social media training Halifax, NS

Social Media Policy Gone Awry – A Case Study

If you have employees who are helping you with your corporate social media…no…wait…if you have employees period… you have likely thought about the need to have a social media policy. If you haven’t had this thought yet, you’d better get to thinking! You’re behind the eight ball if you don’t have one and building the right social media policy for your business can take a lot of time and effort. And even then, it might come back to bite you. Take a look at a description of the social media policy for Shreveport’s KTBS. This is a picture they posted on their Facebook page in December.

responding to complaints on Facebook

I’m not sure if you can make it out. In a nutshell, it says “the only proper response” to a complaint on social media is to ask the person to e-mail a certain person (who’s info is blacked out). And then it stresses again “the only proper response”. In other words, if a customer complains about you, your story, your looks, your work ethic, or your clothes, you are not allowed to respond. At all. Ever.

This story hit the cyber airwaves when Rhonda Lee, meteorologist, was fired for her response to a viewer’s complaint about her choice of ethnic hair style. Lee reports she asked the station to offer a reply on her behalf and was refused. So, she took matters into her own hands, replying to a personal attack on her looks. Her response was thoughtful, respectful and clear. And then she was fired. While most people are focusing on the fact that she was fired, and claiming racism, I want to focus on the social media policy, such as it is.
In their Facebook post KTBS says they developed this response in conjunction with “national experts” and is a commonly used policy in television. Lee reports this social media “policy” is not written down, nor included in any employee manual and that it was simply discussed at a staff meeting.

Things to Consider When Building a Social Media Policy

Problem number one in this instance is that the policy is not written down and not included in the employee manual. If you are going to have a policy the only way to ensure everyone understands the same thing is to have it clearly outlined and available to staff at all times.

The second issue with this so-called policy is that the policy says “don’t engage” with the complainants. Don’t answer a complaint. Don’t defend. Don’t open yourself up to an argument because that would be a lose-lose situation. I understand their point of view, but I respectfully disagree.

Responding to negative feedback on social media is very difficult. It’s hard to resist treating fire with fire and respond in a calm and professional manner. This is something any social business MUST learn to do. You MUST learn to respond to negative feedback effectively on social media. If you want to have a policy in place for how to respond to negativity, by all means, have a policy, but no response doesn’t cut it. Deleting legitimate negative feedback doesn’t cut it. Banal responses and deletion only serve to show your audience you are either less-than-confident about your product or service, or that you don’t really care about their opinions. A thoughtful, professional response conversely shows confidence, professionalism and a genuine desire to make your customers happy.

I also want to encourage you to consider allowing your employees to engage on social media on behalf of your company. In order to be successful at this you will need to be clear, in writing, about how employees can engage. You’ll need to train them in the same way you would train them for awesome customer service. Here are some things to think about:

  1. Will your employees have separate accounts just for work purposes (i.e. on Twitter, less so on Facebook).
  2. Will your employees answer a question/complaint as your organization, or as themselves?
  3. If they are answering the comment as the organization, should they be required to sign their responses? (i.e. ^AH)
  4. Are employees allowed to post content to the official accounts?
  5. What do you need to tell employees about their off-hours social media activities?
  6. What are the consequences of violating any of the social media policies?

Do you already have a social media policy in place? If not, Twirp Communications can help you develop a social media policy that fits your business. Book an appointment with Anita, today.

Sources: KTBS Facebook page posts, Change.org Petition,

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