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The vision for this blog is to create a community of harmonious professionals across the care continuum who encourage each other in exploring digital media as a way to support businesses and families dealing with elder care.

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Social media policies: Handling negative comments

Written on January 31st, 2012 by tasha

In our on-going series on social media policies, I’m turning my attention to a policy for handling negative comments. This seems to be the number one fear, after HIPAA, that I hear from leadership. If you have a policy in place, it will help everyone to feel more prepared should someone say something disparaging about your business.

Let’s start with a few acknowledgements:

What are the comments you can/should just delete?
Some people are just grouchy. They like to pick fights. (Called “Internet Trolls”.) They may be offensive or abusive. They may use profanity. (Called “Ragers.”) They may have forgotten to take their meds for a few days… You meet all kinds.

Publishing an inclusion/deletion policy helps. Some items you might decide to categorically delete would include comments that are:

You not only have the ability to delete these posts, you can also block them from posting again. (You may wish to do this for the more obstreperous ones. Deleting a comment can anger a poster and inspire them to comment again and again. If they are irrational, this is even more likely.)

Comments that have a rational tone to them should be kept and responded to. Not only because the individual deserves a reply, but also because your Fans will want to know what you have to say. If they see you have deleted a rational albeit negative comment, you will lose credibility in the Internet crowd. Kremlin-esque policies are frowned upon on the Web, especially in social media.

Monitor frequently (once a day at least). If someone does put a negative comment up, you want to begin putting your policy/response in motion as soon as possible. For platforms such as Facebook, you can have comments forwarded to your email so you can immediately see (or as often as you check email) who has said what.

A blog is the “safest” social media platform as you can set it so all comments have to go through an approval process before they are posted publicly. If your leadership team is especially squeamish about negative comments, start with a blog rather than Facebook. The greater control on this platform will ease anxieties. It also allows you to hold “borderline posts” until you have a reply ready to release right after you “publish” the negative comment.

A difference of opinion is a good thing.
Community engagement is a primary goal of social media and by its nature implies a certain amount of debate. While a lovefest is lovely (all positive comments), if people care enough to challenge something you have said or done, part of building community and building relationships is to respect their opinions and participate in the conversation.

The Air Force, of all agencies, has an infographic for its comment response policy. It provides a handy flowchart that might help you decide how to respond.

Some people suggest leaving non-abusive but obviously irrational posts alone.
Your Fans will likely recognize the person as off-base and discount their comments. Or one of your Fans may even step in and come to your defense.

I tend to think this is more relevant advice for larger companies with very large Fan bases (in the thousands range) as the number of Fans who actually post on a business page tends to be less than 2%. If you have 100 or fewer Fans (the average small business has 65), the chances of one of them defending your honor gets pretty slim. Don’t forget, our client base tends to be of a generation that is not as active in terms of posting comments. They may even feel that you are being treated unfairly, but that doesn’t mean they will jump in on your behalf.

It’s not a good idea to let negative comments linger unaddressed.
Depending on the intensity of the comment, if your Fan base has not stepped forward within half a day, it would be good for you to reply. The more balanced and rational the comment, even if it is misguided, the more quickly it deserves a response. To that end:

What if there is truth in the comment?


If you would like to see sample Comments Policies
, check out the policies of other health care organizations (e.g., Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente) that are shared on the Social Media Governance website.

How have you handled negative comments?

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