What happens when people make insensitive comments on your Facebook page?

Post by: Kim Stephens

Having the ability for people to post comments to your Facebook page can be an invaluable opportunity to get direct feedback from the community. In the past, people were really only able to talk openly about  your response effort by sending a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Now, they can tell you exactly how they feel on your Facebook page. This ability, however, has a lot of folks in the emergency response business a little nervous. What if we get people commenting who say foul things about our organization or how we are handling the incident? How do you respond to irrational comments, untruthful information about what your organization is doing or hurtful remarks? One lesson that we in the social media and emergency management realm have always preached…don’t worry–other, rational citizens will respond for you.

The Facebook page for the Barry Point OR Fire can serve as a case in point. A seemingly innocuous post simply providing a picture with a caption “New Incident Commander..talks to crews…” elicited this comment:

The adminstrators of the page, however, didn’t have to argue with this woman or even acknowledge her terribly insensitive, irrational comment. Why? Citizens responded for them with statements such as:

  • Seriously, I cannot belive you had the nerve to post that.
    A few days ago a young girl lost her life protecting your towns, your forests from complete destruction. I know crews who have been on this fire from the flare up working 16 hour days in the heat lugging 50 pound packs and chainsaws trying to keep it from destroying everything in its path. They are getting 4 hour rest periods to sleep.
  • Shame on you. And to all of the hard working men and women who are putting your own safety and well-being on the line for the communities, thank you, thank you, thank you. Be safe!
  • ..not only is what you said disrespectful, untruthful and condescending, but I can’t even take it seriously as your post is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • AMAZING! Our children, my child, is out there everyday protecting the homes, families and land in that area and you have the nerve to post something like that. They work theirs tails off! If they play a little hacky sac they probably deserve a break! You have balls lady.

It goes on and on. The naysayer tried to argue back, but her voice was drowned out. The only response required from the page administrators was this acknowledgement and reminder of their comment policy:

The reminder of the comment policy is important. People might wonder why the administrators didn’t simply delete her comment. Deleting it, however, would be completely counterproductive. She would most likely start a rant on her own Facebook page or even go so far as to produce a blog that was solely designed to rant about the response. Although she still might do those things, by leaving the comment for all to see, as well as the responses from the community, her stature  is diminished and she is not able to elevate herself to a martyr status, e.g. “I am the one whose voice was stifled!”

If you have an example of this happening to you, I’d love to hear about it. And good luck to all the firefighters out there this summer. You all are in our thoughts.

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8 responses to “What happens when people make insensitive comments on your Facebook page?

  1. We’ve found that Facebook tends to be more civil — and I assume that’s because people are logged in with their real name and identity (most of the time). Anonymous comments on blog sites are much nastier. We leave negative comments, unless they absolutely violate our policy:

    http://news.arlingtonva.us/pr/ava/comments-policy.aspx

    And yes, we’ve found that the community tends to jump right in and help balance negative comments. As a public entity, we think it’s important to be as transparent as possible.

  2. Good post, Kim. Inspiring to those who may be hesistant in posting.

  3. Thanks for the comment. It’s true, when your picture is next to your name it makes it a little more difficult to be rude. However, some people seem to have no problem with it!

  4. Thanks Steve!

  5. Excellent article, and well handled by the page admin. Nurture your community and brand advocates, moderate as need be. Flames have existed since the old BB and Newsgroup days…Shake your head and sigh as appropriate.

  6. Thanks so much. Good advice “nurture your community and brand advocates.” I love that!

  7. I agree that this situation was handled well by the organization. It is always better to let other citizens point out the flaws of irrational arguments or statements rather than, as you noted, fan the flames by addressing it directly or deleting.

    I sometimes rely on an off-topic comment policy to handle another type of situation. For example, someone basically wrote a letter as a comment on a Flickr photograph. The letter’s content was in no way related to the photograph in question, except that it was addressed to one of the subjects photographed.

    My solution in this case was to reply privately by email, providing the website contact page for the individual to whom she addressed her remarks, and then deleted the comment from Flickr.

  8. Thanks David–I like your policy of “off topic comments.” That makes a lot of sense. I have heard of that policy before but never an example of how it was employed–thanks for that!

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