When “Fans” go too far

As a rule of thumb, you should not delete fan comments on your Facebook page. But you should also know when to draw the line. 

On 18 September 2012, SingTel announced that it had secured the rights to broadcast the UEFA Champion League on its MioTV service through the SingTel Facebook page. Because the announcement went out just hours before the season’s first game, the announcement drew criticism from a number of fans.

As community managers, one should always expect an angry comment here and there. (That’s why you have a Facebook page in the first place: to have a two-way dialogue with customers.) But this time one “fan” in particular crossed the line. He began to hurl very crude and very personal abuses at one of the Customer Care staff members who manages our page. (I won’t repeat the language used but if you’re really curious, you can browse through the discussion thread here.) This prompted me to post this in response:

While a few fans appreciated the show of support towards a team member, others quickly transferred their anger towards me. (One even went as far as to post my LinkedIn profile to the thread and encourage others to attack me directly.)

Was crying foul the right thing to do? Did it succeed in quieting the displeasure from the community? It’s naive to think a single comment is capable of instantly reversing sentiment but sometimes, that isn’t the point. Sometimes the point is standing up for what your values are and what your brand represents. In this case, SingTel’s Facebook team takes pride in having an open forum where customers can criticize our services. This includes allowing people to express themselves as emphatically as they want, even allowing the use of swear words and stretching the rules outlined in the page’s House Rules. This policy is what allows us to identify how we can improve our services and, often, even troubleshoot issues through our Facebook customer service team, as many customers have experienced first hand.

But leniency must have its bounds. We are also a company that stands up in defense of our own. Sometimes you need to remind people that (as a trusted industry colleague very nicely put it), “Just because you ‘like’ a page doesn’t give someone the right to act like an a#*ehole.”

This exchange with our Facebook community has attracted some attention and the incident was covered in today’s edition of Singapore tabloid The New Paper (see below).

You can read the online version of the article in The New Paper here.

There is also an ongoing discussion in HWZ forums here. (Just try to ignore all the racist comments.) Join the discussion or simply comment on this blog.

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