Managing a company’s, an organisation or a governmental body’s social media can end up demoralizing managers. Especially when « trolls » keep coming back.
Negative comments, attacks against the page, trolls’ actions can make managing a page a living hell for community managers.
Marina Badani, communication and multimedia agent for a Quebec municipality, gives some advice on how to remain calm when facing some surfers’ obstinacy.
Marina Badani is in charge of the Facebook page of Sainte-Catherine, a city located near Montreal. She may tell herself that the comments published on the page are not directed to her personally, some of them still make her steam.
Of course, she can still ban trolls that don’t respect the page’s « netiquette ». However, citizens still need to be able to express themselves freely, and one can be « unpleasant » while still following the page’s code of conduct.
« People tend to forget that when they address an organization, there is a person behind it that gets the message. Repetitively reading aggressive and/or negative comments end up emotionally getting to you, as a community manager. It creates stress and anxiety, even if we have several years of experience behind us. »
Before managing social media pages – which she has been doing for 8 years -, Marina Badani has worked at customer services and complaints management positions. There, she developed some beneficial reflexes to deal with difficult customers.
« My most useful trick is to demonstrate empathy (not sympathy) toward the person complaining : I try to put myself in their shoes and to understand why she is. Is she reacting to something impacting her personally? Would I feel the same way if I were her? It helps me relativise the situation, not take the remarks too personally. »
She adds that contextualising a situation also helps her deal with her emotions better, and to answer calmly.
« I tell myself that unpleasant must not be that happy in real life », she continues.
A good comments registry
Then, Marina Badani reminds community managers that not everything is gloom and doom. From her own admission, she also gets a good amount of positive comments every week.
Which brings us to her second piece of advice : create a good comments registry.
« We have to admit that we tend to receive compliments pretty often. It can be a good idea to note these positive interventions in a « good comments registry » and to refer to it when we are really mad! »
When knowing their public well, community managers can maintain their distance from comments.
« With time, we end up knowing our audience. The incisive ones are always the same ones. They refer everything to them and refuse to see that municipal actions need to serve the general public’s interest. When we see the same name come up regularly, knowing they tend to be aggressive, we can take a deep breath before reading their comment. We then prepare ourselves to answer them with a bit of spice. »
When comments get fractious, the community manager favours private message exchanges. She also always takes the time to explain her decision when she deletes somebody’s comment.
Taking time to really unwind
Of course, social media platforms never close. Some managers keep checking their pages in the evenings and on week-end days, which can create a psychological fatigue.
Marina Badani reminds community managers that they can also unwind, even if one of their missions is to stay up to date on current events.
« Any kind of stress-relieving activity is worth trying : walking, yoga or meditation, savouring a nice glass of wine…, the communication agent explains. If we can take a couple of days break from time to time, it’s even better. We are in a stressful profession, and we need to go get help if we feel like needing it. »