Greetings, fellow Community Manager! How’s it hanging? Why the long face? Feeling beat up by the Facebook community you’ve built around your brand? Drowning in explosive comment threads that black-eye your business? Sore from the verbal spankings supposed “fans” have been serving up? Well, you’re in luck. This is the Community Manager’s Guide To Intra-Community Bloodshed, your ultimate resource for maintaining grace, professionalism, and healthy blood pressure in the wake of intra-community bloodshed.

So far in this series we’ve scoped out The Community Manager’s Dilemma Decoder Ring (one free in every box of CM Puffs), a how-to look at deciphering between a manageable social media conflict and a more serious, red-level social media crisis. We also explored the tactics for preparing for social media meltdowns, to help ensure smooth sailing when the social-seas get rough. This post will look at what to do when complaints, conflicts or crises crop on your brand’s Facebook Page, and it’s up to you to deal with them. Let’s get started. Welcome to Facebook Community Triage: Do’s & Do Not Do’s.

First Thing’s First: Discerning The Intent
Negative brand sentiment, like ice cream, comes in many different flavors. Before you act, address, or eliminate negative posts on your brand’s Facebook page, you should (read: really really really should) discern the intent of the post. Is it a legitimate complaint from a frustrated customer? Is it a poor review as a result of a poor experience? Is it spewed nonsense from a repeat troll offender?

Maybe your company’s policy is to remove everything negative. Or, maybe you choose to leave legit negative reviews up for the sake of transparency. In the last installment of this series, we took a look at establishing “House Rules” for your Facebook Community. Without a clear-cut code of conduct, Facebook’s like the wild freakin’ west; but with house rules on your side, the questionable grey areas (“So… duhhhh… do we remove this comment or not?”) becomes a little less fuzzy. Regardless, best practice is to have a real understanding of what motivated the post… before you act.

“The customer’s always right,”… right? Wrong! With a caveat.There is a noteworthy spectrum of people out there, in case you didn’t notice. Even if someone is/was a customer, they could also still be “missing a screw.” Hypothetically speaking… a customer could, feeling personally slighted, cheated, and swindled when truly no monkey business occurred, go on a ranting rampage and make it her/her sole mission to destroy your brand’s FB page by way of irrational accusatory comments. Discerning intent (and frequency of contributions from said commenter) is a helpful step to understanding if the customer = or ≠ right.

Actually, let’s run with that hypothetical scenario. As we charge forth to the Do’s and Do Not Do’s, we’ll lean on the situation of a Facebook Promotional Contest Gone Wrong.

Close your eyes. Imagine this: a small crew of sore losers, collectively code-named Fan X, crops up after not winning a photo contest on Facebook. Fan X leaves a barrage of comments on the Wall, claiming the contest was rigged, that Brand Z conducts shady business, swearing to never buy from Brand Z again. After assessing the situation, Brand Z decides  to craft and post a succinct statement on Facebook that addresses the issue at hand. Did we mention you’re the Community Manager for Brand Z? Well, you are. So…

What do you do? Also… what do you not do?

Addressing the Masses: Do’s

  • Document everything! Evidence, my friends. Best practices is to take screen-caps of activity as it happens, with time-stamps, and save them all in a folder or document. Add links to the individual post, if so desired, for warp-speed efficiency should you need to revisit it. You can do this by clicking on the time-stamp beneath the impressions count (if you’re logged in as admin). Having all of the evidence in your back pocket should assist you nicely when you compile your case study to show the client, or debrief your in-house team. (*Wink, elbow nudge*)

  • Craft a comprehensive response. If this is the route you take, some tips for your response: keep the focus, highlight the facts, dispel misconceptions, and explain brand’s standpoint. This could be 1-2 sentences, or a brief paragraph. Concise is the name of the game. (And my, what a fun game it is!)
  • Ask for input from your team. As the saying goes, two (or three or four or a gaggle) heads are better than one. Bring your team members in on the think-tank as you write your response. Consult with upper-ups as needed. Get the seal of approval before posting.
  • Post in an easy-to-find location. It’s a matter of preference where you post the response. Replying in the runaway thread has a perk, because everyone involved will get a notification of your comment. But here, it can become easily buried and lost. There’s a case to be made for posting your brand response as a fresh Status Update or Facebook Note, for all the world to see. Then again, you may not want all the world to see… so again, preference.

Addressing the Masses: Do Not Do’s

  • Over-apologizing. The only thing worse than being attacked by negative comments is giving power to the commenters by over-apologizing. There’s no need to fuel antagonists by groveling. Remember: responding to complaints doesn’t always mean appeasing the the complainer (i.e. if they’re in the wrong). That said, don’t be a jerk, either. Incorporate a harmony between recognition, understanding, and authority in your responses.
  • Unnecessary reposting of brand’s statement. You did your job by posting the original brand response. Don’t feel pressured to hunt down the mailing address of everyone involved to send them a postcard featuring the same sentiment. (Unless that’s your shtick.) Repetitious posting ≈ groveling. Consider sharing a shortened URL that points to the message as needed.
  • That pouty thing. Easier said than done, I know. Deep community managers really connect with their community – and when there’s animosity, it can feel like serious heartache. Angry users can sling insults at an icon or a logo without much hesitation, forgetting there’s a human being on the other side of the monitor. Still,  it’s crucial to maintain a level head when dealing with negative Nellies. In the immortal words of the Godfather, “It’s not personal; it’s business.” Complainers are upset with the brand experience, not you.

Free Present! Finger-Lickin’ Nuggets From The Crowd.
@aimClear and yours truly, @beebow took the question of best practices when dealing with negativity on FB pages to the tweet streets. Here’s what folks had to say:

Let’s give them a round of applause for their participation! *clap clap clap clap clap clap* Tune in next week when we take a closer look at removing comments and banning fans from Facebook Pages. Naughty, naughty!