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Handling Negative Posts - 1/10/2012 -

Think through how to respond to a "negative” post before one shows up on your website or social media community.

By Terrance Barkan, CAE

How do you handle discussion threads that are unfavorable to your association or a specific product or service? Do you handle negative comments differently than posts that deliver incorrect information?

And just as important: Who should do the responding?

Here are some thoughts to help you think through how to respond to a "negative” post on your website or social media site:

1. Plan ahead by anticipating the categories of complaints that you might encounter.

· Service-related issues (Examples: "I don't get my magazine on time" or "The website is hard to navigate.”)

· Governance-related issues (Examples: "Another member is violating the code of conduct" or "I was not informed of the chapter nomination process.”)

· Leadership/political issues (Example: "The board/senior staff ignores our requests for more resources.")

2. Delegate responsibility down to the level that's closest to the member or customer.

For example, let membership services staff handle service-related complaints directly. Empower your people to answer complaints in their realm of responsibility as quickly, politely, and factually as possible.

3. Teach your team to recognize when an issue needs to be delegated upward.

I've seen members or volunteers complain about a service, when in reality they are unhappy about how the organization is being run. A service-level complaint that is masking a governance or leadership issue can escalate into an online debate if you are not careful. It takes trained staff to understand the difference.

4. Remind everyone to assume that the entire membership is watching how you respond.

Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel often gets a disproportionate amount of attention. Just trust that your silent members recognize if a member is acting inappropriately. You might be surprised how often other members will jump in to answer questions or complaints directly.

5. Don't forget the telephone.

Calling the member can be the best way to avoid online ping-pong. If you can resolve the issue then and there, post a nice follow-up such as, "Pat, great to speak with you just now and glad we were able to answer your query by doing X. Thanks for being such an active member."

It is too late to recruit firefighters after the fire has erupted. Plan ahead, put your chain of command in place, and be ready to delegate to your front line. Sooner or later, you will probably get some form of negative comment. Make these your opportunities to shine.

Terrance Barkan, CAE is chief strategist for SOCIALSTRAT, a social media strategy consultancy. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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