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Keeping it Positive on Facebook Pages

Different people have different goals for their Facebook pages.  Some people court controversy.  Others want to inspire passionate debate.  But for many brands, especially authors, pages aren’t places for negativity.  What starts out as one comment can explode into a firestorm of anger and upset feelings.

Recently, a number of big-name authors have posted about this.  But it’s really not necessary.  Some negative comments might  call for a response–even if it’s as simple as, “I’m sorry you felt that way. :(“–but leaving these comments visible for other readers to see can ignite a huge argument between people where no argument needs to occur.  Other comments don’t really need a response at all but are equally potentially very dangerous for the peacefulness of a page.

A lot of times, if you have enough “likes” on a page, you won’t see the negativity coming.  It might be started by someone enraged by animals in clothes reacting negatively to a cat meme or someone else who found something very, very specific about your books objectionable beginning with a comment that just spirals out of control.  (Anyone else remember the “slacks” explosion of…2001? 2002?  Seriously, the entire internet was in an uproar over the furor caused by an author responding to a reader who objected to a person under 30 using the term “slacks.”  Must have been a ridiculously boring month….)

I’ve discovered that an EXTREMELY factual response is sometimes appropriate, and occasionally a light, diffusing joke works, but for the most part, no matter WHAT the comment is, it’s generally best just to give a general apology if you respond at all…and then make use of a specific Facebook feature before other fans of your page or profile see it and stir pot (however well-meaning they may be!).

That feature is the “HIDE” button.

When you hide a comment, the person who posted it can still see the comment and your response (if you made one), but no one else except their friends can.  Therefore, there’s far less of a chance that there will end up being a fight between fans of a page.  And the original poster doesn’t feel slighted because 1) she doesn’t know you hid it, 2) other fans of the page aren’t fighting with her, and 3) she may have gotten a personal response.

Marketing for AuthorsTo do this, mouse over the little symbol on the right hand side of a comment and a little tool tip with the word “Hide” will appear.  Once you click that, you have the choice of deleting the comment or banning the person who made it.  I suggest that if something is SO negative you want to delete it, you should ban the person altogether from the page because deleting a comment is quite harsh and can be taken as an insult to the person who made the comment, and you don’t need to make someone angry who will still engage on your page.  Simply hiding such a comment from the commenter’s non-friends often is doing them a favor because it prevents other fans from piling onto the original person, and it prevents a LOT of bad feelings.

You may still be a bit upset about it.  But remember that a lot of times, fans of a page don’t see the person behind it as an actual human being.  They say things that they’d never say to someone’s face simply because they don’t really think of you as human. You can remind them of your humanity in a post…which may make them feel appropriately ashamed.  Or you can just shrug it off and not rock the boat.

As a many-years boat-rocker, I urge you to do the second.  :)  There is rarely any long-term gain from upsetting people, even if you are exposing them as being jerks.  If it’s really upsetting for you, have a personal assistant, a friend, or a relative screen your comments before you even see them. That way, you don’t have to be upset by someone else’s thoughtlessness.

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