Facebook Fan Page Comments and the Marketplace of Ideas

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When working with clients on Facebook Pages for their businesses, I’ve noticed some hesitation at the idea of committing to a social media presence.  It wasn’t the fear of not being able to keep up with posting or responding to fans.  No, it turns out it was a fear of negative comments.  And while I’m a big believer in the First Amendment and the ways it prevents our government from limiting the speech activities of our citizens, when it comes to someone’s livelihood and plain old client comfort and preferences, these concerns need to be taken seriously.  After all, isn’t it true enough that a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on?  People are very quick to make judgments in our warp-speed, information-packed world.  Many people decide whether or not to see a movie after a quick look at the number of stars it receives, and a few critical words posted by a random diner on one of the many restaurant review websites can steer business away.  Is the solution to unclick the fan posting option on your Page settings?

Ultimately the decision to allow or not allow Fan posts on a Page is in the client’s hands and really depends upon their comfort.  My preferred strategy for Facebook would be to do a great launch with a nice-looking store front Fan Page, invite lots of friendly customers to become fans, allow fans to post and then monitor the page closely for problems.  Ideally you receive lots of positive posts and the “marketplace of ideas” prevents any negative comments from being damaging.  It is not a perfect system but we don’t live in a perfect world.   While I would prefer that people follow the advice of my mother, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all,” often times it is the cranky people that have the most to say and the most energy for saying it.  Fortunately, Facebook has provided all sorts of handy tools to delete posts and even to ban fans completely.  Still, there are some businesses that are poor candidates for open fan posting because of confidentiality or liability issues.  But by completely blocking fan posts, a business may miss out on one of the best sales-boosting tools: personal recommendations.

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4 responses to “Facebook Fan Page Comments and the Marketplace of Ideas

  1. It’s really interesting that bad news always travels faster than good news. I’m not sure what it is; I mean, are we critics by nature or do we simply like to hear ourselves speak. Don’t get me wrong, as an independent film critic, I enjoy expressing myself — especially when it comes to something I’m passionate about, but the majority of posts I see on commercial websites are oftentimes gratuitously negative, and for no good reason other than the obvious.

  2. Good advice. I definitely agree it’s worth it to leave a page open for comments, then edit as necessary.

  3. One of the ironies of Facebook front comments is that if one restricts feedback, then both negative AND POSITIVE are prevented, which is something to consider. Providing positive and negative is an opportunity to improve. In my experience, comments are closely related to “word of mouth” phenomenon. Openness typically leads to people having an opportunity to sell a company’s good side (just like good fiction). Something to consider. The augmented reality and blog community have had lots of experience with negativity. But if a company is doing a good job then customers will give good feedback freely. What you have to keep an eye out for is the competition and how they handle your comment space. Look up Yelp’s problems with this. Interesting.

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