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Handling social media harassment and cyberbullies

Katie Patterson

CEO and Founder, Happy Medium

News reports recently alerted us to the cyberbullying that Gabby Douglas faced in Rio through social media. Her mother stated to journalists that the young gymnast felt she couldn’t do anything right and was criticized for everything from her hair to how she cheered on her teammates. The comments turned mean and ugly quite quickly, and Gabby turned away from her social channels as a result.

Brands are no strangers to this kind of backlash via social media channels as well. For some reason, people seem to have an easier time with complaints or negative comments when behind a screen and not face-to-face with an actual representative from your company. As stated in past blogs, social media is an extension of your customer service and no question, complaint or issue should be ignored. But every now and then, you’ll get someone who wants to stir the pot and leave negative comments repeatedly on your company posts. This can be a challenging time because instinct is often to delete the comments, but that can often make people angrier and backfire on the social efforts. A quick search of what to do turns up several recommendations that you never delete Facebook posts, so social media managers are often left wondering which is the lesser of two evils.

Here are some options to help detract the situation:

1. Set page guidelines to your company Facebook page. On your “about” page or through a Facebook note, you can set clear guidelines for commenting/posting on the company page. This oftentimes is as easy as no swearing, no spam, be respectful. It sets the precedent for what is accepted, and if anyone disputes why something was deleted, it’s easy to reference these guidelines as a benchmark for what will be allowed and those comments that are unacceptable.

2. Ask them to send more information privately. Taking the conversation into a private message allows you to get more details on the issue and also moves it to an area where the general public won’t be following along if the discussion gets heated on the customer's end.

3. Hear them out, and offer a solution. If the complaint is legitimate, offer a solution. Let them know you’re speaking with customer service or the employee who was involved in the issue. If it’s something that can easily be fixed, don’t be shy to repair the situation with a good gesture such as a complimentary experience or refund, if applicable.

4. Show appreciation for their feedback if a solution isn’t possible immediately. Oftentimes social media is where customers feel they can make suggestions for problems your team may already be working on but not have an answer to yet. At a minimum, thank them for their input. Most of the time, your fans just want to know their voice is being heard and acknowledged. 

5. Reply to reviews over individual posts to your page. Reviews are the more public-facing comments rather than posts to a page. Other viewers are more likely to look at your company reviews first, so make sure if a complaint is being left in multiple places, your response is focused on the review first. You can comment on other posts to say you have offered a solution on the review so other visitors are aware you didn’t leave the customer hanging with no response.

6. Hide their comments. If the conversation turns to a place where it is no longer productive, you can hide their comments. This allows the discussion to be hidden from your page but to the user who left it, it still appears as normal. This is a solution if you feel that deleting the comment will cause backfire.

7. Delete the comments or ban user if nothing else can be done. Some people simply cannot be reasoned with, and when the conversation turns down the path of no return, use your best judgment in deleting comments or banning the user from the page. Social media should be a place for productive discussion and engagement with your customers, and if the user refuses to be reasoned with or happy with any offering, this is the time when it’s OK to consider limiting future involvement on the page. This should be a last resort, but know that there are instances when this is the best option.

Comments

Great article, thanks Katie!

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