Have you ever gotten rude Facebook comments, and wondered how to handle Facebook Page trolls… or obnoxious people online, in general? I gave this topic some thought after seeing a classic case of poor digital behavior in the comments on the Experience Grand Rapids, Michigan tourism Facebook Page.
The Facebook logo at the upper right of the embedded image below links to the specific Page post – here is another link to the specific Page post I’ll be talking about – which features an ExperienceGR “Insider Experience” blog post written by local contributor Rick Jensen that highlights Grand Rapids LGBTQ+ tourism partner businesses –
Negative comments below the post include:
“Thank you. Now I know what businesses not to go to when in Grand Rapids.”
“There you go again separating us and giving special consideration to someone or some business because of who they sleep with! Stop it!!”
“GRAND RAPIDS IS CONDONING THIS SEXUALLY PERVERTED LIFESTYLE! DISGUSTING IDIOTS WHO SHOULD BE GETTING THESE MENTALLY SICK PEOPLE THE PSYCHIATRIC HELP THEY DESPERATELY NEED!”
“NO THANKS …I’m straight and I’m proud of it.”
And naturally, many were offended by the above sorts of comments, and responded with…
“Love posts like this, let’s me know who I need to support because they support me. And what idiots I need to block on Facebook so I never have deal with all their hate.”
“I’m sorry you’re so insecure that you feel like your heterosexuality is threatened just by the idea of supporting gay people. LMFAO.”
All that engagement drove up the post’s visibility in Facebook News Feeds, of course (over 1,000 reactions, 270 comments, 133 shares at last count) but Page Admins who deal with posts blowing up like this know that it is exhausting to monitor them properly 24/7.
Bad handling of Facebook trolls can damage your organization or brand’s reputation, and make a difficult communications issue even worse.
What You Can Learn From Experience Grand Rapids And Facebook Trolls
Here are a few suggestions:
1.) Remember that this is YOUR Facebook Page. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg owns it, but that’s your brand name on the Page. Consider it your house.
Do you let people come into your house and poop on the rug, throw things, and insult guests? No.
Treat rude people on your Page as you would treat a rude visitor in your home. Confront them directly, tell them that their behavior is inappropriate and why, and warn them that continued abusive commentary won’t be tolerated.
Make sure your Page already has simple, clear ground rules established and posted so that you can easily refer to them when you say, “These are our rules.”
Here are social media General House Rules from Visit Baltimore, Maryland. Scroll down to see social media rules.
“We welcome your posts to our page about your visit to or your memories of Morgan County, however all posts must be civil and appropriate. We reserve the right to remove posts which are offensive, defamatory or profane.”
My destination marketing friend Laura summarizes her approach on the Visit Kenosha, Wisconsin Facebook Page:
“Profanity/Hate = Deleted, Stupidity/Irrelevant Content = Hidden, Multiple Offenses = Blocked”
Some organizations have gotten legal advice that as government entities, they cannot legally block people from their Page, or delete their comments. For most Pages, though, hiding comments is OK.
2.) Do not ignore it when a post draws negative commentary. Do not indulge in magical thinking and hope it will all go away. If it’s on a weekend, do not think you can wait until 9 a.m. on Monday to deal with the situation.
Social media is public communications, and people are watching to see how you respond, even if they never comment themselves.
This is how Grand Rapids destination marketing staff came in and did an excellent job laying down ground rules on the specific post above:
“Please understand when commenting: Experience Grand Rapids reserves the right to hide or delete comments including visuals on our content per our community policy. While this is an open forum, it’s also a family friendly one, so please keep your comments clean. We understand there will be open discussion but we ask to keep it civil. We promote a multitude of businesses owned and operated by people of all types of backgrounds within the Grand Rapids – Kent County area. Thank you.”
Note: there is a Profanity Filter under the Page Settings that only Page Admins can see. You may want to bump it up from Medium to Strong.
3.) You don’t have to handle the whole thing as an Admin; your Facebook Page’s followers and community can be your allies. Often they will defend you before you even have a chance to gear up to respond.
You’ll need to monitor their enthusiastic defense (they’re not allowed to be super-rude, either, even in defending you) but their support has a lot of credibility.
Give them room to run.
4.) If things get too lively, consider getting some help from your tourism allies and colleagues. We have your back as fellow Page Admins and we know how this works.
Most of us are in various private Facebook Groups with other marketing pros; let fellow Group members know when you could use a little positive commentary on a post. Smart marketers know how to roll in on a hot post without making it worse, and often, their supportive comments can “drown out” the obnoxious comments.
The key is to avoid engaging with the hater comments and the back-and-forth, “You’re a jerk. No, YOU’RE a jerk.”
Instead, leave a specific, positive comment about the post content itself. You’ll see that under the Grand Rapids post – a number of comments that draw out the various businesses that were highlighted in the linked blog post, without getting tangled up in any of the hair-on-fire comments.
For example, here’s the comment that I left:
“I like the Outside Coffee Co‘s outdoor domes mentioned in the article. Great way to combine fresh air & coffee, even when it’s chilly. I’m a warmth-loving Texas-based traveler, but I’d definitely go there!”
“Rainbow Road looks awesome! I love public art.”
“Thanks for the great roundup! I’d love to check out Woosah and grab a drink at The Apartment Lounge after.”
There’s no trick here; it’s just that pros know how Facebook works.
Obnoxious comments on a post can be made less visible/”drowned out” because the default for Comment Ranking under Page Settings is Most Relevant. That means that comments with the most Likes or replies show up first below your posts, as will comments from other verified Pages and profiles.
Unless a reader knows how to bring up Newest or All Comments, they may never even see a lot of the commentary that you’re sweating as a Page Admin. There’s a dropdown at the top of Comments, but the average person never notices or toggles it.
Focus on boosting the content, not engaging with trolls or the people who pop off in comments but aren’t truly thoughtful, caring members of your community.
What do you think about handling Facebook Page trolls? Let me know down in the comments.
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