Browse
Responding to Negative Facebook Comments

Responding to Negative Facebook Comments

Posted October 10, 2017 by Todd Hertz

Oh, for the days when there were only two certainties in life: death and taxes. If your church is on Facebook, you can now also be certain that you will deal with negative comments.

Some of this negativity is destructive (we’ll talk about trolls), but hearing and responding to many negative comments can be productive. After all, Facebook is an open channel between customer and business, congregant and church. According to the Nielsen Company, nearly one-third of customers choose social media as their top choice for customer service. In other words, a large segment of your online users (read: members and potential visitors) are not going to ask an usher, call your office, or email a pastor if they can’t find something on your website, are bothered by something the pastor said, or have questions about church spending decisions. Instead, they will post their questions, concerns, and complaints on social media. (An example: One Sunday, my church received a tweet complaining about the temperature in our sanctuary.)

So what do you do with negative comments?

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Still, a step in the right direction is to have a general response plan. Note the word general. Decisions will need to be made on a case-by-case basis since there are so many unforeseeable variables. However, thinking through scenarios and having a general plan that you’ve discussed with–or even better, had approved by—church leadership,  a staff member, or a guidance committee gives you a starting place (and confidence) in the heat of the moment.

Before we talk about response, let’s examine three common categories of negative responders:

Trolls
Wikipedia defines a troll as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people.” A troll will generally not attend your church. They either stumble upon your post or seek you out with an axe to grind. They are only about bringing others down. Our church mostly encounters trolls when running Facebook ads that expose our posts to a wide audience. We recently had a troll comment on a boosted event post with, “Who’d go to that? Idiots, that’s who.”

Those Who Need to Be Heard
This is generally an attender (they likely love or have loved your church) but something is bothering them—and perhaps has been for a while. It could be theological; maybe they loathe that you cancelled a kids program; or maybe they have gotten that one rude usher every week. Whatever the case, something (like a post) triggers them to finally write a pointed, sarcastic, or questioning comment. This is a classic customer service scenario.

Unconscientious Objectors
These posters aren’t as cruel as trolls; they aren’t bent on setting the world on fire to watch it burn. But they are just…critical. Looking at their profiles you can see they use social media pretty much exclusively to object, critique, and complain (“The neighbor’s dog is barking again!!!”).

With those definitions in hand, let’s turn to the basic options at your disposal:

Reply
For Those Who Need to Be Heard, replying is going to be key to help move them from negativity. It might be through an apology, problem-solving, explaining, or offering further help (see response tips below). A good response includes great customer service. This means that you accept responsibility as much as you are able to and seek to help rectify the issue. As you practice good customer service, their tone often lightens as they see someone cares and is trying to help. Typically, replying to trolls isn’t constructive. They aren’t interested in civil discourse or reasoning. Don’t engage attacking, antagonistic, or profane comments.

Hide or Delete
When you delete a comment, it is permanently gone and the user knows it. However, if you hide a comment (learn how), it is still visible to the person who wrote it and their friends. This could be helpful if you want to remove a comment but don’t want the user to know. This may work best in situations such as when a Unconscientious Objector leaves random criticism not needing a response (“How dare you not have ketchup at a potluck? Who is even charge over there?”) or you want to stop the comment from starting fights on your page.  But there is danger in hiding comments; users can see that their comment is gone if they look at your page while not logged into Facebook. This can lead to more anger and negativity. It looks like you are hiding from something.

For comments that are abusive, offensive, hateful or just unconstructive (“Who’d go to that? Idiots, that’s who.”), it is advisable to delete—and, oftentimes, ban the user. You won’t win trolls over. However, it can be best to leave other kinds of comments (like from the two latter categories of posters) visible even if your gut instinct is to get them off your Page as fast as possible. Social media culture values authenticity. So, when you leave negative comments, you show that you’re OK with some messiness, and you avoid making matters worse with users who might listen to reason.

