Company suspends Facebook page due to nasty comments

Idaho Department of Fish and Game shuts its page down following heated comments. Is this the right approach?


We have an important announcement: Effective immediately at Arment Dietrich, we will disconnect our phone service.

We no longer have the time or the resources to answer the phone. It just keeps ringing and it won’t stop! People have questions! And they want us to do work for them! But we don’t have the time. So we’re shutting it down.

Preposterous you say? We agree. We’re not really shutting down the phone. But this is exactly the message you send when you say you don’t have time for social media.

Lisa Jenkins sent me a link this week: Idaho Department of Fish and Game has suspended their Facebook page. It no longer has the time and resources to manage its page. It’s getting nasty comments; attacks directed at employees, and it’s unable to respond to the questions on its wall in a timely and efficient fashion.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not necessarily putting Idaho Fish and Game at fault here. I know government funding has been cut way back, and I am not privy to what’s going on internally.

I wanted to address this from a different perspective: You can’t afford to shut down your Facebook page much more than you can’t afford to operate it, especially if you’re getting a lot of questions and feedback. Someone needs to figure that out. I’m not sure who.

Let’s dissect the arguments:

Comments get nasty: According to the Idaho Statesman,

There have been several occasions when the discussions became extremely heated,” said Mike Keckler, Fish and Game’s chief of the Bureau of Communications. “Name calling occurred, profanity appeared, and posters too often attacked Fish and Game employees by name, and each other, in ways that we didn’t think was appropriate for a state agency-sponsored page.”

I get that. It’s not cool at all. There are a few ways to handle this:

  • You need to have a commenting policy. Put it in your About tab. Say you welcome constructive criticism in a respectful manner. Profanity and personal attacks are not allowed, and will be deleted. Then you can point to something when and if you need to delete a comment.
  • Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t work. You should want to understand where all the nastiness is coming from. If it’s trollers, fine. Delete and move on. But if there are valid points, don’t you want to be able to address them internally and respond externally?

Next argument:

“It was also difficult for Fish and Game staff to get answers to many of the questions from readers because they couldn’t forward them on to employees with the specific information. Fish and Game can do that on its website.”

Fair enough. At least they still have an outlet for answering questions, but your audience is spending a heck of lot more time on Facebook than they are on your website. They are far more likely to stop by and throw a question on your wall while on Facebook than to take the effort to navigate to your website, and find the place where they can ask.

Solution?

  • It’s not that hard to have more than one person on Facebook. Put a system in place so if there is a question for Susie, the page administrator can comment in response and tag Susie. Now, Susie gets an email and she jumps in there to respond. It doesn’t take any more time and effort than if you forward an email or transfer a phone call.
  • Or? Make Susie an admin too! Now she monitors the page regularly and can jump in when needed.

The Facebook page is the new telephone. It’s no longer a question of having the time and resources to have a page. The question is, “How are you going to find the time and resources?”

Lisa Gerber is the chief content officer of Spin Sucks, where a version of this post first appeared.

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