5 Ways To Prepare For A Flood Of Facebook Comments

Traveling at the speed of light, comments on Facebook can make or break a brand situation in a flash, if companies aren't prepared to talk back.

Anyone with a brand presence on Facebook knows it takes skill and energy to keep up with the never-ending comments. Here’s how to do it swiftly and effectively.

Smart companies constantly seek input from the customer and thousands of them happily comply via social media, leaving hundreds of comments about the company business.

That can overwhelm brand pages on Facebook, as recently realized by one home improvement retail giant who took action in traditional media, simultaneously opening the floodgates of comments on Facebook.

It started when Lowes pulled ads from a controversial TLC reality TV show. Nearly 30,000 people heaped comments on Lowe’s Facebook page, many of them negative.

Caught off guard, the comments were yanked, but not before putting Lowes in Facebook hell, according to AdWeek.

Companies have long prepared to handle controversy in the world of traditional media by hiring media consultants to prepare chief executive officers to answer questions on camera and stay on key messages.

All well and good, but that message is doled out in very small doses, one news story at a time. What happens when the lightning speed of social media gives everyone a voice, many of whom loudly cried Lowes racist, amongst other things. Sleepless nights for company executives and public relations folks, to be sure.

This social media comment explosion requires a brand new bag of tricks to maintain brand positivity and nurture customer loyalty, considering it only takes an instant for a company’s world to be turned upside down by extremely negative customer comments or even the sheer volume of positive comments.

With that in mind, here are five pointers, based on recommendations from Jason Keath, chief executive of Social Fresh, who wrote a guest post on the topic for Mashable.

1. Set Boundaries

Make it clear on Facebook brand pages, up front, what’s acceptable in terms of comments.

As in any other potentially explosive situation, letting users know what’s expected gives companies a leg to stand on when something happens.

2. Accept Positive And Negative Input

Any spin doctor worth his salt advises against companies responding with a, “no comment,” whether during TV interviews or on Facebook; it often makes people assume the worst is true.

Giving customers a voice without yanking the platform from them is what social media is all about.

Transparency is critical and as long as the naysayers are abiding by the rules you put in writing (see above), companies must respond accordingly without using a broad brush to remove those comments.

3. Anticipate Crises

Preparing to handle the worst is standard operating procedure for companies long focused on the world of traditional media. Of course, broadcast and print media is on a 24-hour news cycle, while Facebook posts can pile up in 24 seconds.

Companies must be fleet of foot in responding, and the best way to do that is to have a plan in advance. Not being prepared is a gigantic missed opportunity to address the problem, offer a solution and perhaps even win over new customers in the process.

4. Hire Out

Any smart manager delegates. Social moderation services are far more adept at handling comment overloads and are experienced in responding correctly.

Social media handlers such as Conversocial are launching priority response systems to determine which comments need immediate attention, requiring human customer service and which can be auto-answered. Much like a tiered technical support system employed by software companies, the response system keeps on top of the social media comments for brands.

Conversocial estimated that over the holidays, 90 percent of the quarter million social media comments needed only an automated response, leaving customer service agents free to address the remaining 10 percent requiring a targeted live response.

5. Use Applications

Apps are an amazing way to disseminate positive information virally via Facebook while staying top of mind with consumers. The more the brand is visible and relative to customers, the better. That way, if something negative happens, fans are primed to display brand loyalty.

Building a brand is a time-consuming, expensive proposition. It takes just a nanosecond for thousands of bad comments on a Facebook page to chip away at that foundation.

Now that everyone has a social media voice, brands must learn to leverage that commentary to the company’s advantage.