A Tale of Two Facebook Pages (Guest Post from Shannon Kohn)

This is a guest post from Shannon Kohn, one of our rockstar community managers.

Those of you who know me are well aware of the fact that, even though I adore my role as a Community Manager here at Brains on Fire, my passion is food.  Writing about it.  Reading about it.  Looking at it.  Eating LOTS of it.

That being said (and me being human), I am a fan of many food-related pages on Facebook.  Last week I had the opportunity to watch, from my food-loving perch, two different dramas unfold on two of these fan pages.  I also had the chance to witness, through my Community Manager goggles, how the folks in charge of those pages dealt with a potentially brand-harmful situation and responded (or didn’t respond) to negativity from fans.

I admit I stopped to say a special prayer for the Community Manager of the Fresh Express Salads Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FreshExpressSalads) early last week.  A coupon promotion that launched last Monday from the page was not working for all the folks who tried to access it.  Though most fans simply posted comments to the “wall” to let the powers that be know that they couldn’t print the coupon, some fans were down-right angry (or as one poster self-proclaimed, “ILL”).  There were many, many posts.  But, you know what?  The Fresh Express folks were THERE for the duration—replying to comments, apologizing for confusion, assuring fans they were trying to remedy the problem through (almost) hourly wall posts.  Fresh Express understands that community is about the two-way conversation.  They appreciate their fans.  FRESH EXPRESS GETS IT.

Now, compare that great example of Community Management with the week-long drama over on Bon Appétit Magazine’s Facebook page that had folks threatening to throw away the current issue of the magazine or even cancel their subscriptions altogether.

What could cause so much drama, you ask?  After years and years and cover after cover of beautiful, delectable, eat-the-photo food, Bon Appétit decided to put a celebrity on the cover of their June 2011 issue.  You can check out some of the fan comments and criticisms here:  https://www.facebook.com/bonappetitmag (you’ll have to scroll back a bit, it’s a pretty post-heavy page).  To be fair, there are some non-negative posts from fans mixed in, but they are the minority.

The foodie in me knows not to turn up the heat on a pot, cover the lid, and walk away.  The Community Manager in me saw that very thing happen, metaphorically, on Bon Appétit Magazine’s Facebook page.  Where were the replies to the many fan comments, negative or otherwise?  Where was the two-way conversation?  Neither of those proven ways to connect with fans were anywhere to be found.

Where was the assurance to Bon Appétit fans that they were being heard and that their concerns were valid?  My answer came in a single wall post from the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Adam Rapoport.  Gratitude was given for the abundance of fan comments.  Assurance was delivered that Bon Appétit would not be turning into a celebrity magazine.

Mr. Rapoport also committed to checking back in with fans again at a later date.  He kept his promise with a follow-up post later proclaiming, “We love reading your comments—all of them, really! We think the best magazines are a conversation between the readers and the editors, so we’ll continue to check in with you as Bon Appetit evolves. Thanks.”  Conversation? Wow.  Check in?  Ugh.

Conversation obviously means something different to the folks at Bon Appétit, as evidenced by the fact that they have yet to reply to any comments (even the ones prompted by Mr. Rapoport’s own posts) or engage with their fans on any level other than the obvious “here’s what we have to say, you need to listen” spin speak.

So, what can YOU take away from this Tale of Two Facebook Pages?

1.)   Copping to a mistake or issue, and authentically apologizing for it IN FRONT of your audience makes you human—and your brand approachable.

2.)   If you REALLY want to touch a nerve with die-hard fans of any brand, change something that’s comfortable to them and tell them they have no choice but to like it.  Yikes.

3.)   One or two posts, however tactfully worded (even if it is delivered straight from the powers that be), do not a conversation make.