Are you sick of the haters and trolls using your department’s social media platforms as a sounding board for their personal agendas? Wondering how to deal with it? In this article, TOC Public Relations CEO Tamrin Olden and Director of Operations Mike Bires lend their expertise and share a tactic they have used for years. In this article, we’ll explore key points to keep in mind when dealing with negative comments and steps you can take to manage it all correctly.
The Question Asked By Police Chiefs
We’ve noticed an increase in police chiefs and sheriffs asking us for our thoughts on turning off the commenting feature on their social media platforms. When we looked into this, we found the main reasoning behind wanting to turn off comments is varied, but here’s the most popular:
- $Law enforcement suffers enough negative backlash in the media, on calls for service, and at protests and meetings. The last thing administrators want to do is provide another platform for anti-cop people to congregate and spew their negativity.
- $Depending on the staffing and workload levels, departments can’t justify the time spent on social media instead of patrolling the streets and investigating cases.
- $It’s flat-out vicious; it’s one social media manager vs. potentially millions of haters.
In business, social media experts warn companies and individuals not to take the approach of turning off comments. It is recommended to leave and address the comments publicly, regardless of how much it hurts. In their world, it builds up the brand’s reputation and can identify product and customer service issues.
Sadly, the haters law enforcement encounters on social media are of a different breed and mindset. They’re not upset because the product didn’t work or the food didn’t taste good. They’re not looking for a refund or a replacement to be sent to them.
Rather, they want to vent their anger, frustration, and opinions at the cost of ridiculing or embarrassing those who represent a higher authority than themselves. The reality is they are the ones who plain hate the cops or are activists looking to continue their self-perceived mission of making the world right. There is nothing you can say or do to appease them, for if you did, they would look weak in front of their small band of minions.
It’s a Relationship; There Will be Good Times and Bad Times, Too
There are several reasons why law enforcement began using social media. The original reason was to get a police department’s press releases out to the world when they weren’t getting picked up by local media outlets.
Soon, departments found they could also “make the record straight” by telling the real story of what happened, as opposed to the media’s popular tactic of putting their own spin on the narrative. Departments realized if they made themselves more accessible to the public, they would become closer to the communities they served. Support for police officers and deputy sheriffs grew, as did the tips for solving crimes.
In the modern law enforcement hiring crisis, departments are using social media more and more today to lure a generation that has grown up on the platforms. These potential candidates are keen to see how a department uses social media and can quickly be drawn to or pushed away from a department.
At the same time, we’re in an era where people use social media to exploit anything they feel is negative or bad with individual police officers, their local departments, and the entire law enforcement profession.
Social media experts who provide consultation and training to the business world tout that engaging with a business’ online community is crucial for building a strong and loyal community. By allowing comments on their social media platforms, they create a space for dialogue where they can connect with their followers, understand their perspectives, and build meaningful relationships. Moreover, negative comments about the quality of a product or a service provide valuable insight into how a company or person can improve.
It’s Okay to Be Put in Check
For law enforcement, having people comment negatively about a department because of the actions of a particular person or how it handled an incident can’t be ignored. Any organization that does not listen to its audience, whether a government or a private business, is foolish. They should take this feedback seriously, analyze it, and see if there is something better they can do in the future. After all, don’t we ask individual officers to do the same when receiving their annual evaluations?
“With over 600,000 law enforcement officers and nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, we have to realize a sad fact: some cop or department is going to get involved in a high-profile incident or situation that is going to draw the heat off of you as the haters go after fresh blood.”
Haters Gonna’ Hate
There are people out there who simply hate the government and, more specifically, law enforcement. Online, they go from agency to agency and spew their hatred in hopes of engaging public officials into arguments, embarrassing them, or flat-out harassing them. Worse, they’ll rally their fellow trolls to saturate an agency’s social media posts with nothing but negativity.
The old saying, “This too shall pass,” has never held more weight than when we relate it to negativity on social media. If you’re a department experiencing trolls hitting your social media accounts, trust us when we say it will get better (as long as you’re not perpetuating the situation worse).
With over 600,000 law enforcement officers and nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, we have to realize a sad fact: some cop or department is going to get involved in a high-profile incident or situation that is going to draw the heat off of you as the haters go after fresh blood.
Remember The 1st Amendment Auditors?
Do you remember when you first encountered the guy filming the police station, parking lots, and patrol cars coming and leaving? The advent of this new form of luring police officers and police departments into violating people’s rights originally created great frustration and anger among the law enforcement community. But just like everything new, law enforcement learned how to deal with it.
Today, 1st Amendment Auditors have lost their edge and, quite frankly, their audience and platform. There are so many greater concerns going on in our world that recording a police station is boring since they are rarely confronted now by police personnel. On a positive note, people see them for exactly what they are: antagonists. They aren’t the heroes they were hoping to be.
How did law enforcement handle these people? Did they close and lock the station’s doors? Did any newly built police station include a moat or 20’ walls around their stations to prevent people from video recording them? The answer is, “No.”
