A great part about my job at Coastal Carolina University is that I get to meet with diverse groups on campus about social media. One day it could be with an academic department. One day it could be with athletics. One day it could be with a student service organization. One day it could be a one-on-one session with a Vice President. Not only do I get to talk with a wide range of groups, I also get to talk about a wide range of subjects within social media.
This week I had the privilege of attending the monthly staff meeting of a department on campus. I was asked to speak about the handling of negative social media. You know, I am talking about the non-positive posts, the obscene comments, the spamming links, etc. that any social media program will encounter. This particular group that I was meeting with had a certain episode the month prior that sparked the invitation for me to drop by on that particular morning. With the warm smell of just out of the oven cinnamon rolls and fresh donuts teasing my nostrils (they have breakfast potluck meetings) I delivered my opinion.
My message was a simple one and it centered on one word: Control.
I strongly believe that any person or any group managing the social media campaign of an organization or business should run it in a way that gives them complete control. Critics might challenge this by saying that running a tight ship on social media takes “the voice” away from the audience and makes the social media administrator look like a tyrant. Absolute nonsense. You can run a program that gives the audience complete creative autonomy and an outlet to voice their opinion while still remaining at the steering wheel.
First off, I think all business Facebook pages should have the wall post capability for fans turned off. A Facebook wall is prime real estate marketing territory, one of the most coveted avenues of any business. Money, time, and creative spirit has been poured into the creation and maintenance of that page, thus making the wall sacred. To risk giving someone the chance to write a condemning manifesto wall post for all to see while the page administrator sleeps is not smart.
Secondly, just because you invite your audience to comment on any social media channel doesn’t mean they have a First Amendment right to have whatever toxic filled message they compose stay up. If someone writes something that has a curse word, strays completely off topic, or is self promoting then by all means delete it right away. If the person offends again then ban them. Your social media channels are your marketing tools, they aren’t a platform for people to cuss, ramble on, or promote. There are millions of message boards out there for that purpose.
Finally, run your social outlets in a way that you feel comfortable. Don’t let your audience, a social media “guru”, or a third party dictate how you administer your social program. If you have been trusted to make the social media decisions in an organization then most likely your bosses have faith in you. Honor the folks who provided you with such a crucial responsibility to put the best foot of your organization forward in the social media realm. If that means enabling more privacy settings, deleting a comment, or editing a post you made then so be it.
With my social media responsibilities I do all I can to portray Coastal Carolina in a transparent and humble light. We are not immune to criticisms or suggestions from our audience. If someone has a valid point I will make sure we take the heat. The post will stay up and I will address it in a respectful and apologetic manner for all to see. But that doesn’t mean our social media program is a complete free-for-all for people to hurl mud at anything and everything. That is where the control and comfort level must come in. The best social media administrators will find that fine line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. Don’t Blink.