The Social Media Storm

social media stormThe sun is warming your skin. Waves are keeping you in a peaceful trance. With sand between your feet, you…

Knock, knock, someone’s at your office door rudely interrupting your day dream on this lovely Monday morning. You knew this was coming and have been avoiding it for the previous 18 hours.

“Delete it. Delete the post!” you hear the voice say. While bringing yourself back to reality, you hear your boss demand a negative Facebook post on the church’s page be deleted immediately. You feel yourself getting defensive. The waves have just turned into a tsunami blocking the sun and blowing sand into your mouth. It’s taken a year to build the fan base and you can tell the page is becoming a major communication channel. People are actively asking for information and talking between themselves and the church.

Your boss continues to go on about how the post must be deleted. It put the church in a bad light. It made the church look incompetent, ignorant and any other five-dollar word he thinks to use. As he begins walking out of your office, you say, “We cannot delete it. It will make us look fake and censored.” You go on to tell him the reasons why and how the controversy should be handled.*

Why Negative Posts Should Not be Deleted

  1. The problem is ignored instead of faced head-on. Ignoring the issue only causes it to grow.
  2. The ability to know what is being said about your church, both good and bad, is nullified. Fans will realize when a post has been deleted and won’t post again if they feel they’ll be ignored.
  3. Following-up with negative posts gives you the ability to correct wrong perceptions. People are going to talk negatively about your church whether you know it or not. Now that they’ve told you what they think, they’ve given you the freedom to respond. They want to be heard and most likely are open to hearing what you have to say.
  4. With the appropriate follow-up, you’ll show your fans that you do care about their opinion and that you do want to talk to them. You will show your fans that you are not trying to manipulate them or the conversation. On social media, people expect to be heard, period. After all, this is social media.
  5. You have the opportunity to publicly defend yourself if the comment is false. Deleting it in this case will portray guilt not innocence.
  6. You might actually learn something that needs improvement. No really, I’m serious. It happens.
  7. It builds relationships.
  8. You will build trust and ultimately brand equity, which in the case of the church, directly relates to souls saved and developed disciples.

Steps to Handling Negative Social Media

  1. Comment back telling the person you are generally interested in listening then ask to take the conversation to a private channel. Give him or her your email address, or if on Facebook, immediately send them a message.
  2. Handle the issue like any other complaint according your church’s policy.
  3. After resolution, comment on the original post saying it’s been resolved letting everyone else see the outcome. If there wasn’t a resolution, don’t respond beyond the first comment.

Now that the situation is resolved, you can drift back into your day dream…

What has your experience been when dealing with negative posts on social media?
Have you turned a negative post into a positive one?

*Vulgar posts and the like demand immediate deletion.

[image by gilles chiroleu]

Ryan leads marketing communications for First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, FL. Find him at twitter.com/ryanmchoate or facebook.com/ryanmchoate.

6 Responses to “The Social Media Storm”

  1. PaulSteinbrueck Aug 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Ryan, thanks for writing this post! I totally agree with you that negative comments should not be deleted but addressed with grace. It demonstrates that you're not afraid of disagreement. It shows authenticity. It also gives added weight to the positive comments you receive because people see that comments are not being sanitized just to make your church look good.

  2. terrie turner Aug 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Five Platinum Stars Ryan! You hit the nail on the head from both a Christian perspective and a marketing perspective. Most importantly, the Christian perspective. It's ridiculous to think that the church will not be criticized – Jesus was. How did He handle it…?

  3. Leading a non-profit myself, I know how tempting it is to simply hit the delete button on the rare occasion someone posts something negative. That's human nature. BUT… as a new creation in Christ, HIS nature is what is to be seen in me. As He did when he was challenged by those who called for the stoning of the adulterous woman, I am to respond in a gentile manner that honors God. I need to recognize my own sin – no matter who pointed it out or how – and deal with it in a way that edifies other believers, causes me to grow, and glorifies God. What a missed opportunity for all kinds of wonderful things (a new convert, discipleship with another believer, personal growth in my own walk, identificaiton of a deficiency I'd overlooked or failed to deal with) it would be if I deleted/ignored something negative. If it is true that what satan meant for evil, God can use for good, this type of opportunity should be viewed as a gift! Thought-provoking and spot-on post! Thank you!

  4. Thanks guys. Terrie, sometime Jesus confronted and other times he stayed silent. It is based on the situation a little, but he always answered honestly.

    Jennifer, the opportunities we want to look over are sometimes the opportunities with the greatest chance of remarkable results.

  5. Thanks for the tips on handling the social media negative sides. It should be well planned and manage social media correctly.

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