If you manage growing a brand using social media, this post applies to you.
This article will be a little more serious in nature (from my normal posts), because it’s a serious topic and a natural part of business.

On Friday, I wrote a blog article, “What’s The Worst That Can Happen?”, which addresses how to manage negative posts about your brand in the social media space.

In summary, if a post isn’t friendly but can be validated in some way (ie. someone complaining about a bad customer experience), then I recommend you leave the post up and address it with integrity and responsibility.

As I mentioned in the blog article, three amazing things can happen when you do this.

There’s a different category of negative posts I want to distinguish that will better equip your team with handling negative PR or crisis communications situations.

These posts are what I call, inappropriate posts.

Inappropriate posts will fall in one of these categories:

1. Slanderous or Defaming – Posts that are egregious and can harm your brand’s, another brand’s, or a person’s reputation. David Canton (business lawyer at Harrison Pensa LLP and blogger at eLegal), has told me in the past, these types of posts can also cross a legal line and open the perpetrator to legal action.

2. Harassing or Abusive – Posts that are vulgar or can be reasonably perceived as an attack, or are offensive. An example is last week, one of tbk Creative‘s clients had a Facebook.com fan offer a suggestion on how to use the Facebook.com page better (which is appreciated!), but after his suggestion he called the brand a “dumbass” for not thinking of this themselves. This is an example of a harrassing or abusive post.

3. Discriminatory or Hate – Posts that are unjust or prejudice towards a group of people.
4. Illegal – Other posts where the poster is omitting something that is a clear violation of law. Although, I’m not a lawyer, I would not be surprised if case law doesn’t surface in the future where brands become obliged to report illegal information they receive through their digital platforms.
5. Solicitation – Posts where the poster is directly or indirectly promoting products or services.

Here’s my recommendations when dealing with inappropriate posts:

Don’t tolerate them and remove them.

Here’s the general actions I’d recommend (this is a template process I created for guidance, but use your own discretion):

  1. Take a screen shot of the post for your records.
  2. Delete the post (marketing it as abusive if that option is available),
  3. Privately message the user and:

a) Introduce yourself, your company, and title,
b) Inform them that their post was removed,
c) Tell them why the post was removed and share authentically the positive intent of why the brand’s digital platform exists for the community (ie. a Facebook.com page or YouTube.com channel),
d) Request they not make posts of this nature in the future,
e) Thank them for understanding and invite them to call you at your office (leave your office number) if they’d like to discuss further.

In this instance, if a user made an inappropriate post but their concern was valid in some way (ie. a fan curses at your brand and describes their negative experience at your restaurant), you can still follow the above steps of removing the post, but you want to tailor your message to them to let them know their post wasn’t deleted because of the complaint, but because of the offensive language used. You will also want to take this opportunity to make things right with them (example, offer them a company credit).

Following the steps above when dealing with inappropriate posts will stop the person from making posts of this nature 95% of the time.

If the poster makes a second inappropriate post, I recommend you follow these steps:

  1. 1. Take a screen shot of the post for your records.
  2. 2. Delete the post (marketing it as abusive if that option is available),
  3. 3. Ban the user,
  4. 4. Privately message the user and:

a) Introduce yourself, your company, and title,
b) Inform them they have been removed from the community,
c) Tell them why they were removed from the community and share authentically the positive intent of why the digital platform exists for the community,
d) Invite them to call you at your office (leave your office number) if they’d like to discuss further.

The bottom line is: when it comes to negative posts, leave them up and use social media to showcase your brand’s integrity and responsibility. This nobility will scale and build trust amongst your entire community (you may also learn valuable feedback from the poster to improve your business!)

However, when it comes to posts that are inappropriate and cross the line, don’t tolerate them and hold adults to being adults.

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Andrew Schiestel is the Chief of WOW! Projects at tbk Creative, a web design & social marketing agency that instigates and accelerates consumer action around brands. To contact Andrew about speaking at your upcoming web marketing & communications event, click here. Andrew can be followed on Twitter here.