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Facebook fan pages have emerged as a universal lifeline to customers. The number of brands sharing news, addressing customer service issues or fostering discussion in these passionate communities is growing rapidly.
With the amazing conversations Facebook creates, there are some inherent risks. Creating a set of “house rules” will encourage productive participation by users and grow a transparent community.
Small fan page communities may only need a few simple rules, while larger brands and regulated industries may have more detailed guidelines.
Most Facebook fan page conversations, good or bad, are constructive. But unfortunately, people won’t always play nice. Having a plan and fair guidelines that you can point your community to will save you a bigger headache in the long run.
Begin with the Basics
Users are expected to respect and protect the rights of others and have laid out rules specifically for what that means. Of course, the final word for whether any post warrants disciplinary action or account removal belongs to Facebook, but as a page administrator, you can further encourage these terms to foster a healthier community.
2. Define the purpose of your page.
Having a clear picture of the intended use of your fan page, what types of content you plan to share and what users can expect from you may help eliminate some problems up front. If there are specific types of discussions your company needs to handle elsewhere, then offer that information up front to be most helpful to your fans.
3. Provide contact information
Provide an email (or phone number) for your communications department, customer service representative or page administrator. People appreciate transparency, but more importantly, people want to connect with the right person. Do your best to make it easy for people to reach out should the need arise. You may get a few unwanted calls or emails, but that shouldn’t trump being accessible to your community.
4. Ask the community to look out for each other.
Fans who feel a sense of camaraderie and find genuine value in what you share on your page will want to protect it. Should a repeat offender threaten the well-being of the connection point between fans and the brand, they may be willing to help you police it by bringing problematic posts to your attention.
5. If you plan to remove posts, set expectations.
If you are going to remove certain types of content, be clear about what that means, right from the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll be able to personally handle any escalating situation offline, should it arise. The best way to encourage appropriate behavior is to use consistency in identifying what crosses the line.
Remember, fan pages are public, so posts there aren’t guarded by the same posting privacy you’re used to on your personal page. It’s up to you to know what type of content is appropriate for your brand and your audience. Overall, there are some common themes in many house rules policies.
Identifying Problem Content
There are several types of content that are commonly addressed in community guidelines. Here is a sample list:
- Profane, defamatory, offensive or violent language
- “Trolling”, or posting deliberately disruptive statements meant to hijack comment threads or throw discussions off-track
- Attacks on specific groups or any comments meant to harass, threaten or abuse an individual
- Hateful or discriminatory comments regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs
- Links or comments containing sexually explicit content material
- Discussion of illegal activity
- Spam, link baiting or files containing viruses that could damage the operation of other people’s computers or mobile devices
- Acknowledgement of intent to stalk an individual or collect private information without disclosure
- Commercial solicitations or promotion of a competitor
- Violations of copyright or intellectual property rights
- Content that relates to confidential or proprietary business information
- Content determined to be inappropriate, in poor taste, or otherwise contrary to the purposes of the forum
- Promoting competing products, services, or brands
- Personal promotion
Once you’ve decided on the house rules that make sense for your page, be sure to post them somewhere on the page for easy reference to fans. A simple way to do this is to use the notes feature or information section of the page. As time goes on, it doesn’t hurt to remind users of the house rules from time to time, particularly if you see a spike in problematic posts.
Community Management or Page Administration
Not everyone is going to play nice, so be prepared for situations where fans get out of hand. Understand that sometimes negative comments may not be meant to cause harm, but simply to raise issues about products, websites, lack of information or buggy applications.
For example, if you use a coupon-serving application on your page, and it malfunctions, people are likely to complain. Take the opportunity to address the problem and answer questions rather than just removing the negative discussion about frustrations.
Try to treat complaints as customer service opportunities first and house rules violations second.
To see some examples of different fan page house rules, check out the following pages.
- Delta Dental
- Laughing Cow Cheese
- Best Buy
- Victoria’s Secret
- Southwest Airlines
- National Guard
What other examples have you found that you like? How do you handle monitoring posts on your fan pages?