Regardless of whether you are representing yourself, an agency, a company, a non-profit, or a campaign online, you will most likely encounter negative digital feedback. While you cannot control what the world puts in front of you, you can control how you respond. In fact, how you do so might say more about your character than when you are just humming along. Below are some examples and tips for Facebook and Twitter, but they also apply to other social media networks:
1. When you read content directed at you that immediately raises your inner flag (i.e. it is negative), simply re-read it. Avoid jumping to unnecessary conclusions too early.
2. After you read it the second time, if it is in fact, negative, or unproductively critical, take a deep breath, step away from it for a few minutes, and then respond. No impulsive, angry thrashing out! Keep your cool.
3. If the person appears to be legitimate (see point C below), calmly analyze the tweet and respond in a constructive, non-threatening manner. If the person continues to engage (as long as it is not profane or otherwise abusive), continue to briefly interact with them until they give up.
Posts to block:
A. Those containing profane language
B. Those attacking anyone personally
C. Those that appear to be a spam account (can usually tell by the content of their tweets, 0 or < 10 followers, no profile image)
D. Anything else that appears to be completely inappropriate
Follow the same three steps as above. Also, consider adding a Facebook policy to your page. Here is an example:
Sample Member Conduct Policy
[Name of organization] on Facebook is moderated. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, [Name of organization] expects that participants will treat each other with respect. [Name of organization] on Facebook will not post comments that contain vulgar or abusive language; personal attacks of any kind; or offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups. [Name of organization] on Facebook will not post comments that are spam, are clearly “off topic” or that promote services or products. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also be subject to review.
Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other nongovernmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using [Name of organization] on Facebook.
Here is a summary of the guidelines we abide by:
The use of vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language is prohibited. Public comments should be limited to comments related to the topic. [Name of organization] on Facebook is not the proper place to express opinions or beliefs not directly related to that topic.
[Name of organization] on Facebook is not open to comments promoting or opposing any person campaigning for election to a political office or promoting or opposing any ballot proposition. [Name of organization] on Facebook is not open to the promotion or advertisement of a business or commercial transaction.
Have you dealt with negative feedback on Facebook or Twitter? How about in comments on your organization’s blog? How do you deal with this?
What people have to realize is that these conversations are happening with or without us. We either deal with the negative feedback up front or let it adversely affect our agencies reputation.
This is one of the “Top 3 Reasons” why an agency is reticent to get started with social media. I call it “Fear of the Nefarious Guest.” You offer an excellent step-by-step approach for agencies to think about it, Lauren.
One thing that I’ve always told agencies is: When someone says something negative about your agency, say “Thank you!” It’s a bit jarring for some folks to hear that advice, but it gets them thinking differently about “negative” feedback. It’s natural for us to want to dismiss or get upset by criticism. But if we’re open to learning and listening, the hard reality is that there’s a kernel of truth and it usually reveals our blind spots. And the folks who are honest enough to share that feedback are great customers…and for them we should be grateful. 🙂
One last thing: did you hear the story of how VA hired one of their biggest critics to become a blogger?
Well said, Lauren. You have pinpointed good lessons for all of us. Emails, tweets, etc. leave lots of room for questions and it’s often difficult to determine tone. Sometimes the writing is so poor, one cannot really know what was said or meant. Many “fire” emails to people in anger and haste and do great harm. We must all think carefully before we hit “send”.
Another option that should not be forgotten is simply ignoring the negative comment: Particularly when comments are in the form of personal attacks – and a lot of people when on line go over the line when critiquing others – it is a good idea to just ignore it until they get bored and go away. I do personal blogs as well as commentary on my embassy Facebook page, and it is often the official commentary that draws negative comments. Unless it is egregious or really inaccurate, we ignore it. Often, other readers go after the socially inept on our behalf:
Great piece! And I totally agree with Andrew’s comment. It is completely disarming to some people when they get thanked for criticism. And even more disarming when you fix their issue or provide information to explains the situation. In many cases you can turn an ‘enemy’ into an ambassador and they will help defend. It’s actually a beautiful thing. 🙂
And while “the Nefarious Guest” can be a deterrent, one client built an army of 20 employee to do round-the-clock monitoring on an online dialogue for this exact reason. After two days, 99 of the 100 comments they received were positive and constructive and they whittled their monitoring down to one person and now they are much more comfortable engaging the public.
Excellent thinking, guys!
We will address any legitimate concerns/questions that come through FB or Twitter. Typically, we will respond with a link to related information on our site and/or contact information to a staff person better qualified to address the issue one-on-one.
The key is to take negative engagement offline as quickly as possible. Perpetuating negativity online in the public eye by going back and forth is counter productive. If the person really wants something resolved, they will follow your offline path to the solution. Providing that offline path also leaves those who simply want to stir things up (troll/vent) little reason to continue with their mission at that point.
There is nothing quite as freeing as being called a total idiot. Because then you don’t have too far to fall 🙂 Seriously – it is a good thing to get over yourself. Individual or agency.
Take it with a grain of salt. It’s not worth arguing on the internet: