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How to Deal With Haters and Potty Mouths on Your Newsroom’s Facebook Page

Few things are as gratifying as positive feedback from your Facebook Fans. Unedited commentary from your viewers can be both the greatest gift social media has to offer and your worst nightmare. While all the story ideas and friendly interactions make it worth all the effort, there are always those fans who find pleasure in being argumentative, disruptive, disagreeable and otherwise as negative as possible.

Some might argue that you need the negativity to balance things out in your social community. I think there’s an obvious difference between offering your honest opinion and being negative. Regardless of how you feel, if you manage your Facebook Page or another social community for your newsroom, you need to know how to deal with negative feedback from haters, potty mouths, know-it-alls and more. I’ve categorized the most-common negative personality types I’ve seen across a lot of different Facebook pages and have provided some suggestions for how to deal with each one.

1. The Haters

These “fans” love to tell everyone how much they hate your station and hate your newscast. They jump at any opportunity to degrade your product and make general statements about how worthless you are.

The three best ways to deal with a hater is respond, respond and respond. They don’t expect you to react, so they think it’s OK to say whatever they want. But, if KCAL jumped on this and responded to Mr. Halstead, it would have quickly silenced the rest of the group. But be careful to stay positive and professional in your response; otherwise you’ll just add fuel to the fire.

2. The Know-it-All’s

There are two types of people in the world. TV people, and people who want to be TV people. Well, maybe not. But you’ll certainly get your fair share of “fans” who are convinced they can do it better than you.

Here, KLTV has (apparently) read the comments on their Facebook page and responded to them. Unfortunately, their response was to change the article rather than to address the fans who first brought up this ethics debate over the “honorable” judge. It’s OK to acknowledge mistakes; it will show your audience that you’re confident in your abilities. Simply write back and thank them for their diligence. This will prevent the snowballing, which, in KLTV’s case, led to this comment: “Guess they want to hide their mistakes and not take responsibility for them. Professionalism in the Tyler media just doesn’t exist.”

3. The Potty Mouths

Whether it’s those seven dirty words or simply an obnoxious innuendo, Potty Mouths love to make trouble on your page and draw attention to their offensive (albeit clever) quips.

There are two general schools of thought when it comes to deleting comments in social media: 1) Never delete comments because doing so invites censorship accusations and backlash, and 2) Sometimes, it’s okay to delete foul-mouthed dissenters but only if their words are offending the rest of the community. With this, the most important thing is to be consistent. Being choosy about who and what gets deleted will most certainly drum up anger among your fans. Instead, create a policy and stick to it. (If you need help, here’s an interesting case study involving Starbucks’ policy.)

4. The Uninvited Guests

Here’s the way social media works: People can write whatever they want; it doesn’t actually have to be in response to your post. And sometimes, these uninvited guests can really make an impression.

Aside from the fact that this is a hilarious typo, it’s a major credibility killer for WCBS. And rather than being a 2 second blip on their broadcast, their “fan”, Mr. Concepcion, has posted this unfortunate misspelling to the WCBS wall for posterity. In this case, deleting the comment would simply look cowardish and would invite this to blow up into an even bigger issue. Your best bet is to either ignore it (as WCBS has done) or make a short, professional comment acknowledging the mistake and assuring the viewers it won’t happen again.

5. The Spammers

How many times have you gotten a call to the newsroom from someone telling you they have something for you to add to the 6 p.m. news? “Yes ma’am we’ll get right on that.” In social media, there’s no gatekeeper to keep these self-serving “stories” from surfacing on your social media space:

However annoying these “advertisements” may be, take at least some comfort in knowing that they’re rarely seen by your true fans, especially if you change your default wall settings to show “Just Your Station” rather than “Your Station + Others.” If you want to do this, simply click “Options” and then “Settings” on your wall. If you don’t get a lot of this type of spam, it might not be necessary. But it’s an option for those who get bombarded by it.

Check out a related posted at KimWilson.com, “Negative Nancy is my Facebook Fan” for more tips. The more ammo we all have, the better.

What do you think? Please feel free to chime in with your suggestions (and try to keep it positive).

About Kim Wilson

Kim Wilson is the founder of SocialNewsDesk.com, a social media solution for newsrooms. The company creates technology to help newsrooms manage and profit from their social media efforts. Her blog, www.KimWilson.com, focuses on trends, tips and resources for improving social media in journalism and news. Kim is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in broadcast journalism, serves on the UF Advisory Board to the College of Journalism, and is currently an adjunct professor in the UF Journalism College. Her course, “Entrepreneurial Journalism,” focuses on innovative ways to create revenue and new business opportunities in the journalism industry. Follow Kim on Twitter @kimberly_wilson and @socialnewsdesk or become a fan of SocialNewsDesk on Facebook.

  • http://www.3seven9.com Chris-3seven9

    Good post Kim,

    Part of the uniqueness of Social Media results in its vulnurability and susception to ‘potty mouths’. As you focus on your article, Facebook is probably the most ‘in danger’ of the social media platforms.

    Having a ‘crisis reaction’ policy is paramount when setting up your social media campaigns. Without a proper one in place and without the correct communication amongst staff one slip up can be very costly. Just ask Nestle or Vodafone!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeremy Porter

    I don’t know if Facebook is the worst in terms of negative feedback – I think YouTube gives brands a run for their money.

  • http://www.hatersworld.com ridoubleg

    I’m responding to the original article.. I also feel that your right about the bad apples ruining it for everyone else in social media sites like facebook.. There are sites out there like FML and Hatersworld.com that target those type of people with the negative attitudes. Keep all the hating off of facebook.. I don’t want my mom reading some of this mess these haters write!

  • http://bellamarketing.wordpress.com/ Bobbie Garner

    Love the sad face cookie pic! Nice reminders and solid advice – but I do differ in opinion on point 5. When you change the view to your business comments only – you also take away the likelihood of someone seeing positive wall posts or tagging others have left. Why not just check daily and remove spam?

  • http://colin.smillie.ca Colin Smillie

    Great article, I would add only that you should start with a terms of use to define what you expect from users ( no hate, racial slurs etc.. ) and what action you take if/when abuse happens. This will help alot with backlash if its perceived to be censoring…

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert Maruggi

    Great, you’ve covered just about everything, but what about negative comments, from your own Spouse! Ouch. OK just kidding had to do that hope it brought a : ) – Happy Holidays

    What does this make me A) A know it All, B) A Spammer C) A hell of a fun guy

  • http://imagine-that-creative.com Kathleen Hanover

    I have a much different take on managing social interaction than many of my peers in the PR world…mainly because I understand the actual definition of “censorship.”

    Only the government, using lethal force (or the threat of it), can censor speech in the U.S. Private organizations and companies can’t legitimately use force to gag their critics. As a private individual, I can delete negative comments from my Facebook profile, but I can’t lock my critics in my basement to keep them from posting.

    In a (mostly) free society, haters and malcontents are free to express their displeasure, but they’re not entitled to a platform from which to do so.

    Which is why private individuals, organizations and businesses are not engaging in “censorship” when they appropriately manage their own “property” (i.e. their Facebook profiles, etc.)

    If a skinhead paints a swastika on the side of my house, am I obligated to leave it up, lest I be accused of censorship? Of course not. It’s MY house. Vandals are not entitled to use my private property as their canvas.

    And haters aren’t entitled to use my Facebook profile, blog or website as a platform from which to broadcast their misanthropy.

  • http://www.pkimbui.com Kim

    All good points, but I agree with Colin. If you’re going to make a policy of removing or not removing anything, you should put up a set of rules. Outs if on the info page and we refer to it frequently.

  • Dan Daly

    When I was a newspaper reporter, we were not allowed to reply to reader comments, even when someone would ask really dumb questions. “So what time is the city council meeting? Why doesn’t the article tell us what we need to know?” (The time was listed in the third paragraph.)

