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Think of your social media asset as a classroom, and you are the teacher. How do you use the carrot and the stick to inspire, and keep control?

1. Create House Rules, and enforce them

Sometimes you need to hide or delete posts. However, people can take offense. Hence the need to publish house rules.

On Facebook they are broadly defined here.

Define your expectations clearly: try and align your rules with the values of most people in the community.

2. Create key messages

Key messages are tricky with social media, because where there are a lot of comments we need to repeat them often. That means the people who are replying to posts and comments need to vary the wording. So, we call them key themes.

3. Ask people to complain to you first.

If they complain to you in person, or via a comment on Facebook, you have an opportunity to fix their problem, before they blast their frustrations elsewhere onto the web.

4. Don’t respond to everyone.

5. The audience will support you, if you are communicating mainstream sentiments.


6. Use the phone.

Take it offline and speak to the person. Once fixed, you can ask the complainant to acknowledge what you have done in the same forum as they complained so that other ‘followers’ can see it.

7. Apologise, if you are wrong.

Three critical components to an apology:

  • Say sorry, and mean it (this may take staff retraining)
  • Commit to investigating the complaint and giving feedback
  • Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

8. Be careful of the ‘sorry’ word

Empathy is critical; however, ‘sorry’ is now so overused that it no longer sounds authentic to a lot of people. Find other ways to write the same sentiment.

It’s a good exercise for the team to sit down and each write 5 or 10 ways to indicate empathy

9. Don’t say “but…”.

A special note on apologies: in this phrase, “We apologise for any inconvenience; but, we have found that with most complaints …”, everything before the ‘but’ is negated by that word. So if you write a sentence that includes the word ‘but’, perhaps reconsider what you are saying.

10. Be prepared to take a stand.

There are serial complainants, and you are not going to stop them. Sometimes it takes a threat by you of legal action.

If you’ve done all you can, and it plays out in the public domain, other customers will see that. They may even come to your defense.