by Katie Cothran, ROI Product Manager – ASPE, Inc.
There are a lot of opinions about how to manage a company’s Facebook fan page – what to post, how often to post, how to get new likes and increase shares, which employee is responsible for posts, etc. But one of the most critical facets of managing a Facebook company page is timely monitoring and appropriately responding.
There are several companies who have handled negative commentary brilliantly, and unfortunately more that have seen debacles. There are also a few that have to deal with fans and group members attacking each other. Here are two opposite examples of those situations, followed by a few guidelines about how to handle negative Facebook comments.
When Belgium-based InBev bought the iconic American Anheuser-Busch, it also meant they took control over one of the most beloved amusement park chains in the United States, Busch Gardens. There were some avid Busch Garden fans that were upset with this, particularly in Williamsburg, VA, where they had a Fall tradition of Oktoberfest leading up to Halloween. (Personally, I laugh a bit at the irony that fans thought a European company couldn’t handle an Oktoberfest celebration at a European-themed amusement park in the United States that divides its sections into Italy, Germany, England, Scotland, etc. But to each their own.)
The fallout, which occurred publicly on Facebook, was pretty ugly. There were defamatory and offensive comments about the CEO of InBev, arguments about American pride, why Anheuser-Busch was a sellout, threats to people who ran the park, and criticism that the new ownership wouldn’t run the park and its Fall tradition the right way. All of this involved profanity, threatening language and derogatory statements on their Facebook page. How did they respond? They immediately addressed the situation.
Busch Gardens stated on Facebook that they welcomed criticism to improve the park, but threats, violence and profanity would not be condoned. To prove it, they kept posts from fans who expressed worry about changes or suggestions for the upcoming Fall promotion. They also stipulated exactly what their policy was if users continued to be foul-mouthed and obscene. When people continued, they followed through, personally reaching out to people and letting them know they were banned from commenting on their page. The outcome? Fans thanked Busch Gardens for cleaning up their page. People don’t want to go to a theme-park Facebook page, especially those with kids, and see that type of language. In the end, a quick, transparent response to negative Facebook comments showed no implications on sales for Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The crisis for Nestle started with a video by Greenpeace with less than 1,000 views. The video expressed Greenpeace’s objection about one company Nestle used as a palm oil supplier. When Nestle requested YouTube take the video down for copyright infringement (which legally was within their right), Greenpeace started a social campaign to make the incident go viral. This included Greenpeace encouraging their supporters to change their Facebook profile pictures to creative, negatively altered versions of Nestle logos and products and post negative comments on Nestle’s fan page. What ensued was a PR nightmare for Nestle, but general entertainment for parties not closely involved. Here are some outtakes from Nestle’s fan page wall:
Another key series of posts within those 198 comments (who knows how many there would have been if they weren’t being deleted):
There are a quite a few things that Nestle did wrong. First of all, there was no resolution. Nestle said they wouldn’t use the supplier Greenpeace opposed, but also didn’t guarantee the same supplier’s product wouldn’t get to them through other vendors. This was two-faced, and enraged people even more by not being transparent. Then they were combative, rude and egotistical. It goes to show you that just because you have the legal upper hand, it doesn’t mean you need to enforce it.
How can your company or organization avoid becoming a laughing stock? Here are a few simple tips:
- The person managing your social media accounts should be an employee or employees that are trustworthy, level-headed, and have a stake in the company. DO NOT LET AN INTERN BE IN CHARGE OF YOUR FACEBOOK!
- Think before you respond. Immediate responses can be snap judgments, poorly worded, miscommunicated and accidentally offensive.
- Address the issue quickly and directly. One way is to publicly address the complainer by giving them a way to contact you directly, offline, so you can find out more about their problem. They will either explain their frustrations in a separate, detailed communication, or never bother you again.
- Take the moral high road and stay classy. Yes, a witty, snarky comeback can be funny, but you endanger losing your audience by being offensive. As a caveat – if your brand is built upon being a smart aleck, by all means, post away.
- Follow through with what you say you will do. Whether it’s no longer using a supplier or issuing consequences.
- Be transparent. People in general trust and respect companies that are honest and show humility. If you made a mistake, fess up to it.
If you’d like more, in-depth topics about social media and how to handle bad publicity on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google Plus, the ASPE-ROI Social Media Boot Camp provides insights about different platforms, social media policy, best practices and department management.
About the author: Katie Cothran (@k_cothran) is the ROI Product Manager at ASPE, Inc., and has more than seven years of marketing experience from previously held positions in various industries. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.