Moderating Negative Facebook Comments

Moderating an online community can be tricky. While social media moderation is necessary, it needs to be done with as light of a touch as possible. The key to effectively managing any given situation is knowing when to step in to moderate a conversation and when you should just let nature take its course, so to speak. As Justin mentioned in this week’s lecture, social media sites, ultimately, belong to their users not to their community managers. According to NPR’s Ethics Handbook, “we do not impose ourselves on such sites. We are guests and behave as such.” In order to get the most out of social media, we need to understand these communities and treat those we encounter online, regardless of whether what they’re saying is positive or negative, with the utmost respect and courtesy that we’d show people we encounter offline.

This week, we’ve been tasked with moderating the following sample customer comments. We are to assume that they were left on our company’s Facebook page.

To a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to provide us your feedback. We are sorry to hear about your unpleasant dining experience at our restaurant. At (Insert name of restaurant), we pride ourselves on excellent service, one-of-a-kind cuisine and cleanliness. Messy tables are not acceptable. Please be assured that we have spoken with our staff to ensure that this will be not happen again. I’d like to personally invite you to try our restaurant again the next time you’re in our neck of the woods. When you come, please make sure to ask for Lynette. I would love to meet you in person.

To a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to listen to our news segment about the Middle East and provide us with your feedback. At (Insert name of mainstream news network), we do our best to ensure that our reporting is as balanced as possible, making sure we give equal air time to both sides of every issue we discuss on our network. Please know that we value your feedback and have passed your comments on to our team manager. If you have additional feedback in the future, please feel free to email us directly at (Insert email address here).

Although each of my replies were for different types of situations, I structured them very similarly. In each, I thanked the customer for their feedback, apologized for the poor experience they had, touched on our company’s values and invited them to leave additional feedback. While there is no magic formula for moderating comments on social media, I find that this way is a pretty standard and effective way to handle customer/viewer complaints, as it demonstrates empathy and honesty.

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8 thoughts on “Moderating Negative Facebook Comments

  1. Hi Lynette,

    I think it’s hard to reply to these two negative comments without knowing what the brand voice or personality is on social. Sometimes I really wonder if people that post the negative replies really read anything that the brand is responding back with. There are two main principles that I try to employ when thinking about responding to negative comments:
    1) Always be respectful (which you absolutely did in both of your responses)
    2) Always be positive (which I think you also achieved)
    I also think that if someone provides a critique of a product or service maybe they just didn’t use it right or perhaps they missed something. I try to see if I can spin my response and offer a solution. Sometimes that helps.

    • Hi Aldona,

      You bring up a great point. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people post negative comments on Facebook and then never write back after the company has responded to their initial comment. It’s like they only wanted to write a negative comment just to see if the company would actually respond.

      I like the suggestion you brought up in your second point. It is true that sometimes a person’s complaint stems from a miscommunication or a lack of understanding of how to use their product or service, and all we need to do as a company is provide clarification. I guess there really is no set way to respond to negative comments. Companies need to access each situation on a case by case basis in order to determine the best way to respond.

  2. I was happy to read you mention the “owner of social media” is the users, this is something I forget. It makes me support less moderation even more so than I did before. I think social media’s greatest attribute is allowing people to feel like they have a voice, and allowing brands an opportunity to react appropriately. With too strict of moderation policies we are unable to showcase all of our abilities as a brand and we also look close-minded. You took a very strategic approach to negative feed back as did many in the class. While you are correct, there is not an exact science there are general suggestions for appropriate responses. My only suggestion would be to try and be more human in the responses. People who criticize are angered or disappointed in someway, given a structured responses would probably upset them further. I would also be sure to keep an eye on how things develop around the particularly negative comment to see if it is an agreed upon complaint or isolated incident. Good Job!

    • Hi Alicia,

      Great point! Being human is the best way to win over an upset customer. When you show that you’re truly sorry for their poor experience, it leaves them with a good impression of you and your company. I, too, now have a different opinion about social media moderation after this week’s lecture. While it may be our first instinct to want to jump into every conversation right away to save the day and prevent any sort of damage to our brand’s reputation, sometimes it’s better to wait, access the situation and then join into the conversation once your customers have had a chance to voice their opinions.

  3. Great post! I love both of your comments back, and I think you answered them perfectly. You were conversational, respectful, and apologetic. It is so important to address negative (and positive) comments on social media, and do it in the right manner. I love that you told the guest to ask for you next time they are in the area. That, in the hospitality world, shows a guest that you really care. Enough so that you would take time out of your day to meet with them on their terms. If I was a social media manager at a specific hotel, where I had the option to meet with a guest, I would absolutely do that. Great job!

    • Hi Casey,

      Thank you for the positive feedback. If I was actually dealing with this sort of situation in real life, I would also make it a point to meet with the customer. Whether or not the customer takes advantage of my offer isn’t the important thing, but extending an offer such as this, as you said, shows the customer that you value their feedback and are striving to improve their future experiences at your restaurant.

  4. Angela Cook says:

    Lynette, nice post, (and I really like this Fictive theme format). I noticed right away that you did stick to a pretty formulaic response. I think this is important for companies to do, because it ensures that all responses are handled in the same manner which is agreed upon in advance by the management team. However, you didn’t used a “canned” response. You gave each each response the individual attention and thought it deserved.

    I also notice that you invited the first unhappy customer to meet you in person. I thought this was a very nice personal touch! You also requested he or she ask for you by name, and then you warmly said that you’d “love” to meet in-person. This is a very sincere and kind act which sends a very warm fuzzy feeling back. No doubt this would diffuse anger and irritation!

    In your second response, you added another personal touch by providing the listener with a direct email. This works for you in two ways: 1) The person appreciates the opportunity to connect one-on-one, and 2) It gives the individual the opportunity to vent directly rather than in front of an audience. Smart move!

    Thanks for sharing :).

    • Hi Angela,

      Thank you for the positive feedback. I agree with you that while companies should have an agreed upon format for responses, at the end of the day, each complaint is going to be handled differently depending on the topic at hand. The language you use in your response could make it or break it for your company. Using words like “love” or even mentioning yourself by name shows a human side to your company that canned responses wouldn’t really allow. And finally, giving a customer a way to reach your company when they want to give additional feedback ensures that the line of communication between your company and that customer will always be kept open.

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