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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

Posted in Social Media @ Sep 4th 2012 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Big foot

The world of social media is not all sweetness & light. It’s a fascinating, mostly unregulated world, and like real life – you can meet some wonderful people. 

And just like real life, it’s also highly likely that you will also meet some not-so-nice people.

The dark side of social media was brought to everyone’s attention when Charlotte Dawson, a TV celebrity was hospitalised apparently after unrelenting attacks on Twitter by a number of ‘trolls’. ‘Trolls’ are the horrible people who for no apparent good reason choose to attack a person online via Facebook, Twitter or Blog comments.

We all know there are horrible people out there – they’ve always been there – but many have found the perfect environment to spread their anonymous poison online via a variety of social media platforms.  

To make things even trickier for businesses on social media, when the Advertising Standards Board in August 2012 ruled that all Branded Facebook Pages are responsible for all posts and comment on their Page made by their ‘Likers’. Personally, I’m not concerned about this ruling as I’ve always believed that as Vetanswers is an online community, I was ultimately responsible for what is posted by others and the potential effect these posts may have on others in our community.

And Then it Happened to Me!

I was however forced to address this belief a few months ago when I was horrified to find on the Vetanswers Facebook Page, a couple of comments that personally attacked someone who had been mentioned in something I had posted. When I discovered the ‘comments’ to the post I have to admit I panicked and felt I was in a quandary.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I post, and in fact, I encourage people to add their opinions, so I didn’t want to delete the comments just because someone had disagreed with me.  On the other hand, the comments were personally attacking someone in a quite vicious way and although I don’t mind people disagreeing with concepts, I don’t agree with personal attacks. 

As I was pacing the house trying to decide what to do (and ringing my ‘go to’ person to get their opinion) it suddenly occurred to me – I had the perfect solution!

Previously, I had researched and compiled a list of ‘Terms and Conditions’ and added them to the Vetanswers website.  At the time they were designed to help moderate blog comments, however, I’ve since modified them to also include comments made on all the social media platforms that make up Vetanswers' online community.

As already mentioned, not only did the offending comments include personal attacks but they also included some profanities, which meant that according to my ‘Terms and Conditions’ I had every right to delete them for two reasons: 1. They contained profanities, and; 2. They were attacking a person individually.

After I deleted them, I also added my own comment on my Facebook Page explaining that I had deleted two comments as they contravened the Vetanswers ‘Terms and Conditions’ and gave the link to the relevant page on my website.

Although dealing with nasty comments is never a nice experience, I was happy with how my ‘Terms and Conditions’ had allowed me to manage the situation without shutting down discussion unnecessarily.

Terms and Conditions Can Save the Day

Feel free to have a look at the Vetanswers Terms and Conditions and use whatever you feel is appropriate for your business.

Now I am certainly not suggesting you delete every negative post that appears on your Facebook page or blog comments.  Social media is all about interaction – the good & the bad!  If someone is not happy with the service they’ve received then that’s an issue you need to address.  There have been a number of recent situations where big companies have not handled negative comments on Facebook at all well and have deleted/hidden them which has then caused even more of an issue (e.g. Coles and dairy farmers).

What I am suggesting is that if someone chooses to use profanities or personally attack you or a staff member, or post a ‘troll like’ comment then you have every right to delete or hide the comment and then explain why you deleted it. Especially if you have your 'Terms and Conditions' readily available.

So what does all of this mean?  Is being on social media really worth it?

YES! everything in life, it pays to be prepared.

This means:

  • You need to be realistic and understand that not everyone will be positive all the time;
  • You need to accept that you are ultimately responsible for the posts and comments made by others on your Facebook Page and be ready to moderate if necessary;
  • You need to have ‘Terms and Conditions’, ‘Guidelines’, whatever you want to call them – in place, to give you the necessary tools to moderate;
  • Your  ‘Terms and Conditions’ will probably live on your website but you should also add some of them or at least add a link, to your Facebook Page in the ‘About us’ section;
  • You should discuss these guidelines with your staff so they are fully aware of what posts are acceptable and what are not;
  • You need to regularly (a couple of times a day) check your Facebook Page, Blog, etc. for comments that need to be moderated (my comments were added on a Saturday morning – a time when I never usually check Facebook);
  • If you have an iPhone, then I would recommend you download the ‘Facebook Pages Manager’ – it’s free and allows you to manage your Page from your phone including sending notifications when someone comments or posts on your Page.

By far the majority of people using social media are lovely, you just need to be ready to handle the nasties when they emerge!

Have you had to deal with trolls or unpleasant posts?  What worked for you? Tell us about it in the comments section below.


Ali Burden-Blake @ Sep 7th 2012 9:39pm
Hey Judy, great blog! Here's a quick tip to add, use to set up alerts for your own page - they email you any time someone posts to your page (much the same as Page Manager does - but not iPhone reliant). Also, you can set up alerts for ANY page on FB, whether you 'Like' it or not - great for keeping an eye on the competition too. Ali
Judy Gillespie @ Sep 8th 2012 9:26am
Hi Ali, Thanks for dropping by :) That's a great tip - thanks. I'm going to add it right now -especially as over the last few days my Page Manager hasn't been so good on the 'alerting' bit!
Mike LoSasso, DVM @ Sep 9th 2012 1:52pm
Judy, nice article. I am a member of a Facebook group that recently censored a member for comments that he made - these were removed, and the admin explained that they "conflicted with the terms and conditions." Since we know the admin, we understood where he was coming from, and I'm sure he was right. But here's the thing - no one really knows if you actually delete the comment. It's a delicate balance, isn't it? Not wanting to engage the troll,but wanting them to quit? I think that, in most cases, leaving the negative post up, but commenting about HOW it violates your terms is usually more powerful. Block them if they continue trolling...
Judy Gillespie @ Sep 9th 2012 4:53pm
Hi Mike, that's a good point. When I deleted the comments from my Page, I added my own that explained I had deleted 2 comments as they contravened my T & C's & also added a link where the T & C's could be viewed. I didn't want to leave the comments up, as well - they contravened my T & C's! To leave them there would mean I was in fact contravening my rules which stipulated comments making a personal attack or using prophanities would be deleted. If they had have been just nasty comments then I think I would have had a far less clear cut case. But you're right - it's definitely all a 'delicate balance'!

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