Instead of social media, most campaigns practice “sociopath media,” where candidates only talk about themselves, don’t address shared topics of interest, and ignore what other users are saying. Acknowledging and interacting with comments – even when they are negative – is an important part of social media marketing.
Not only are you engaging with voters and earning their support, you’re also stimulating the social network’s algorithm which elevates content that gets engagement. Replying to comments will grow your audience and reach.
Here are six tips for dealing with negative comments on your campaign’s social media accounts.
Don’t Ignore Problems
There’s long standing conventional wisdom in political communications which says “don’t rub the spot on the wall,” meaning you should avoid elevating attacks or vulnerabilities by responding to them. That worked well in a media environment where there were gatekeepers to control narratives, but not in the world of social media.
Remember The Lurkers
Relying on the number of negative comments as an indicator or whether or not to respond is a mistake. “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.” This phenomenon is known as participation inequality.
Think of the comments and interactions you see on social media as the tip of an iceberg, where more users share the same concerns, questions, and opinions but aren’t expressing them. If you leave negative comments unchallenged, the lurkers will think you don’t have a good response.
Have A Framework
Your approach for dealing with negative comments doesn’t need to be a formal policy or even shared publicly, but you do need a consistent framework for your team to follow. In general, I follow two rules:
- Comments made in good faith deserve responses. Trolls do not.
- Profanity gets ignored, hidden, or deleted.
- Repeat offenders are blocked or banned.
Your goal is to create the kind of online community where respectable people would want to engage. If you ignore social media comments altogether, it will become a cesspool.
Know The Platform
Understand the options that a social media platform gives you for moderation. Facebook gives Page managers built-in profanity controls along with a moderation block list. You can use this list for custom terms that frequently appear in bad faith or troll comments. You can also hide comments (so only the user sees them), delete them outright, and ban a user from the Page altogether.
Twitter has added options that limit replies and you can block or mute users. Each platform has its own tools and you should use them.
Being prompt is a competitive advantage in politics. Try to respond as quickly as you can, even if it’s simply an acknowledgement. This is where having a framework comes in handy because you don’t have to deliberate internally.
If you messed up, apologize. If the response requires more space than a comment allows, link to more details or ask the commenter to share more details via private message or email. You’ll be surprised at how impressed social media followers are at getting any kind of acknowledgement because most politicians practice sociopath media.
To move even quicker, develop templates with pre-approved language to address frequently asked questions or known vulnerabilities. Modeling your best response to supporters will also give them the assurance they need to resolve their own doubts and even defend you elsewhere.
You can even create social media specific landing pages on your site with trusted information.
The era of a campaign “controlling the narrative” is long gone. It’s now an open conversation and you decide if your perspective is heard or not. Social media is mission-critical for campaigns and in order to use it effectively, you must engage with comments – the good, the bad, and the ugly.