When acting as the administrator of a Facebook page — be it for a company, a sociopolitical movement, or a celebrity fan page — it is important that you establish and maintain an effective tone and message when publishing on your page’s Timeline. Believe it or not, the way that you interact with your members will set the stage for how they interact with your page.
It’s also important that you respect your group members — that is, that you do not lie to them, and that when you post something that rubs them the wrong way, or get something wrong, you admit it, apologize and move on.
Occupy Wall Street posted a link on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon which, while earning some play in the mainstream media, succeeded in confusing, angering and disenchanting a percentage of its Facebook following. Writing, “Bank of America finally admits it’s failing….” an Occupy Wall St. administrator posted the link to yourbofa.com, a page that has the look and feel of a Bank of America web page.
Following the link, the reader is taken to a letter purporting to be from Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan. It reads, in part:
“Today, it’s time to acknowledge that our Bank isn’t working anymore—not just for the market, but for people, our real customers. We’ve paid $8.58 billion in relief to borrowers and $3.24 billion in fines. We face lawsuits and claims from citizens, companies, and state and local governments. There is even a petition with the Federal Reserve to break up our bank, adding yet more uncertainty to our position. Finally, we’ve found ourselves front-and-center in the national foreclosure crisis, and deep in unpopular investments like coal, at a time when climate change is a growing societal concern. As a result, our company’s shares have fallen precipitously, and now trade at one-fifth their 2008 price. Our Bank may, in fact, soon need help keeping afloat—and much as in 2008, you, the American taxpayer, will be asked to provide that assistance.”
At this point, of course, the reader should realize that the site is a hoax. No one in their right mind would accept that Bank of America’s CEO would be lamenting his own company’s investment in coal, of all things. And a quick click-through of the website will show the user that almost all of the page’s links lead back to the home page, on which a picture of an elderly black woman stands smiling next to the quote: “I want my bank to let grandmas stay in houses they’ve owned their whole lives.”
While it is possible that whichever Occupy Wall Street administrator posted the link did so in the spirit of satire, he or she did not let the group members in on the joke. This led to much confusion in the comment section, with some users taking the link seriously and sharing it on their own pages, others expressing anger and disapproval with the administrator’s decision to post the clip, and still others ridiculing those who did not take the timeline post as satire.
At least one user defected from the movement, declaring on his own timeline his disapproval with the post:
In “Revolution 2.0,” Wael Ghonim describes how he and one other young Egyptian acted as the sole anonymous administrators for “Kullena Khaled Said,” a highly popular Facebook page renowned for its role in organizing and raising awareness for the protests that eventually led to Egyptians taking Tahrir Square in the Egyptian Revolution. Ghonim describes how careful he was in sculpting the tone and message of the page — how he wrote his posts in the Egyptian vernacular of Arabic and maintained a tempered tone of anger and quiet disapproval — and how this tone affected the nature of the dialogue among the page’s members.
Ghonim also describes a number of times in which he posted links that put forth inaccurate or unverified information. When called out by the page’s members, Ghonim would take the posts down and apologize for his actions when he felt it was the right thing to do.
This sort of action reflected a sense of maturity in the group’s administrator that the users respected and appreciated. It also made them feel as if they had a voice in the page’s dialogue (a sentiment also resulting from Ghonim’s regular polling of group members).
At the time of publishing this article, Occupy Wall Street’s yourbofa.com post remains on its timeline and, in spite of the confusion and resulting acrimony, administrators have not made the decision to directly address the page’s users’ concerns.
Issues such as this can arise for a number of reasons: bad planning, too many administrators, or a failure of administrators to approach their page’s timeline as a dialogue and not as a one-way street of information.
It is important that Facebook page administrators of all stripes stay on message, maintain their desired tone, and respect and regularly interact with page members. Failure to follow these guidelines can result not only in losing once-loyal members, constituents or customers, but it can also convert them into staunch opponents.
Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page has over 375 thousand members, providing the administrators (yes, there are multiple) with an impressive mouthpiece. Each post on the page experiences high levels of interaction, with numerous group members commenting on, liking and sharing their favorite posts on their own walls. The Bank of America post, at the time of this article’s publishing, had 1,330 likes, 360 shares and almost 400 comments.
The higher a group’s reach, the more an administrator should take care to think before posting potentially harmful material. If you are an administrator for a Facebook page, it is always best to treat your timeline as a dialogue, and to interact with your group members. If your followers tell you that you have done something harmful, such as posting material that is misleading or untrue, it is always preferable that you respond to them in kind, either explaining your choice to publish the material, or admitting that you perhaps should not have posted what you did. This is the nature of our social media universe — accountability and dialogue — and if you fail to adapt it, you may find your company, or organization, or fan page, losing its following.