Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media.
Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media.

 This article appears in the December 2015 issue of Dairy Herd Management.

Subway recently announced via their Facebook page that they would be sourcing “antibiotic-free” meats for their stores. Farmers disagreeing with the policy and upset with the announcement took to the company’s Facebook page, posting comments expressing their thoughts. Rather than directly addressing these comments, Subway deleted those not in total support of their announcement.

As one of the first people who had a comment deleted, I watched as countless friends took the time to write well thought-out, detailed and respectful posts, only to have them deleted within minutes. Although Subway later clarified its antibiotics policy, what caused me and many other farmers to swear off eating at Subway was the deletion of comments, which I firmly believe to be a complete social media failure.

Later that night, an animal rights activist commented on a picture I had posted on my Facebook page. Without a second thought, I deleted the comment – and then realized maybe the “delete comment” button was a little too easy to use for all of us in social media.

As an administrator of a public Facebook (or any social media channel) page, you can’t control what someone says about your company or farm. However, you have the power to control what stays on your page. When an angry customer or animal rights activist comments, using the “delete” or “ban” function may seem like a simple way to deal with the problem. However, when the shoe is on the other foot, as it was in the Subway case, we see how simply deleting any comment that doesn’t go along with our message can cause a snowball effect.

So when is it appropriate to delete a comment?

Any comment that is clearly abusive or is spam can and should be deleted, and the person responsible should be banned from further posts. I also take the extra step to report any spam accounts to Facebook, so they are removed.

If your business page deals directly with customers, think twice about deleting comments from them, even if they are using your social media channels to complain. As with Subway, deleting comments will only make the situation worse. Instead, if a customer has an issue and takes to social media to complain, use the format to show you are listening to their issue.

If your page isn’t a public face of a company that has direct customers, like a page for your farm or your blog, you can set the standard of what you’re willing to allow. While you may not have customers complaining on your page, it’s possible you may attract a few activists taking issue with our industry and expressing their opinion on your page.

While it may be tempting to engage with this person, I’ve found the time and energy put into the discussion is wasted, as these people often have no interest in any information that doesn’t confirm their beliefs. However if you choose to respond, remember other people can see what you post, and your behavior and comments will help them decide which side of the issue they fall.

If you establish a comment policy for your page, share it under the “about” section of your page. If you have more than one person serving as a page administrator, make sure everyone is clear on the policy and knows the plan for dealing with negative comments.

Remember, social media shouldn’t cause complaints, it should help solve them.

 

“Dairy Carrie” can be reached via

Email: carriemess@gmail.com

Twitter: @DairyCarrie

Facebook: facebook.com/dairycarrie

Follow her blog, The Adventures of

Dairy Carrie, at dairycarrie.com.