Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently met his match: a couple from Scottsdale, Arizona whose attitude was destroying their restaurant. For the first time in 82 episodes, the infamously feisty host of reality TV show Kitchen Nightmares backed down and gave up — Amy and Samy Bouzaglo of Amy’s Baking Company were beyond help, he declared. After the episode aired, 95,700 new “fans” descended on the restaurant’s Facebook page, mostly to criticise, to which the Bouzaglos responded with equal force. Egged on by mischievous comments, the couple had a very public meltdown, starting by calling their detractors “sinners” and “pussies”, and ending with a tirade of expletives our grandmas would grab a big bar of soap to clean up!
As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, Amy and Samy deleted the entire conversation and unconvincingly claimed their social media accounts had been hacked.
Not surprisingly, newspapers around the world jumped on Amy’s Baking Company as an example of what NOT to do on your Facebook page. For me, it’s a reminder of how important it is to have a Facebook policy to both minimise the risk of unwanted comments and moderate your own posting behaviour.
How to write a Facebook policy
First, you could easily substitute the word “Facebook” for “social media” and make this a general policy for all your online communications — everything from Twitter and LinkedIn to Pinterest and Youtube. My focus today, however, is Facebook. Writing a Facebook policy is neither complicated nor time-consuming… it’s a simple one page document that defines the boundaries within which your business uses Facebook, and includes:
- The purpose of your page
- Best practices you will follow
- How you will manage issues
What’s your purpose on social media?
Well, obviously you want your page to promote your business to boost sales. This, however, isn’t a purpose — to uncover what you really want your Facebook page to achieve, ask yourself, “How does my page promote my business?” Let me explain this by giving you some examples. My Admin Bandit page has two purposes: first, it’s educational, a place where anyone in community and non-profit groups can find tips and ideas, and, second, it’s where I share my journey as an emerging entrepreneur. You may remember my interview with Lizzie Randerson of Craft Makes Me Happy last year. Her page also has two purposes: it’s primarily an online shop, but is also where she shares craft projects, whether her own or someone else’s. Your page might exist for other reasons, for example, to: define your brand, showcase new products or be a community hub for a particular industry or interest group. Knowing why your page exists gives you direction on what to post. This creates consistency, which helps define your brand and let’s fans know what to expect. It also filters out potential posts that are empty filler and don’t actually do anything for your business.
Keep out of jail card
A new type of crime has hit the headlines in the last six months — social media defamation. Late last year, Sue Burtenshaw, a former school principal in Coober Pedy, was awarded $40,000 in damages after two parents made her the subject of a Facebook hate page. Not all examples of defamation are so extreme, to the point that you may not be aware that what you’re posting has legal consequences. You don’t have to ridicule or denigrate a person’s character to risk a criminal record, community service and a hefty fine, not to mention paying two sets of legal fees (your own and the victim’s). And deleting a suspect post doesn’t clear you either. Even the following are considered defamation:
- posting that someone is suspected of or has allegedly committed a crime
- posting that someone has a contagious disease, is mentally ill or anything else that may result that person being shunned or avoided
- “liking” a post by someone else that is found to be defamatory.
Defamation isn’t the only possible Facebook crime… there’s also copyright infringement, which can be as apparently innocent as posting a Youtube video or a photo from Flickr.
While you’d be unlucky to end up in court, the risk of Facebook deleting your page with no warning is very real. Just ask Bill Tikos from The Cool Hunter, a trend-spotting website. He woke up in October 2012 to find his page had suddenly disappeared into thin air with no explanation, only to find out later Facebook had received copyright breach complaints. Imagine having to restart your Facebook page from scratch, to going back to 0 fans with no way of reconnecting with those you’ve lost. What’s more, Tikos estimated his page directed 10,000 people a day to his website… that’s a lot of potential customers or advertising revenue to lose.
So you can see why including a list of best practices in your Facebook policy is a must.
Make sure you fully understand and cover:
- privacy and confidentiality
- swearing, name calling and personal insults
- accuracy of facts
- fairness and objectivity
- spam (another faux pas many Facebook page owners unwitting committing)
How to manage complaints, spam and mean people on your Facebook page
I recently looked up accommodation in a famous Australian country town and ended up on a popular hotel’s Facebook page. Smack bang in the middle of the page, catching my complete attention, was a post claiming the hotel doesn’t honour its promises to bands. What’s more, there was no sign the hotel had even seen the post, even though it was almost five months old. Hmm, it didn’t look good. Some complaints are genuine and some spam is unwitting (people don’t realise posting a blatant sales pitch on your page is a faux pas). Whereas other complaints are vicious and other spam gains international notoriety (I’m thinking of anything to do with selling sneakers or weight loss miracles!).
You need strategies to manage both in your Facebook policy.
I suggest you develop a short, graceful response to genuine complaints and unwitting spam. Will you:
- publicly acknowledge or apologise if you’re at fault or have made a mistake?
- ask the poster to message you, so you can resolve an issue privately or deal with the situation openly online?
- Publish guidelines for how you handle complaints and spam, or how you expect people to engage with your page under a tab or as a pinned post?
- Delete unwanted posts or leave them for other fans to see?
And then there’s the other kind of criticism and spam, the type that leaves you feeling bombarded or taken advantage of. This is the type experts tell you to make of policy of ignoring… simply don’t acknowledge it and don’t even think about commenting. Here’s why:
- your silence contains the situation
- bullies want you to engage… that’s how they get their kick
- you need to maintain your professionalism and, thus, credibility.
From the frying pan into the fire
Getting back to Amy and Samy Bouzaglo of Amy’s Baking Company, their fire cracker performance on Kitchen Nightmares aside, one can safely assume they didn’t have a Facebook policy. In fact, their lack of knowledge about my final three bullet points perfectly clarifies their very humiliating social media disaster. Where are they now? In an expensive over-drive to literally save face(book). The couple has hired Michael Saucier of Rose Moser Allyn, a public and online relations company that, among other things, deals in crisis communications. They now really do have people impersonating them on numerous fake Facebook pages and, while their real page now has 104,000 fans, most of these are trying to goad them into another meltdown. As I write, three weeks after the US airing of the Kitchen Nightmares episode, “fans” are still making more than 10 offensive posts an hour, which Amy and Samy are not responding to… they’re too busy discussing a plethora of offers for their own reality TV show!