So why would you shut down people’s ability to comment on your social media platforms, whether good or bad?
Your Strategy: Amateur Boxing Rules
When we started out in the early days of using social media for law enforcement, we learned about the tactic of applying the amateur boxing rule of going three rounds in a fight to limiting our engagement with haters to three rounds. Specifically, the tactic is this:
- $1. The first response to a hater is to be informative and empathetic to their concern or complaint.
- $2. If they reply negatively to the response, encourage them to contact you through a direct message, channeling them off the public feed. If they reply positively, be cordial and end the public dialog.
- $3. If they continue to comment negatively to the second response, remind them again you’re open to them sending a direct message to discuss the situation or incident further, and nicely close the conversation.
That’s it. Don’t say anything further if they comment after your third comment. People who take the time (actually very few) to read the entire conversation will either get bored or lose interest when you’re not willing to duel online.
We still promote this tactic today, as it has proven effective over several years of use.
Use a Keyword Packed Title
With this information, it would be our suggestion to add these keywords to the applicable pages on Montclair’s recruitment website or, better yet, possibly add a blog article using these possible titles:
- “Is the Montclair Police Department Hiring?”
- “Want to Know: Is Montclair Police Hiring Now?”
- “Current Status: Is Montclair Police Hiring New Officers?”
- “Is Montclair Police Expanding? Current Hiring Updates”
- “A Glimpse into Montclair Police: Are They Hiring Right Now?”
- “Find Out Now: Is Montclair Police Accepting Applications?”
- “Inside Info: Current Hiring Situation at Montclair Police”
- “Job Seekers: Is Montclair Police Adding to Their Ranks?”
- “Montclair Police: They’re Hiring, Your Career Awaits “
- “The Burning Question: Is Montclair Police Hiring Right Now?”
Using the keywords “Montclair Police” and “Hiring” will help search engines recognize the website’s relevance to specific search queries, increasing the likelihood of the website appearing in search results.
While there is no definitive answer as to how Google looks at a title, there is plenty of data that supports the following when creating a title for a news release, recruitment article, blog post, etc.:
Embrace The Haters Help with SEO
Haters know that when they troll a law enforcement social media account and leave negative comments, they are helping expose the agency to a larger audience. Just like some serial killers, they like trophies; by sharing their work among their followers, this is their trophy.
What haters can’t control, and often forget, is that their activities on a law enforcement’s account also benefit the law enforcement’s status on the platform.
When the social media platform’s algorithms see an increase in activity or traffic to a department’s page and posts, they automatically elevate that department’s rankings to expose it to more and more potential followers.
If you respond positively to the negative comments, those unfamiliar with the situation or the department will see the professionalism, transparency, authenticity, and empathy on display.
Comments are crucial in search engine optimization (SEO) and increasing website traffic. Search engines consider user-generated content, including comments, as a sign of relevance and engagement. When individuals engage in discussions through comments on your social media posts or blog articles, it signals to search engines that your content is valuable and of interest to the audience.
Moreover, allowing comments on your platforms encourages individuals to spend more time on your website or social media profiles. Increased time spent on your platforms sends positive signals to search engines, boosting rankings and organic visibility.
You Don’t Have to Respond To Everyone
If your accounts get overrun with negative comments due to a specific incident or post, remember that responding to every comment is nearly impossible.
You’ll want to triage your comments, address those who have legitimate questions, show appreciation for those who show support, and address any customer service concerns. This also highlights the importance of having a social media team; if you have someone who can assist with comments a few times a week for a few minutes, it would be a huge help, not too consuming, and a great way to help grow your reach and engagement.
“Depending on the context of the subject you are dealing with in terms of negative comments, as well as the frequency of negativity you deal with, you could be setting yourself up for serious mental health trauma that may not be seen now but several years down the road. “
Long-Term Effects on Health
The effects of dealing with negativity are rarely mentioned by anyone in the social media teaching community. While this article offers instruction and strategies to deal with online haters, we want our most important lesson to be this: take breaks and take them frequently.
Depending on the context of the subject you are dealing with in terms of negative comments, as well as the frequency of negativity you deal with, you could be setting yourself up for serious mental health trauma that may not be seen now but several years down the road.
Just like they say that people are a product of their environment, you don’t want this happening to you. The last thing you want is to become angry, sarcastic, burnt-out, exhausted, anxious, and sleep-deprived. This could happen, and if so, will affect your physical health and relationships.
In conclusion, turning off comments on social media may seem like an easy way to avoid controversy and negative feedback. However, it also eliminates the opportunity for genuine engagement, growth, building a loyal community, and putting your transparency and professionalism on full display for all to view.
With proper moderation and effective response strategies, you can navigate the challenges of comments while reaping their numerous benefits. So, don’t turn off comments on your social media platforms – instead, embrace the potential they hold for your department’s success.