Arment Dietrich

Suspend Facebook, Lock the Door, Hang Up the Phone

By: Arment Dietrich | April 11, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Gerber.

We have an important announcement: Effective immediately at Arment Dietrich, we will be disconnecting our phone service.

We no longer have the time or the resources to answer the phone. It just keeps ringing. And it won’t stop! People have questions! And they want us to do work for them! But we don’t have the time. So we’re shutting it down.

Preposterous you say? We agree. We’re not really shutting down the phone. But this is exactly the message you’re sending when you say you don’t have time for social media.

Lisa Jenkins sent me a link this week: Idaho Fish and Game has suspended their Facebook page. They no longer have the time and resources to manage the page. They are getting nasty comments; attacks directed at employees, and they are unable to respond to the questions on their wall in a timely and efficient fashion.

Now, let me preface this by saying I’m not necessarily putting Idaho Fish and Game at fault here. I know government funding has been cut way back, and I am not privvy to what’s going on internally.

But I wanted to address this from a different perspective: You can’t afford to shut down your Facebook page much much more than you can’t afford to operate it. ESPECIALLY if you’re getting a lof of questions and feedback on it.

So someone needs to figure that out. I’m not sure who.

Let’s dissect the arguments:

Comments get nasty: According to Idaho Statesman, 

There have been several occasions when the discussions became extremely heated,’’ said Mike Keckler, Fish and Game’s chief of the Bureau of Communications. “Name calling occurred, profanity appeared, and posters too often attacked Fish and Game employees by name, and each other, in ways that we didn’t think was appropriate for a state agency-sponsored page.”

I get that. It’s not cool at all. There are a few ways to handle this:

  • First, you need to have a commenting policy. Put it in your About tab. Say you welcome constructive criticism in a respectful manner. Profanity and personal attacks are not allowed, and will be deleted. Then you can point to something when and if you need to delete a comment.
  • Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t work. You should want to understand where all the nastiness is coming from. If it’s trollers, fine. Delete and move on.But if there are valid points, don’t you want to be able to address them internally and respond externally?

Next argument:

“It was also difficult for Fish and Game staff to get answers to many of the questions from readers because they couldn’t forward them on to employees with the specific information. Fish and Game can do that on its website.”

Fair enough. At least they still have an outlet for answering questions, but your audience is spending a heck of lot more time on Facebook than they are on your website. They are far more likely to stop by and throw a question on your wall while on Facebook than to take the effort to navigate to your website, and find the place where they can ask.


  • It’s not that hard to have more than one person on Facebook. Put a system in place so if there is a question for Susie, the page admin can comment in response and tag Susie. Now, Susie gets an email and she jumps in there to respond. It doesn’t take any more time and effort than if you’re forwarding an email or transferring a phone call.
  • Or? Make Susie an admin too! Now she is monitoring the page regularly and can jump in when needed.

The Facebook page is the new telephone. It’s  no longer a question of having the time and resources to have a page. The question is, “How are you going to find the time and resources?”

  • Thanks for this example lisagerber . As someone who works in state government myself, these are the exact types of fears I hear about that keeps government agencies out of social media all together. Maybe your post here is the thing that lets them “see the light” and understand that social media can be the tool to improve the service that government is perceived to be lacking.

    •  @Anthony_Rodriguez It’s just a part of the way we do business now, isn’t it? I totally get that government agencies are strapped but there has to be an adaptation if they want to grow their revenue base…. 🙂

      •  @Lisa Gerber The problem is most government has been doing things the same way for so long that they don’t even know how to address the new, or the up-and-coming. So they don’t even bother to educate themselves about it. It’s easier to stay ignorant than to explore something that might have better reach to the citizenry or be a more efficient, effective and cost-beneficial. 

  • MollyFulton

    I love your opening scenario. It really calls out a common misconception for the absurdity that it is. I had a meeting today with a gentleman who wanted to increase sales first, then maybe he’d have time for marketing, communications and social media. *Sigh*

    •  @MollyFulton SIGH………Oh no.. did you get anywhere with him on that?

      • MollyFulton

         @Lisa Gerber I guess I’ll find out if he call me back. 🙂

  • I see this a lot. Our county, rather than having a business page, set up a personal profile so that they could turn off all abilities to comment. Because, ya know, it’s horrible to let people have a voice and ask questions. 

    •  @KenMueller at which point I point to the photo illustrating this post. <Covers ears, covers eyes>

      •  @Lisa Gerber you definitely get cute points for that one

  • jennimacdonald

     lisagerber thank you for this post! I have been meaning to add the commenting policy to our Facebook page but have forgotten.
    This is an absolute must share!

    •  @jennimacdonald Awesome. 🙂 there are ways around all these problems. 

