Your church is hitting social media with everything you have. You are sharing posts. You aren’t relying on Sunday services to give you all of your content. You are interacting with people that comment. You are really doing social media the correct way, but then the worst happens. You get a dreaded negative comment. It happens to even the best congregations, but how do you deal with it?
First, don’t panic. When you are in the public arena, you are not going to please everyone all of the time. Before you do anything, read the comment and ask yourself “does this have merit?” If it is constructive criticism or something that you are already addressing, publicly thank them for their comment and let them know that their complaint is something that is being handled. If the comment is something that can’t be easily handled (like an issue with church theology or church policy), you may need to take more time with it. Once again, thank them for their feedback on the public comment. Apologize for them not being happy, but encourage them to try the church again. Then reach out privately through a direct message (or if they are a church member, actually talk to them) and get more details about why they are unhappy. On a one-to-one level, you can go into a deeper discussion. Even if you can’t actually fix the issue, just being heard can go a long way toward helping to ease those negative feelings from the commenter.
When do you delete a comment? Mostly, this makes things worse. It creates the appearance that you are hiding something or trying to avoid investigation. The only exceptions are the use of profanity or directed personal attacks at an individual. In those cases, delete the post and immediately reach out to the person explaining what happened. Let them know that they have been heard (which is mainly what they want).
In the end, social media can be a great way to expand your church’s reach during the week. It can enrich lives and help to spread the gospel in those hours when you do not have a worship service. Sometimes negativity can get involved, but if you deal with it with a little grace, you can keep a follower and strengthen your online community at the same time.
Mark Harvard, Director of Communications
Clearbranch UMC, www.clearbranch.org