Module 10: Facebook Comments, A Case Study

Reposted with permission from iDisaster.

Having the ability for people to post comments to your Facebook page can be an invaluable opportunity to get direct feedback from the community. In the past, people were really only able to talk openly about  your response effort by sending a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. Now, they can tell you exactly how they feel on your Facebook page. This ability, however, has a lot of folks in the emergency response business a little nervous. What if we get people commenting who say foul things about our organization or how we are handling the incident? How do you respond to irrational comments, untruthful information about what your organization is doing or hurtful remarks? One lesson that we in the social media and emergency management realm have always preached…don’t worry–other, rational citizens will respond for you.

The Facebook page for the Barry Point OR Fire can serve as a case in point. A seemingly innocuous post simply providing a picture with a caption “New Incident Commander..talks to crews…” elicited this comment:

The adminstrators of the page, however, didn’t have to argue with this woman or even acknowledge her terribly insensitive, irrational comment. Why? Citizens responded for them with statements such as:

  • Seriously, I cannot belive you had the nerve to post that.
    A few days ago a young girl lost her life protecting your towns, your forests from complete destruction. I know crews who have been on this fire from the flare up working 16 hour days in the heat lugging 50 pound packs and chainsaws trying to keep it from destroying everything in its path. They are getting 4 hour rest periods to sleep.
  • Shame on you. And to all of the hard working men and women who are putting your own safety and well-being on the line for the communities, thank you, thank you, thank you. Be safe!
  • ..not only is what you said disrespectful, untruthful and condescending, but I can’t even take it seriously as your post is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • AMAZING! Our children, my child, is out there everyday protecting the homes, families and land in that area and you have the nerve to post something like that. They work theirs tails off! If they play a little hacky sac they probably deserve a break! You have balls lady.

It goes on and on. The naysayer tried to argue back, but her voice was drowned out. The only response required from the page administrators was this acknowledgement and reminder of their comment policy:

The reminder of the comment policy is important. People might wonder why the administrators didn’t simply delete her comment. Deleting it, however, would be completely counterproductive. She would most likely start a rant on her own Facebook page or even go so far as to produce a blog that was solely designed to rant about the response. Although she still might do those things, by leaving the comment for all to see, as well as the responses from the community, her stature  is diminished and she is not able to elevate herself to a martyr status, e.g. “I am the one whose voice was stifled!”

If you have an example of this happening to you, I’d love to hear about it. And good luck to all the firefighters out there this summer. You all are in our thoughts.

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