An Excerpt From Chapter 9

Positive Outcomes of Negative Social Media

We’ve all seen the effects of social media. If used well, it can spread exciting news like wildfire and greatly promote your ministry or business. In the same way, it can equally spread bad news that can destroy the hard work of your organization. Of course, we all like social media praise. We like it when people “like” or “share” or “comment” about our church. But what if that comment or the sharing is not so good news?

How should we handle negative social media?

Many churches I’ve worked or consulted for have been the victim of negative social media comments. Most likely, yours has too. Although negative in context and often disheartening, the person who posts these negative reviews is communicating something to you, not just about you. They’re unhappy, disappointed, frustrated, or just plain mad. Maybe they’re just bitter. Or maybe you have something you need to learn about your organization.

As leaders, we all have blind spots. The longer we stay at one organization, the less we “see” and understand what it’s like to be new, and the less we understand what it’s really like to be an outsider looking in. New people, outsiders, those we really want to reach, often bring a perspective we simply do not have or understand. Although social media may not be the best place for people to express their feelings, it doesn’t negate the fact they may have a point. And you may need to listen! They may have a perspective and outlook on your organization you’ve never known about . . . or have forgotten.

Take away the inappropriate method and consider the actual complaint or comment. Could this rude comment be true? Is there really a problem here? Is there some level of reality to their comment?

At a former church where I worked, one of our youth pastors was blind-sided by a negative comment about the youth department on Facebook. Certainly, the method of communication wasn’t very appropriate, but after some discussion with the pastor, we realized that the woman who had left the comment had some points we needed to consider. I suggested the pastor make some adjustments and address the issue. A month later, a similar comment was posted on Facebook by another family. This told me that perhaps the pastor had not followed through. I followed up with him and the issue was finally addressed.

The point is, we learned to use negative social media feedback to our advantage. I’m not sure we ever would have known about the problem had we not be “told” about it. Certainly, we would have preferred these families simply send a private email or talked with us in person. Regardless, we listened and used the situation to our advantage. We learned to start learning from social media.

Granted, some people are just nasty. Some people just cannot help themselves and post things that are crazy, completely untrue or they just want to rile people up for no reason. With these comments, often the best approach is to simply ignore it. Nonetheless, even with these commenters, still consider the deep background to their comments. There just might be some flair of truth or concern that you might be able to address.

We all need to get better at what we do. We can all learn from negative feedback and appropriate criticism.  Sometimes, that means learning to learn how to address others on social media.

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