How To Respond To Facebook Attacks

Whether it's a full-blown page takeover by an environmental organization or multiple posts by a disgruntled customer, no brand is immune from people freely speaking their mind and bringing that dialogue to brands' Facebook pages.

There is a natural fear of negative comments on your Facebook pages or any other forums for that matter. What a lot of folks perceive as the end of the world for a brand, I look at as the golden opportunity. After all, it is much easier to convert an unhappy customer into a social ambassador by providing excellent service and fast response than to convert a person who is neutral or doesn't care.

According to The Retail Consumer Report, commissioned by RightNow and conducted online by Harris Interactive in January 2011, of those who received a reply in response to their negative review 33% turned around and posted a positive review; 34% deleted their original negative review. 85% of consumers said they would be willing to pay anywhere between 5-25% over the standard price to ensure a superior customer experience.

So how can you convert nay-sayers into advocates? And how should you respond to Facebook page takeover attempts by angry crowds?

First off, be prepared.

Having moderation guidelines in place for your Facebook page is critical! You cannot create your own terms and conditions for your page (Facebook requires everyone to comply with their T&Cs), but you can specify what kinds of behaviors will not be tolerated within your community. For example, on our Intel's Facebook Page we outline the list of posts that will be taken down like abusive remarks, offensive language, fraudulent posts, spam, commercial solicitations, link-baiting, etc. Intel's Social Media Guidelines also include "the good, the bad, but not the ugly" rule, which states that no matter what forum the discussion takes place in, we will leave the positive comments and the negative comments, but not abusive, foul, and inappropriate comments.

There are a lot of tools out there that can help you filter the comments and flag or automatically delete the ones that include inappropriate language. Facebook also has recently build-in that capability into the brand pages by allowing you to choose a filter; however, they don't disclose the list of words that filter includes, so you might want to create your own customized list through third-party vendor solutions.

Hire experienced community manager. Some brands make the mistake of hiring an intern or outsourcing community management function to an agency. This is a critical role, role that requires a person to know your brand in and out, know its voice, what it stands for, know and love your customers, have intimate knowledge of internal stakeholders in case he/she needs to find critical information or escalate to a specific team. An intern doesn't possess this knowledge/experience. And if you absolutely must outsource this function to the agency, make darn sure that the agency is well trained, truly cares and has your best interests in mind.

Below are some additional considerations.

Responding to disgruntled customers

  • Respond quickly. Even if it's just a note to tell them you are aware of their comment and you are looking into it.
  • Be honest. If you made a mistake, admit it right away and apologize. Believe it or not, your customers don't expect you to be perfect; they just expect you to do your best. They know that you are human, so don't be afraid to act like one.
  • Provide information every step of the way. Even if you don't know the answer, tell your customer right away that you are trying to find it for him. Don't leave them hanging and expect them to automatically know what you are doing. Communicate all the way, clearly and regularly.
  • Don't take it personally. They are not attacking you; they are just looking for answers. Keep your cool, be patient and respectful.
  • Address it offline when necessary. If the customer persists and none of your attempts to address his/her complaint through the comments on your page are good enough, it is sometimes best to reach to the customer personally, pick up the phone and talk to him/her. In my experience you will find that the customer will delete his earlier negative comments and post the raving review or an apology once you talk to him.

Responding to Facebook Page takeover attempts

Similar principles apply here; however, below are some additional considerations:

  • Listen. Having listening tools in place that might alert you to a specific topic of organized protest or complaint might come in handy. If you anticipate what's coming, you might be better prepared to handle the response.
  • Put a crisis management team in place. Ensure you have a team consisting of appropriate key stakeholders (legal, PR, privacy, security, HR, customer service) in place so that your response is swift and accurate.
  • Turning the ability of fans to post to your page on/off. Unless you have the ability for fans to post on your page turned off consistently, I do not recommend using this tactic during takeovers. It will only add fuel to the fire, draw attention of the media, and can potentially turn into a Streisand Effect.
  • Setting Wall to only show posts by brand. You can set the default view of the Wall to show brand-only posts so that when someone lands on your page, they only see your posts
  • Let your fans speak for you. Sometimes it's best to let your fans defend you. Don't rally your fans on purpose. If you have a strong community, your fans will jump in and help you drive the offenders away.
  • Taking conversation somewhere else.There may have been a brand or two that used this tactic successfully. However, most of the time it doesn't work. Suggesting to an upset crowd that Facebook is not the right forum to address the issue on and offering they take the conversation to a Discussions tab or elsewhere is usually ineffective. If they are Facebook-savvy they know that the Discussions tab posts don't appear in front of the whole community unless the community takes an effort to look for those discussions (which happens rarely).
  • Know when to walk away. There is a fine line between responding to customers' satisfaction and fueling the fire. You want to provide your customers with sufficient information and an honest response and move on.
  • Continue with business as usual. Don't let the takeover affect your everyday activities. Continue to post relevant content and engage with your other customers in your usual manner.

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