communicator I have always told my colleagues getting involved in social media efforts to make sure they have a person whose job is to scrub all of their communities to ensure that inappropriate posts aren’t finding their way on to the pages when we aren’t looking. I have teenagers so I know better than anyone that the really stupid things tend to show up at 1:00 in the morning and if you aren’t checking at the crack of dawn somebody will find it before you do over their morning cup of coffee.
As I recently perused a number of official government Facebook pages I found a host of examples of misguided postings. One example, was on the page for the Navy’s Chief-of-Naval-Operations where a number of fans are posting advertisements for things from easy loans to Tai Kwan Do studios and the posts are over a week old meaning whoever is managing the CNO’s page is probably only looking at their side of the page and not the “Just Fans” wall.
The lesson learned for both public organizations and private businesses is that you have to know precisely what is being said on your pages. Even though its not coming from you, the world will see it as something you support through your silence and not policing your public face.
Facebook fan pages are very versatile and incredibly useful in building communities around your organization. But, they are also an opportunity for others to make money, embarrass you or take advantage of your poor management. You have to create a routine to carefully scrub your efforts on a daily basis or you will pay a price both publicly and within your organization. It will only take one bashing blog post or news article to set back all the “street cred” you have gained with reluctant leadership in support of your social media efforts.
A small problem with a fan that dealing with now might offend one person can grow into a huge problem later that ruins your reputation.
Don’t forget that Buddy grew up to be Syndrome, Mr. Incredible’s greatest nemesis.
That probably stretches the metaphor a little far but I just like that name…Syndrome. Its a cool evil guy name I think. Those Pixar guys are geniuses.
(This post was originally posted to my personal blog at: http://armedandcurious.blogspot.com/2009/11/pain-of-adoring-fans.html)