Think of your social media asset as a classroom, and you are the teacher. How do you use the carrot and the stick to inspire, and keep control?

 1. Create House Rules, and enforce them

Sometimes you need to hide or delete posts; however, people can take offense. Hence the need to publish house rules to define behaviour; for instance you don’t want comments containing profanity, racism, defamatory material, fake news or other offensive remarks.

We suggest our clients explain in the House Rules the process before a deletion. This includes explaining to the person making the comment (either by PM or phone) why there is a need to re-write or remove the comment.

  • On Facebook community expectations are broadly defined here – – and you can use this a guide for your own rules.
  • Define your expectations clearly: try and align your rules with the values of most people in the community.
2. Create key messages

Key messages are tricky with social media, because where there are a lot of comments we need to avoid being repetitive. That means the people who are replying to posts and comments need to be allowed some latitude with the wording. So, we call them key themes.

3. Ask people to complain to you first.

If they complain to you in person, or via a comment on Facebook, you have an opportunity to fix their problem, before they blast their frustrations elsewhere onto the web.

 4. Don’t respond to everyone. 

Like any good teacher, you can allow a reasonable flow of discussion.

 5. The audience will support you, if you are communicating mainstream sentiments.

The aim of any community manager is to have an interactive community. In our experience that includes people who will defend your asset against misbehaviour.

 6. Use the phone.

Take a negative comment offline and speak to the person. Once fixed, you can ask the complainant to acknowledge what you have done in the same forum as they complained so that other ‘followers’ can see it.

7. Apologise, if you are wrong.

Three critical components to an apology:

  • Say sorry, and mean it (this may take staff retraining)
  • Commit to investigating the complaint and giving feedback
  • Make sure it doesn’t happen again.
8. Be careful of the ‘sorry’ word

Empathy is critical; however, ‘sorry’ is now so overused that it no longer sounds authentic to a lot of people. Find other ways to write the same sentiment.

  • It’s a good exercise for the team to sit down and each write 5 or 10 ways to indicate empathy
9. Don’t say “but…”.

A special note on apologies: in this phrase, “We apologise for any inconvenience; but, we have found that with most complaints …”, everything before the ‘but’ is negated by that word. So if you write a sentence that includes the word ‘but’, perhaps reconsider what you are saying. A useful rule is, “Don’t say ‘but’, say ‘and’.”

10. Be prepared to take a stand.

There are serial complainants, and you are not going to stop them. You have to make a judgement on what is best for your organisation and your community – delete or put-up-with-it.

  • If you’ve done all you can, and it plays out in the public domain, other customers will see that. People, generally, recognise whingers.
  • Sometimes it takes a threat by you of legal action.

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