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As the primary Social Media contact for ChuckPalahniuk.net, I have dealt with my fair share of negative feedback. Our Twitter profile has over 340,000 followers and our Facebook page clocks in with over 300,000 'friends.' With numbers like that, there's bound to be some unhappy people on certain days. I'm proud to say though, it's a very low percentage. It helps that Chuck Palahniuk is a mostly beloved author with a dedicated, cultish following, but yes, we still have these days:
"You're not your fuckin' khakis, dude! Don't you remember what Tyler Durden said!?"
The above is a typical comment we may see on our Facebook wall if we post a promotion about a new Tshirt we're selling on the site. For every ten fans who love the idea of buying a Tshirt with their favorite Chuck Palahniuk book on it, there's one who thinks we should be set on fire with a flame thrower.
There are a lot of bad apples who will look for any reason to cry foul when given an open forum. But I've learned some tactics over the years that help curtail irate followers, friends and fans.
Come Across Like a Person, Not An Admin
If you treat people like equals and try to really answer their question(s), you'll find that they value that respect. And even if they don't like the answer you give them, they'll appreciate that you at least answered them... period. It's that old adage of, you'd rather get a rejection letter than no letter at all. And really, people just want to be acknowledged.
Focus on the Good
If you're a website that has a product you promote through your social media outlets, you might fear that negative comments on Facebook or Twitter can accumulate like bad customer reviews. Our rule of thumb: don't focus on products you're not so sure of. Every product-based company usually has "champion products," items that are proven to sell well and get good feedback. So coming out of the gate, focus on those items instead -- the ones with universally positive feedback.
Let Your Fans Stand Up For You!
This one is a biggie. About 75% of any negative feedback we get, I purposely don't answer right away. Because most of the time, a fan of ours will do the answering for us. Then several other fans will rally behind that person and before you know it, you have your own 'legal team' arguing the case for you. This is one of the beauties of social networking: You're no longer on your own. Your fans and customers will get up on stage to defend you if the audience starts to Boo.
When All Else Fails... Report
When it comes to people who are just flat-out belligerent idiots, or people who Spam your Facebook wall (ie, posting the same comment over and over again, or linking to a competitor's product to try and get some free advertising in) you have the option of not only banning them from the page, but also reporting them. Facebook takes their bans seriously. They also hide their customer service email and don't even have a public phone number, so getting banned can turn into a nightmare. Therefore, people won't take too many risks on your wall if you prove that the risk for this is potentially losing their entire Facebook account.
Kill Them With Kindness
For this last one, I can give you a specific example of something that happened to me. About a year ago, I got crucified on our Facebook wall because I had a typo in one of my posts. Because we're a site that prides itself on a Writers' Workshop and the world of literature, people like to rip into me if I break the rules of grammar or spell something wrong. And one commentor can soon fan the flame for subsequent commenters to join in. People on the net who do this sort of thing are typically called 'Grammar Police,' or 'Grammar Nazis.'
Back to our story: I thought this particular case of typo accountability would dissipate quite quickly. But it didn't. And soon it developed into a 'flame war,' where fans started defending me and calling out the fans who were attacking me. So I finally stepped in and just politely apologized for my typo, explaining that the site takes a lot of time to run and maintain and on some days I make mistakes. Hey, I'm human.
My apology was sincere enough that the typo-attackers sort of felt bad and pretty soon, it went back to being a 'love-fest' that Chuck's fans are (luckily for me) known to practice. Never be afraid to say 'I'm sorry'--you can usually diffuse a back-and-forth situation with kindness.