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To Delete or Not to Delete: That is the Question

To Delete or Not to Delete: That is the Question

If your school or district has a Facebook page, chances are you've encountered the dreaded negative comment. Unfortunately, allowing people to voice their displeasure with an issue is just part of the social media game. The benefits of using social media, though, far outweigh the negative.

If your school or district has a Facebook page, chances are you've encountered the dreaded negative comment. Unfortunately, allowing people to voice their displeasure with an issue is just part of the social media game. The benefits of using social media, though, far outweigh the negative.

For one, you have taken an important step by using social media to reach and engage your families and greater community. By having a FB page, you are also giving them another option through which to receive news (in addition to your website and any other communication tools you have implemented). And remember that consistent communication using the channels your public prefers (Facebook, website, Remind app, etc.) goes a long way to build trust and show transparency.

But our decisions don't always make everyone happy, and voicing frustration/anger through a FB post is often the first route people take. While you should always emphasize your open-door policy to discuss and solve issues in person that may cause strife, it won't stop people from venting online. So how do you address negative comments?

Do NOT delete them!

Deleting negative comments just because you don't like the message only serves to infuriate your public and can make them think you are trying to hide something, are ignoring the situation or are censoring their voices. That will NOT go well for you.

Of course we only want people to share positive comments on our pages, but that's just not realistic. You can, though, turn those negative comments into a positive--maybe there's an issue of which you were not even aware, and people's comments bring the matter to your attention. If that's the case, thank them for voicing their concern. Offer to meet face-to-face with those who posted on the issue. As you well know, often people just want to feel like they are being heard, and taking the time to meet with them and hear them out can greatly improve the situation.

It's not necessary to address every negative comment.

If you receive multiple negative comments about the same issue, you can write a response that addresses them all. If you attempt to respond to every single one, often they will come back with additional comments, and you simply do not have the time to have multiple conversations about the same issue.

But what if the comments include vulgar language or other inappropriate content?

The only instance when you should ever delete a comment is when someone uses offensive, vulgar terms, calls out a staff member by name or writes anything that can be considered libelous. But there's a catch:

You need a code of conduct to back you up.

Before you do anything, you need to write a code of conduct and pin it to the top of your page. Why? This gives your public specific guidelines for how they should behave when posting anything on your school's or district's FB page. It must be specific. If you will not accept profanity on your page, state that. By having this code of conduct posted for those who like your page, you will then be able to refer someone to it if he or she uses unacceptable language. At that point, you can tell the person he/she has violated the code and the comment will be deleted. It's also a good idea to regularly highlight the code, especially if you have an influx of new page likes.

If you do not have a code of conduct set up, I suggest you make that a priority. I promise it'll save you some grief and will give you justification when you must delete a comment.

If you need help with one, please let me know. This is too important to put off!

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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