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When people say bad things on Facebook

January 19, 2011

Clay Shirky is one of my favorite thinkers. His book Cognitive Surplus is excellent. It’s so good that you should stop reading this post and go read it instead.


Clay Shirky
Image via Wikipedia

If you’re still here, then lets talk about designing for good behavior. Which isn’t easy.

In this post on the Harvard Business Review, Shirky talks about “cleaning up bad behavior“. He says when talking about online behavior:

“All the participants have an incentive to have good conversations, but each participant also has an incentive to get the most attention. This tension suggests that increases in individual anonymity or in group size also increase the likelihood that someone will start acting like a jerk.”

When creating a Facebook page for a client, understanding this is important. The people who you want to come to the page and talk about the brand aren’t always going to think about getting attention. But as the community grows, the inevitable jerk shows up.

I’ve seen it.

And clients don’t like it, but it’s really part of the game. To its credit, Facebook tried to stop the jerkiness. In fact, Facebook has designed functionality to attempt to stop it.

First, people’s pictures and names appear beside their message. In general, people are less jerky when they have to be themselves. When they are anonymous, they can be incredible jerks, and they are. Take a look at any discussion board or social bookmarking site that allows anonymity to see jerks. So if you’re designing a community for a brand, make sure that people have to provide a profile picture, a name, and an address. This might stop people from joining, but it will only stop the people who wanted to be jerks.

The second thing Facebook does is put the words “flag” beside every post. Flag is asking people to help police the space. We encourage our clients on Facebook to talk about the Flag feature in posts. Something like this: ”

“We do our best to keep this Facebook page safe for all of our fans, but we cannot guarantee that someone won’t post offensive things. If you see posts that are   offensive, rude, or don’t fit into Facebook’s guidelines, please click “flag”. Thanks, with your help, we can keep this a positive place for everyone.”

Now, this isn’t a request for people to flag comments when someone complains about the brand. As more and more people share opinions and experiences with products and services, there are occasional moments where someone stands up and says “That product or experience sucked.”

This is different, but not completely.

Most brands have their haters. What’s different now is that everyone is a potential critic on a platform in which they are invited. You should not ask your fans to ‘flag’ negative comments about the brand, unless they contain language that doesn’t fit on Facebook.

Brands should still use Facebook as a customer service tool. Still respond to people and understand that a compliant fits into Shirky’s belief that people want to get noticed, and want to be taken care of. So take care of them. And in return, ask them to take care of the rude and obnoxious people out there.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 29, 2014 7:08 pm

    why would you guys post such bad things

    • Anonymous permalink
      September 29, 2014 7:11 pm

      if you snitch then you can get in a lot of trouble but isn’t it fun getting in trouble if you don’t like to then your a loser!

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