    It was frustrating at first not to be able to politely write “7 p.m.; it’s in paragraph 3.” But I found the comment threads had a way of correcting themselves. A few comments later, someone would say — a bit too forcefully — “Can’t you read? It says the meeting starts at 7 p.m.”

  • http://www.mylove-foryou.com Meighan O’Toole

    Thanks for such an insightful article. Well written and very thorough. I have one question though, what to do when people spam your posts? For example when a commenter posts their website & that is it? Or something that has absolutely nothing to do with the thread? Thanks so much! I have added your blog to my feed & look forwarded to more posts!

    • Molly

      Meighan,

      At the two newspapers I’ve worked at, we’ve been sure to have social media guidelines which clearly state that posters cannot spam, and, if they choose to do so, their posts will be removed. The people spamming will almost never fuss and the other posters almost never do either.

  • Kim Wilson

    @Meighan: As some of the other commenters have said, there isn’t really a right or wrong answer when deciding what (or what not to) to delete from your social media space…the key is to be consistent. Colin makes a good point that posting the “rules” for your space will help when/if someone feels unfairly deleted. But you might find, as Dan said, that there’s no need to ever delete posts, especially if the rest of the community is defending your brand for you.

  • rach

    On Item 5: Facebook has already made a Spam filter available to pages. Sometimes Facebook automatically marks the post as spam, but you as administrator have the option to mark it so. I am not sure if the feature has rolled out to all Facebook pages, though.

  • http://bateman-group.com Rod McLeod

    Great article, Kim. In my experience of observing and participating in social media discussions with brands, I found that companies approached Facebook and Twitter differently. I enjoy participating in Facebook communities online, but find that it’s rare for a brand to be attentive and engaging to one’s comments. However, on Twitter, I’ve been RTed by companies when I have a positive tweet about a product or a brand, and have been messaged by AT&T and Citibank when I’ve voiced displeasure with their services (I actually spoke with someone at Citibank to resolve the problem over the phone). Do you think that brands need to take a more “Twitter-like” approach when it comes to social media engagement on Facebook? Do you have another blog coming up on Twitter? :)

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  • http://theoldperfessor.wordpress.com Keith Cannon

    Kim, very informative post. I’m going to share this with my Digital Journalism class this afternoon as we continue a discussion on appropriate interaction with readers online…And I’m going to get them to participate in this conversation by discussing in groups and asking them to add comments. Thanks for this helpful advice.

    • Kim Wilson

      Thanks Keith – Great to hear that you’ll be discussing this with your class. I teach a course at Univ. of Florida and really enjoy working with students. …Looking forward to reading their comments. – Kim

  • Matthew Broome

    We find your article educational and informative. We do however believe in the right to free speech and that people can put whatever they want on their Facebook page. We agree news companies need to be consistent on how they respond to these people.
    – Matthew Fraker and Matthew Broome
    – Wingate University

  • Samantha Schipman

    We agree with the tips that you provide in your story. However, we think number three should be expanded somewhat. We agree that a policy regarding comments should be in place. We think the policy should let the readers know that if they don’t follow policy rules, their comment will be deleted. If the reader abuses this policy, they will be blocked.
    Samantha Schipman, Natalie Burns, Alex Laing
    Wingate University

  • Courtney Smith

    We respect your method for dealing with rude or inappropriate comments and agree with it. We feel that as long as the comment isn’t offending large numbers of viewers or fans, it should stay. However, if more than 10 people find offense with what someone says, the comment should be deleted. The readers should be allowed to police themselves to an extent.

    -Courtney Smith & Steven Grandy
    – Wingate University

  • Caroline

    I’m a undergraduate student becoming a web content manager & designer. I suspect one of my classmates to be jealous of me because of my wordpress site and it’s content. We just finished the html & css course and no one of my “mates” in school said anything about how my site looks or if it’s good work ..or anything! Personally, if i knew someone who actually study these webmaking courses, I would have say something about the work! And now I can see that one of them removed me from facebook! ok i guess im a pain in the a s s when i post my blogposts on facebook but i got the feeling that someone is jealous….

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