FACING FACEBOOK: Nine practical steps to dealing with day-to-day shouting online


On my travels, I’m often asked about how to deal with shouting online.

It’s rarely the first question, as people want the skinny on best practice and approaches but it’s always there not far from the surface.

That’s fine. I get that. I’ve done time in the chair and it can be difficult and waring.

You put more of yourself into a social media channel than you do a poster or a press release but its the elephant in the room.

Most of the time you’ll be fine but from time you’ll need to reach for other strategies to help you and the team.

People who run public sector social media accounts need a break

I came across a council who were doing Facebook amazingly well.

That’s great, I said. How do you do it?

“It’s me. All me,” the comms person admitted. “I know I should share but I hate it when I see something that hasn’t been done quite right and I can’t help but log on to correct it.”

It’s understandable but people need a break. They need time away from serial snark posters.

To use a cricketing metaphor, rotate the strike. Let others face the fast bowler.

Here are eight strategies I’ve found useful in my time being an admin of a public social channel.

Have a social media acceptable use policy

Okay, don’t call it a policy, call it an agreement or terms of use.

Say what you’ll do for people who’ll use social media and what you expect in return.

So, if people don’t shout, swear or abuse people then you’ll try and respond in 24-hours.

When people come through the front door of the First Stop Shop customer services already have an acceptable use policy. No shouting. No swearing. That kind of thing. Same if people ring up. Use that as the basis. Link to it from your social channels.

Without these rules you can’t effectively enforce a ‘no swearing at the staff’ ban.

Upload a list of banned terms to the Facebook page. That should stop people from telling you you’re f***ing s**t at half ten at night. If you haven’t got that, how the f**k can you close down the abuse?

Mute is better than blocking

Most people are fine when they realise a real person is monitoring the channel.

For those that aren’t don’t block. Use the mute button on Twitter or the same functionality on Facebook. They don’t know you’re not listening to them but your insulated against potential abuse.

People are entitled to an opinion

I was born and grew up in Stafford where my local hospital was Mid Staffs General. The Francis report shone a light on early deaths although the 1,200 deaths widely quoted has since been discredited. Public servants are human. They are trying to do the best they can. They are constantly looking to improve. Taking feedback is an important function. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your press release doesn’t mean they are wrong. Find a way to pass through feedback to the opinion makers.

Take it offline

A detailed blow-by-blow of an issue is probably best resolved offline than online.

Be human

This probably shouldn’t come as a revolutionary act but if you adopt a human tone people in my experience are less likely to shout and you’ll get more sympathy if they do.

Be clear when the account is monitored

If you’re keeping an eye from 9am to 5pm then say so in the account bio.

Be mindful that in a world of 24-hour banking there is an expectation that the response will be quicker.  Just be clear when you can reply and when you can’t.

Count to 10 and then maybe 100

Don’t react to trolling with anger. It’s never the right answer. Feel free to count to 10, make yourself a cup of tea and maybe run it past a  colleague. You’ll feel better.

If its serious then report it

Serious abuse such as a threat of violence really should be reported. To your legal team but also to the police. Don’t mess about. Draw a line in the sand.

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