A nonprofit client, interested in jumping into social media, is hesitant about using Facebook. The reason for the fear is not misdirected. This nonprofit has seen how a Facebook page can be useful at first, but take a turn for the worse.

What started as a useful ‘support-the-nonprofit’ Facebook page, with many people ‘liking’ the cause, was soon hijacked by people with opposing views. The end result was overwhelming. It became a slamfest against the nonprofit. (I should point out that the Facebook page itself was not started by the nonprofit, but rather by well-intentioned community supporters.)

Because of what transpired, this nonprofit fears using Facebook. My response was this: You need to be prepared to monitor your Facebook site. In other words, a Facebook page can indeed go squirrely if you ignore it and allow it to become a wild free-for-all.

Here are three straightforward preventive measures to put in place if you are considering starting a Facebook page:

1. Have clear rules of use. If you want to discourage and reduce the risk of derogatory comments, make sure you have a policy directed to your users. Make sure users know that comments deemed to be derogatory or offensive will be removed. However, don’t become obsessed with removing every comment that questions your organization. Sometimes, leaving these comments and addressing them can actually be beneficial and help you set the record straight for all users to see (think of this as being social media public relations).

2. You must have a community manager. Never start a Facebook page and put the onus on all eyes in your organization to monitor it. You absolutely need a person who monitors what’s being posted and what’s being said on your Facebook page. Consider this person to be your Social Media Quality Control Manager. By having one person in charge, this person will also come to know your Facebook users very well (ie. who comments, their tendencies, who can become easily engaged in conversation, who are your key supporters on social media, etc).

3. Crisis Management Plan.
Yes, you need one! Even on Facebook. When an issue or situation arises that calls for immediate action, you need to have a plan for how to react. Remember one crucial fact: Yes, this is YOUR Facebook page, but it is a page for YOUR community. And, communities can turn against you. They might react negatively on your Facebook page because of a news story or rumour. Or, it could be events happening far away but get linked to your cause. Either way, you must be prepared to react with a clear protocol for dealing with every crisis.

Don’t fear Facebook. Its usefulness cannot be ignored in helping to promote your organization and interacting with users. But, like any communications tool, you need to carefully manage how you use it and be prepared for how audiences may react.