  • I love the analogy Lisa. It’s exactly the one that comes to mind for me, and what I use to explain to others when they ask me why social media? There’s nothing more annoying than a company with a Facebook page that either doesn’t respond OR worse, has their wall disabled. It really does not take that much time, but it does take someone who is willing to learn the best practices and an organization or employees that understand why it’s important not to just take the easy way out and ignore people.
    It’s mind boggling really but I hope your post helps other people understand that it’s not just a Facebook page anymore, it’s bigger than that. 

    •  @rachaelseda Gosh…. I just experienced that. A company posted a question seeking feedback on an initiative they are considering. They must have gotten 40+ comments but never engaged at all with anyone despite the fact that there were plenty of questions and debate. (Including my own question which never got answered.) What’s the point?
      Glad you liked the analogy. It came to mind the minute lisadjenkins sent me the link and I have to say, I was cracking myself up.  I seriously entertain myself. sigh. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber  I love that you entertain yourself 😉 haha even when you’re talking out loud and people thing you’re crazy…I know it’s just Lisa ha!

  • I work for a company that has a social media blogger (me!) but no real Facebook presence. I would be HAPPY to take that over.
    They don’t really have any actual fans which may be why I am kept away from the Facebook page. *sigh*
    My old job didn’t want comments or anything. They wanted to make grand statements which doesn’t work either. 

    •  @NancyD68 well, if there are no fans and no engagement thenI can understand not wanting to invest the resources…when you’re turning them away, I just shake my head. 

  • jenzings

    These are fair points, and I’ve made the argument before on the Media Bullseye blog that government is one of the *most* important places to engage people with social media.
    But if budgets are tight, and they can’t spare the people–even one FTE to monitor the page–well, they’ve done what they needed to. They weren’t seeing a return–whose fault is that? 
    I think the one thing that bugs me about the “everyone needs to be on social media” bandwagon is the lack of an acknowledgement that sometimes, it isn’t meeting expectations. You don’t keep throwing money (in this case, my guess is employee that could be doing something else in an already-strapped state agency=”money”) at something that isn’t working for you.
    If they find they need it, they can revisit having a Facebook page. But I don’t think it’s the same thing as hanging up on a constituent: there are still other ways to get in contact with them.

    •  @jenzings I’m sure there are extenuating circumstances I’m unaware of, I just don’t think the reasons that are highlighted are valid for shutting down your page.
      And to clarify, I’m not part of the everyone has to be on social media bandwagon – totally with you on that – but in this case it sounds like they are getting questions on their page and if it means they can help people and sell more permits, then they shouldn’t shut it down because they can’t answer questions promptly. They should put a system in place that allows them to. 

  • I think @jenzings got my issue: this is the Catch-22 of “anyone can do the ‘you must do’ social media program.” Budgets and internal issues aside, someone decided a FB page was the way, someone decided it was ‘free’ and a good way to market the F&G. Now someone’s figured out it is work, didn’t have a PLAN for it, no clue how to see ROI and now wants to run for the hills.
    Your analogy is pretty close but not quite right: it is like pulling the plug on email, on website, on the phone – except that none of those communications take place in the public eye; FB (and Twitter, G+) do. Makes a huge difference when others are watching. 
    Your solutions: comment policy, multiple admins all make perfect sense. What I don’t get is the lack of a clearer COMMUNICATIONS policy from the get-go. There’s a website, right? With FAQs? And policies for why the state does this, says that? So from where do these ‘heated debates’ come exactly? Spam, trolls, disgruntled employees – delete; real questions from concerned patrons, if they can’t answer them on their website or any other channels, how did they expect to on FB?
    What does it say now that they’ve decided to call it quits other than “You have questions/concerns, you darn kids… ruined it for everyone!! We can’t be bothered b/c we don’t know WTH we’re doing. Feel free to contact us via web, where we’ll ignore you there too. Peace out.” Sometimes there are valid reasons for opting out of social channels; this doesn’t seem like one of them. FWIW.

    •  @3HatsComm  @jenzings PEACE OUT!!!! indeed. I agree with both of you. If there isn’t a solid plan and a strong return, don’t do it. I just don’t see that being the case here. 

  • Hmm, i don’t know, miss. In a way, I agree, but I’d also counter with the resources angle.
    If it’s a popular page, there’s no way you can keep up with thousands of comments hitting you each day, and that can lead to legal issues for a business if defamatory statements are made, and are missed in a flush at the end of the day.
    Additionally, if it’s a losing battle you’re facing and people in your business are becoming emotionally affected by the hatred, then their welfare comes first over any notion of needing to answer your critics.
    Not easy, but I do understand companies that do this for these kinds of reasons. 

    •  @DannyBrown What??? You BEG TO DIFFER??? Why, I never….
      Just kidding.
      You definitely make a good point if it becomes a morale issue. I do not think the personal attacks are cool at all. I just wish it didn’t have to resort to shutting down the page because of a vocal minority. In this particular case, I highly doubt it was thousands of comments. But I see your point. 

