Facebook is a social network. We all know this, but sometimes we need a reminder. Facebook is not a broadcasting tool or a soapbox—it’s a community with real people. Using a Facebook page means signing up to interact with both your supporters and your critics. When people comment on your page or send your page a message, they often expect a reply. Replying to comments is one of the most important things your nonprofit does on Facebook—if not the most important!
If you’re a nonprofit, it’s likely you want two things:
- More supporters in your cause
- More supporters doing more for your cause
Comment management plays a big role in both of these. Building an engaged community of supporters requires being part of the conversations that take place around your cause. The majority of these conversation are taking place on your Facebook posts.
In short, every nonprofit on Facebook needs to be an active participant in these conversations in order to grow a community of active, engaged supporters for their cause.
The problem is replying to comments isn’t always easy! It’s both an art and a science. It’s PR, community management, customer service and interpersonal relations all wrapped up together. And as your community grows, the number of comments grows with it. It becomes important to know about and deal with the most important comments first.
Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Once you have a plan, managing and responding to comments really isn’t too bad. The following will help you create that very plan.
(If you would like help on the technical side of managing comments, please see our technical guide to Facebook comments.)
1. Establish your ground rules.
To effectively manage your page comments, you’ll want to start with a firm foundation. Establishing a set of ground rules for your page is your first line of defense when wading into the flow of Facebook comments. These rules should outline what you wish to see on your page and what you don’t. Frame up what you hope for your page and its community. Paint an image of the ideal state.
Now, boil this down into an actionable set of comment policies. Here are some things to make sure you include:
- What is the mission of this Facebook page? (Not your overall organization, but your Facebook page. What does success look like?)
- What does encouraged behavior and participation look like? (How does this link back to your greater mission and goals for your Facebook page?)
- How should supporters treat one another? How is that monitored and enforced?
- Clear list of what is not acceptable
- Clear procedure to deal with unacceptable content (Deletion? Three strikes? Banning?) What’s the evaluation look like?
- Are supporters encourage to help police the page? Should they report comments to your team
- Who should supporters contact if they have a problem?
Here are some awesome examples and resources to help you. First Mashable’s guide to Facebook comments, example from Travel Oregon that takes advantage of the Notes feature, similar example from ActionSprout and lastly Facebook’s community guidelines.
2. Enforce your rules with no exceptions.
Letting go of something small may not seem like a big deal at the time, but it sets a bad precedent. If something big happens, you don’t want the perpetrators pointing at times when you didn’t enforce the rules. You don’t want to be accused of playing favorites or being unfair. The rules apply fairly to everyone on the page or no one at all.
3. Do not delete all negative comments.
It can be so tempting to delete those negative comments about your organization or cause. You must fight the urge, however, if the comments are not:
- Breaking the rules you’ve established for your page
- Offensive or profane
- Illegal in any way
- Posted by a troll
The remaining comments, while negative, should be productive in some way. Use this to your advantage as a teaching moment. Try to be polite and come at the conversation from an educational viewpoint. How can I listen to them and really hear what they have to say? How can I respond to this in a constructive, meaningful way? Where are the “openings” in their thought process?
You are not here to fight them, start an argument or convert them against their will. Simply hear them and respond in a way that gives value. Can you address their concerns or questions? Can you post an educational link? Can you bring up a new way of looking at the situation they may not have thought of?
Maybe you’re the one asking them questions to better understand them and their stance.
Most importantly, know when to stop. Know when the conversation has ran its course and there is nothing left to say. This usually happens when the conversation starts to repeat itself or lacks the ability to go anywhere new.
4. Do not engage trolls, ever.
According to Wikipedia, an internet Troll is:
“a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement. This sense of the word ‘troll’ and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment.”
The general advice to not engage with trolls is a widespread, accepted best practice across the Internet as a whole. It is often stated as “Don’t feed the trolls.” Just don’t do it.
5. Involve the larger team.
Your core team of folks assigned to manage and monitor the comments on your Facebook page should be able to handle the day-to-day demands of the job. But there will always be times when comments have the potential to get out of hand and become unmanageable for this core group.
In these situations, you should have extra folks on your staff that are trained and able to jump in as backup when needed.
Usually, these situations should not come as too much of a surprise. That breaking news story broke, the campaign won or failed, a big decision was made, etc. You should be able to see the comments come flooding in from the horizon line. At these times, an extra set of helping hands should be prepared and ready to go.
The worst-case scenario is that the spike in comments was unexpected, and your team will need to be as ready as possible and jump into action. This brings us to the next point.
6. Train your team.
Make sure your team is trained and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Give them the tools, knowledge and ability well ahead of time so they’re ready to jump in.
This means making sure they have a copy of your comment policy and in house guidelines for responding and making sure they understand it. Keep in mind responding to comments isn’t for everyone. Choose your team with care.
7. Consider whether the commenter expects or needs a reply.
Let yourself off the hook; you don’t have to answer every single comment on Facebook. Some comments just don’t require a response. When trying to evaluate whether to respond, try putting yourself in the shoes of the commenter. Are they expecting a reply? Is liking their comment enough acknowledgement?
Users on Facebook commonly comment on a post to show others in their network that they care about this issue or wish to talk to the fellow commenters on the thread. In these cases, they are not expecting a reply from you or the page that posted the piece of content.
Establish some rules of thumb when it comes to responding so that the team is on the same page. When in doubt, go with your gut.
8. Consider whether a question should be moved to a private message.
There are times when commenters start conversations that just don’t belong with the Facebook comments. They might talk about sensitive subject matters or require care that doesn’t make sense for the comments section. Decide where to draw the line ahead of time, and do your best to practice it.
When responding to a comment on Facebook, there is the option to respond as a comment or direct message the user. This is the easiest way to move the conversation to a direct, private message. Once moved to a direct message, Facebook indicates to other users on the thread that the comment was dealt with in a direct message. This way, other supporters don’t mistake this action as the page ignoring a comment.
9. Get the help and tools you need for the job.
Managing Facebook comments is no small job. Get comfortable with your internal capacity and receive outside help when you need it. This could come in the form of extra tools and software or hiring outside help.
A small, well-organized team armed with the right tools can absolutely get the job done! It will just take some time to set up and get the system running smoothly.
Comment management is essential to having a successful Facebook page that meets your larger organizational goals and missions.