Yesterday, Rusty published a post about the Boy Scouts of America’s use of Facebook and a particular interaction that occurred on the Stonewall Jackson Area Council’s Facebook page. The post, and the organization’s use of Facebook (as represented by the council) was a topic of discussion on Charlottesville — Right Now! with Coy Barefoot later that evening. You can listen to the audio of that broadcast here.
I don’t want to belabor the discussion about the inappropriate use of Facebook — i.e. deleting comments an organization disagrees with — rather focus on what we recommend the Council and, indeed, any organization finding themselves in a hotbed online do in this kind of situation.
- Establish a comment policy for the organization. State your intentions to delete comments that are defamatory, obscene or irrelevant (SPAM, for example). Post the policy anywhere online discussion could take place (a blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Train a spokesperson or team of spokespeople to handle criticism — or, indeed, any interaction online. They should understand the language used to describe the organization and it’s position/philosophies, or whom to contact internally to answer questions they cannot.
- Prepare for the worst: especially if you represent an organization that has any controversy associated with it (I’m not sure ANY organization is entirely immune to this.) Have the tough conversations about what your process will be in responding to critics, handling and correcting misinformation and dealing with issues online — and off!
- Don’t automate. Progressive Insurance is taking a lot of flack this week for being “robotic” and inhuman in the face of a crisis. The lesson here is to treat your community with compassion and authenticity.
The online world is a brutal place to step out of line — thinking — as the Stonewall Jackson Area Council did — that Facebook isn’t the appropriate venue for discussion doesn’t mean the discussion won’t continue on that platform. Organizations cannot control the message; they can, however, control how they react to it.