  • Kind along the line of Danny’s response; is ‘no’ Facebook better than an abandoned FB? Who has to like Fish & Game anyway, nobody is going to fire them and it was the poachers who were getting mad at them. 
    Don’t you watch Midnight Poachers They don’t make anybody happy……….:)

    •  @bdorman264 I don’t even know what to say to this. 

      •  @Lisa Gerber My wife tells me that a lot too…..and I don’t think it was because I was profound or insightful………….:)

  • RonGardner

    I’m surprised to hear this news and here are my initial thoughts.  IF&G is not a company trying to sell a product to the public, it’s a government regulatory agency and frankly I see no need for a comment section on their Facebook page at all.  I manage FB content for a couple of Idaho tourism organizations and often reposted notices from IF&G about where they were stocking fish, conducting hunter safety classes, having free fishing days, etc.  and I think people appreciated seeing those. It’s really unfortunate they apparently won’t be doing that anymore.  I’d love to see them keep the page alive just for the purpose of notifying the public about those things.  I rarely saw questions on the IF&G page and I’m guessing thats because there were always links to the website pages with details on whatever the topic or announcement was. Mike Keckler was a reporter at Channel 2 when I was there and he is a smart man. I’m surprised he’d go along with shutting down the page instead of just shutting off the comments.  Having a comments section on a regulatory agency’s social media page is like inviting your mother-in-law to move in .. it’s a pretty sure bet you’re gonna start hearing about all the things you’re doing wrong.  If IF&G wants public input into a pending policy decision, they hold public hearings, they don’t need and probably should never have considered social media for that purpose.  It should just be a message delivery system for them to let people know about all their wonderful programs, with constant reminders that people who really feel the need to cuss out the commissioners or staff members about ‘policy issues’  can send emails to the website, or go scream at a public hearing.  🙂

    •  @RonGardner Hi Ron!!!
      As I’ve said, there could be many issues we are unaware of. I only know and am only reacting to what I saw in the Idaho Statesman. But the goal to be on Facebook isn’t always to “sell products.” If they had a clearly identified goal, then they’d have a good strategy to get there. Maybe it’s to change public perception about something, keep the public informed on something… get their opinions on pending legislation. 
      If what they were doing wasn’t achieving that goal, then by all means, shut it down. But if it’s because they just don’t have time to respond to questions, they’re defeating their own purpose. If they had a purpose. 

      • RonGardner

         @Lisa Gerber   You’re exactly right and the next time I see my friend, Mr. Keckler, I’ll give him a hard time about this decision. 🙂  I suspect they went into the deal without a goal. Or, maybe somebody at the top just doesn’t get it.  It is Idaho. Our legislators and many other elected or appointed ‘officials’ don’t seem to understand a lot of things these days. I can very easily see them questioning the wisdom of having someone on the payroll to be “social” … they don’t exactly lean toward being open about their business and probably think its a really bad idea to have such a connection with “the people.”    Castle Rocks State Park has a ranger who started a page for the park and has been very active. I heard the dept. was thinking about encouraging all the parks to follow that lead but considering how they almost got shut down for lack of funds a couple of years ago, I’m gonna be real surprised if they actually do anything.  Too bad, because Castle Rocks even posts some videos now and then and I’ve encourage them to do a lot more of that.  I don’t have high hopes they’ll get any further that what that ranger can do, and is willing to do, on his own.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if every park was active in social media and posted videos 2 or 3 times a week.  I can guarantee you no more than 3 or 4 Idaho legislators would endorse that idea.

  • jaymethomason

    Sounds to me like theirs is a problem that most private companies would love to have. Too much engagement on their Facebook page. Their challenge would be to start turning their brand around, which is totally possible. An “I’m sorry,” goes a long way with people. They should try to turn things around before they just shut down a very active tool…

  • Hi Lisa, I see your point but given that I generally see very little use for FaceBook I also agree with Idaho Fish and Game. If productivity is one of their goals then FaceBook has no place in it. Twitter does. And given that many bloggers self appoint themselves with a nickname you can call me The Caveman of Social Media. 😀
    If keeping in touch is the goal Twitter is much more better and fast, imho. And how much really, in general and not in niches, FaceBook is useful for business is still debated. As well as his cousin Google+. Big players with a lot of money, very publicized and pushed, but do we really need them? Or are they really useful in term of ROI?
    People did business for years before the advent of social media and I guess they’ll do the same even if social media disappeared completely, and imagine how much free time there would be if that happened, and what a business could do with that free time, do more probably?
    Also Twitter doesn’t allow too much cuss words in 140 characters. 😀

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  • Juliwilson789

    copy so
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    such attention-grabbing blog postings.