Lastly, a few things to consider as you respond:

  • Wait. Seriously. Go for a walk. Talk it through with someone. Think: Does this reply smother the fire? Or stoke it?
  • As you draft a response, have someone do a “political edit” for you—does it sound like a reasonable customer service reply that Disney or Amazon would post?
  • Social media culture upholds and respects basic good customer service practices. Be honest. Practice humility. Take ownership. Offer help. Apologize when merited.
  • It’s very normal for organizations to ask commenters/posters to talk via private message or other means to settle issues. You can also set up email addresses like SocialMedia@YourChurch.org to offer to people.

Filed under: Social Media, Facebook

About the Author

Todd Hertz

Todd Hertz used to do social media for Church Juice’s parent ministry, Back to God Ministries. Now, he is the Communications Director for the four campuses of Christ Community Church in the Chicago suburbs. He has written for Christianity Today and is the General Editor of the Teen Quest Bible (Zondervan)

Don't miss a post

Join our email list

Comments (2)

  • Chris
    8:20 AM
    Tue, Oct 10, 2017

    What about negative or “trolling” reviews of your church?  I don’t believe that these can be deleted and we have occasionally had trolls leave very negative reviews on our page.  Some well meaning congregants then start a “war” with the troll in the review section, which then doesn’t create a positive impression overall for our church…..

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this issue….

  • Bryan Haley
    8:44 AM
    Thu, Oct 12, 2017

    Great question, Chris! It may be beneficial to turn off the ratings & reviews section of your page if this is a recurring issue.

Leave a Comment

Share your thoughts about this blog post with us.
All fields are required.

Recent Posts

Choosing a Facebook Cover Photo
Choosing a Facebook Cover Photo
0

Posted February 18, 2019 by Bryan Haley

Your church's Facebook Page cover photo is prime real estate. It's the largest area you have to visually display something for your church. Here's how to choose the right Facebook cover photo.
Snappy Solutions
Snappy Solutions
1

Posted February 13, 2019 by Matthew Hooper

Snapchat is one of the many social communication options around. It’s unique feature of deleting posts means you needs to navigate this social channel in a completely different way.
The Best Time to Post on Facebook
The Best Time to Post on Facebook
0

Posted February 11, 2019 by Jordan Gorveatte

With algorithms and engagement constantly changing, what are the best times to post on Facebook? We break it down for you here.
Instagram and the Visual Web
Instagram and the Visual Web
0

Posted February 6, 2019 by Bryan Haley

Your church needs to think more visually. Instagram’s wild success and influence is continuing to move the web toward visual.
4 Things Churches Need to Stop Posting on Social Media
4 Things Churches Need to Stop Posting on Social Media
6

Posted February 4, 2019 by Robert Carnes

There’s plenty of articles talking about what the church could add to their social media channels. This article is the opposite of that—four things that churches should stop adding online.
The McDonald’s Method
The McDonald’s Method
1

Posted January 29, 2019 by Matthew Hooper

3 guys walk into a church. They all question what year they walked into. Should you update your building’s look? How should you go about a building update?
Good Websites Remove Barriers
Good Websites Remove Barriers
1

Posted January 22, 2019 by Bryan Haley

After moving to a new city, we started looking online for a new church, and it made me realize how many churches don’t prioritize their website. A poor website does nothing to help potential guests want to show up on Sunday. Here’s how a good website removed barriers.
2019 Design Trends Forecast
2019 Design Trends Forecast
2

Posted January 17, 2019 by Gage Hunt

What should your church be expecting out of graphic design trends this year? Here's our best guess.
15 of the Best Church Websites for 2019
15 of the Best Church Websites for 2019
0

Posted January 15, 2019 by Bryan Haley

We've spent dozens of hours searching the web to find the best church websites in North America. Here are 15 of the best church websites this year.
Go Live or Go Home: Streaming Strategy for Small Churches
Go Live or Go Home: Streaming Strategy for Small Churches
1

Posted December 27, 2018 by Matthew Hooper

Thanks to Youtube, Facebook Live, and the advent of affordable smartphones, anyone can get in on the online church game. Here are some questions to work through to set up a winning strategy with taking your church live.