Managing your online reputation is crucial. Anyone and everyone out there has access to your website, Facebook page, and any other media that you have set up. Furthermore, anyone out there can say anything about you on your sites, and you just have to stand there and turn the other cheek.
People can honestly say the most bizarre things on the internet! One of my favourites was on a Facebook ad that I put out into the world: I had a bunch of people writing “Convert to Islam!” underneath, which was kind of the opposite of what I was intending (I laugh now but I was dying on the inside!).
But as Christians in an ever-evolving non-Christian world, we are bound to come across some online persecution.
Which is why today I thought I'd share some of my tips for maintaining your online reputation on Facebook.
1 | Set up canned, preapproved responses
[Bonus: this’ll save you heaps of time too]
Try and imagine the kinds of queries, criticism and hate mail you might receive. If you’ve already responded to these types of things in the past, go back and copy/paste them into a Word or Google Doc. If you’ve never responded to negative comments, head to a corporation’s page and copy-stalk them. My canned responses for my day job are taken directly from McDonalds’ Facebook page and then edited to suit our organisation! What I love about this tactic is that companies like McDonalds know what they’re doing, and they’ve been managing their reputation for a long time. If you can mirror even a little of their strategy, you’re well on your way to managing your online rep.
2 | Respond as quickly as humanly possible
Posts on the internet blow up faster than you can say ‘Kardashian’. The simplest way to avoid this is to shut down the situation as quickly as it arises, to get your response in there before the negative post is shared and commented on.
3 | Talk it out privately
If you do head over to McDonalds’ Facebook page, you’ll see that for any serious issues, they strategically take the conversation from public to private in a flash. Here’s a handy piece of copy you can use to do just that:
Hi (NAME). Thank you for bringing this to our attention. (THE ISSUE THEY’VE RAISED) is very important to us and we’d like to look into this further. Please contact us via our website so we can follow this up with you directly. (WEBSITE URL)
Full credit to McDonalds for this trick! It works a treat to diffuse any public arguments and it also means you’ll get their complaint in email format so you can forward more easily to the appropriate people.
4 | Go the extra mile
The other day I bought cheese from the supermarket. I opened it up, then discovered this:
Eww. My husband immediately got out his phone and tweeted them, not really expecting an outcome.
They responded within the hour with a great tweet:
They sent us a $15 voucher, on top of the money we got back when we returned the cheese, as well as giving us a new cheese! So essentially we made around $25 from their mistake.
Now, I know that church communications has nothing to do with mouldy cheese, but I think we can take a leaf from their book and not simply respond to negative feedback, but give back to someone tenfold.
So, your aim when curbing negative feedback should be to surprise and delight people with your response.
Perhaps they had a bad experience at your church?
Send them a Starbucks gift card to say sorry.
Perhaps they feel like God has betrayed them?
Take the conversation to a private message and offer for a pastor to take them out for breakfast [with the pastor’s prior consent of course!].
It’s all about treating the person as though they are a person, and not just an online profile.
So whether the mouldy cheese is your fault or not, take responsibility and go above and beyond for people. You may completely change their opinion of you!
5 | Use your settings
If you’re receiving a lot of hate-mail (which we unfortunately do at my day job), you can take charge by changing your settings on Facebook.
Switch off the reviews capability
Pre-approve visitors’ posts before they go live on your page
Pre-approve comments before they go live on your page
You may choose to use these control measures during a particularly difficult time for your church, or you may choose to use them permanently, it’s totally up to you. At my work, we have them switched on permanently because we can’t keep up with the volume of feedback (it is a good organisation, I promise!).
6 | Set up a flowchart
I work part-time, and so when I am not at work to field the comments, I need to have someone else on standby. This may be the case for some of you, so I wanted to add this step in. It’s also helpful if you’re going on holiday, or handing your job over to someone else just to have this step in place.
Create a flowchart that outlines the different steps you send feedback through. I like to divide Feedback into three buckets: Encouragement, Constructive and Negative. For each of these, I have a different process of who I need to notify, and how I should respond. Having it all written down saves me so much stress if there is something negative and it will help you decide more quickly which action to take with each piece of feedback you receive.
I hope these tips will help you defend your church’s reputation on Facebook! Send me a tweet @salt_society or comment below if you think of more tips I should add.