FACEBOOK COMMENTS: Here’s the advice you need if you’re a public sector Facebook page admin wondering how to reply to a comment


A famous Greek bloke once said that he couldn’t teach anybody anything but he could make them think.

Seeing people think is one of the delights of the Vital Facebook Skills workshop I deliver with Sarah Lay.

We’ve both had long experience of running corporate pages so we can deliver advice on how to create better content that’s on the right side of the algorithm. I’ve researched groups and Sarah works with Facebook ads. That’s wonderful theory based on practice but one thing I’m really keen on is to get people thinking about when to engage and not to engage when people comment.

To misquote Mike Tyson, you can have the best plan in the world until someone punches you in the face.

So, when to engage and when not to engage.

For the most part, days go by with routine comments but every now and then there’s something more challenging.

In the training, I have some real life scenarios and throw them open to people. The aim is to get them to think.

The scenarios are the kind of thing that gets posted to a public sector page or a community group every day.

One thing really does shine through in this exercise. That’s that there is very little black and white on how to handle things but a lot of grey.

Each comment you’ll read as an admin is slightly different but some basic rules do apply which I’ve never really written down in one place.

  1. Don’t argue with an idiot. It’s something I’ve blogged about before. Don’t have a slanging match with someone.
  2. It’s fine to draw a line in the sand. If someone is off-target with their opinions its fine to respond if you’re factual and polite.
  3. Don’t punch down. The BBC Press Office do this really well. Don’t beat someone up who is smaller than you are. It doesn’t look good.
  4. Count to 10. Don’t respond by shooting from the hip. Reflect.
  5. Take it offline. That involved discussion? Take it offline. Particularly if there is personal data being discussed.
  6. Run it past a colleague before you post it. You’ve written something as a response you’re not sure about. What does your colleague think?
  7. Add a name to it. People will shout at logos and will shout less if they think there’s a human. At the end of the day we all just want to be listened to. ^ Dan.
  8. Let people be angry about policy. The world doesn’t smell of fresh paint. It’s not your job to censor debate if you’re in the public sector. It’s fine for people to disagree.
  9. Have some house rules. A social media policy in plain English that says what behaviour you’re okay with and what you’re not is essential.

You’ll need thinkers to be the admin of a Facebook page. I hope this list helps you to think.

You can find out about Vital Facebook Skills workshops here.

Picture credit: Flickr / Sharon M Leon.

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