Alert! Alert! Your social community is in crisis! Remember that third-party article you posted to the company Facebook Wall yesterday afternoon? Its content sure didn’t seem controversial at the time. In fact, you deemed it the perfect intersection of informative, relevant, interesting, and agreeable.
But where there’s people, there’s opinions. And there was something about that article’s point or perspective that didn’t sit quite right with some of your community members…
Yes – while you, the good-intentioned B2B Community Manager, were fast asleep in your bed, dreaming of sunshine and pussycats and holistic befriending in cyberspace, that benign Facebook post begat a runaway comment thread. Now, it’s spiraling out of control, a mass of aggressive debates, all pouring in the gate faster than you can mediate, or even monitor.
Your community members are at each other’s throats. What do you do?
Discussing digital crises, from prevention tactics to boots-on-the-ground management, can give some companies the willies. They don’t want to imagine living in a world where consumers have negative brand experiences and broadcast said negative experiences across the Internet.
We find most reticence to discuss the darker side of social media often comes from the B2B end of the spectrum — companies that may be a bit more buttoned up and a bit less familiar with letting their community do the talking for them.
The hard truth is it doesn’t matter how anxious the subject makes you. Social community crises and/or conflicts happen whether or not your company is comfortable addressing them. Best to prepare yourself for such an event, so when it does happen for real, you’re ready to take the helm with a cool head and calculating hand.
Tomorrow morning, should you log into your business Facebook page to find a runaway Facebook comment thread, consider this 5-point action plan and address the issue with confidence, grace, and master-ninja authority.
1. Keep Calm
Sounds irritatingly obvious, but skip this crucial first step and good luck trying to follow the rest. No matter how nasty the comment thread has become, keep reminding yourself that no one died (unless your product, service or company actually killed someone, then… call the lawyers), and this is something you can handle.
You’re not a headless chicken, you’re a professional! And ninety percent of the time, you won’t even be dealing with a true crisis, but more of a conflict. Go ahead and toss that word “crisis” out the window when thinking about the issue, it will instantly shave a few digits off your blood pressure.
2. Identify Intent
Scan the thread to get the general themes and tone of the conversation. Get an understanding of the main characters in the conflict – is the thread a stream of new people dropping by to share their two cents on the controversy? Or is it more a group of two, four, six community members coming back repeatedly to expand their arguments? Are things getting personal, maybe inappropriate? Or is it a healthy, albeit heated, debate?
This knowledge will come in handy while you make your next moves as the community’s Master of Ceremonies, not to mention when you debrief the upper-ups (or client, if you’re an agency doing the community management). Either way, it’s just good practice to know who’s who and what’s going on in your cyber microcosm.
3. Monitor Diligently
The deep B2B Community Manager is the voice of her brand, but she’s just as much the eyes and the ears. That means always having a finger on the pulse of the community, in good times and bad. All serious CMs should be armed with a smartphone if possible, for tackling (among many other things) emergencies and overall active crowd control on-the-go.
Real-time alerts are essential. If you’re a registered admin of your Facebook page, you can opt to receive email notifications when people post to, comment on, or message your page. Facebook will simply send alerts right to your FB-associated email address. Simple enough.
For whatever reason, if you don’t have an email address associated with the Facebook page in question, and access to said email account isn’t the easiest, you can always leverage third-party tools. I’m a fan of Hyper Alerts. You can track by Facebook account (which, we know in this hypothetical case, would be inconvenient / impossible), or track by URL.
Yup, just enter the URL for any Facebook page under the sun and receive timely email alerts (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or as soon as possible) whenever a post or comment is made to that page. *Cough* killer competitive intelligence *nose tap* *wink* *elbow nudge* *more winks* *creepy smile*.
4. Keep Out Of It (Until You No Longer Can)
Yes, diligent monitoring is vital, and community managers should always be ready to step in and mediate as needed. But some conversations, however controversial, are better left uninterrupted. As the page owner and as the poster of the content in question, you’re the host of the debate. You don’t have to take sides, you don’t have to participate at all.
Let the thread uncoil naturally– let your community members vent, rant, make and defend their cases. Provided no one’s getting picked on, even the most intense exchanges can create value for the community by illuminating different perspectives. If nothing else, it’s spirited engagement. That said… onto the final action point…
5. Prune Accordingly
If people do start getting nasty, kick them out. It’s your page, it’s your space. Remove comments and ban fans as you and your company see fit. Weigh all comments against your Social Community House Rules (which you should have established before the cyber-stuff hits the fan).
If someone’s breaking the rules, eliminate them – they don’t deserve the privilege of interacting in your community. Keep the thread of constructive criticism intact, and prune for troll-spew nonsense.
Post inspired by one SEL post’s truly tweet-tastic comment thread.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.