Basic guidelines on how to respond to comments on Facebook ads

December 2021

Using Facebook’s advertising platform can be an incredibly cost-effective and successful marketing tool to deliver certain marketing strategies. I use it extensively for two of my clients, and although the strategies behind that use are very different for each (principally because one trades through an ecommerce offer and the other through physical showrooms), none the less both deliver across a range of metrics.

Of course the popularity of Facebooks ads for global brands right down to your local window cleaner, is hardly news – and hasn’t been for a good number of years. And although some ads which pop up on my newsfeed make me cringe because they’re poorly executed, generally speaking the standard is pretty reasonable – something the platform itself helps guide the less-than-competent advertiser to achieve.

But what isn’t so clever is the approach, or in some cases complete lack of approach, many page admins take to responding to comments on their ads. I see this as being somewhat different to organic posts, where unless the post comes up on your feed as a result of a tag, share or because one of your friends has commented on it, then generally speaking you’re seeing it because you follow that page. That being the case, you’re rather less likely to be inclined to write a challenging question, or indeed make an offensive – albeit perhaps warranted – comment about the brand’s social or environmental stance, for example. For ads though, it’s a whole different kettle of fish and many consumers take great delight in calling the brand out or just indulge in plain trolling.

It’s probably fair to say that global brands get a particularly rough ride, and are generally seen as fair game for anyone to have a pop at. Equally though, most big brand players know how to deal with the onslaught, and indeed often turn it to their advantage. So the guidelines I’m outlining here apply more to SMEs, which also adds a different dynamic to the big brands because there’s a real tendency for comments to be taken personally. As an example, a few weeks back an ad came up on my feed for a technical garden wildlife product from a very small company, with their main USP being around them designing the products they sell. I won’t bore you with exactly what the product was as it would take some explaining, but it just so happens that I’m an expert on the type of product – and partly for personal interest reasons but also because I have a long-standing client in the same market. Within a few seconds of watching the video in the ad, it was obvious to me that the product had a major design flaw. I politely pointed this out in the comments, with the page admin – who I imagine to be one of the business owners by the nature of the response – quickly replying and dismissing my observation. I then provided evidence, and in some detail, to support my point, which the person must have realised was entirely correct as they then deleted the whole thread. Such an overreaction was clearly childish and driven not from a rational business perspective but purely a personal one, and actually if they’d replied in the way I hoped they would I was going to offer some free consultancy to fix the product design – and suggest the conversation was moved to email so potential customers seeing the ad wouldn’t be aware.

For my clients and given that, in all cases, there are a number of us set up as page admins, I have a clear policy in place in how and when to respond. This doesn’t mean we collectively always get it right, but overall we do. So here is the basis of my guidelines:

  1. Monitor the ad. The first and very basic rule is to monitor the ad on a daily basis, meaning weekends as well, and this for the pretty obvious reason that if you don’t do so then you won’t have a clue what’s being said – good or bad. It perhaps should be an unwritten rule but it never ceases to amaze me how many companies fail to respond to comments and even questions. And on the latter, although this blog isn’t about questions, it’s obviously vital that these are replied to promptly – and the same applies to complaints, albeit the normal approach here is to switch to messenger or email.  
  2. Don’t ignore. Whether good or bad, don’t just ignore comments. A good comment won’t necessarily require a reply, but at the very least a like emoji will demonstrate you’ve actually read it. Negative comments will always require some sort of action, which I’ll come back to, but a point to make now is that ignoring them just fuels more of the same because folk will take the view that your ad is an open goal for their abuse.
  3. Don’t overreact. Next would be don’t overreact to something you don’t like, and instead give yourself some time to consider a rational response – even if that eventual response does in fact result in you blocking the person.  
  4. Use an appropriate tone of voice. This should have two main levels, with the first being appropriate to your brand and the markets you operate in. For example, if you’re a firm of solicitors then it wouldn’t be smart to address someone with the annoying young person’s apparent new favourite of ‘Hey there’. The second level to consider is what the subject and point is that you’re actually responding to. So if you’re a baker and being told that yours are the best bread rolls since, well, sliced bread, then you’ll be wanting to go back with a suitably chuffed response and complete with a smiley emoji. Whereas a complaint that your bread rolls were covered in mould the day after purchase, would obviously warrant a more serious tone in the reply. Given this need, then having page admins that not only understand tone of voice but can actually deliver on it is essential. (Not to mention the basic skills needed to string a coherent and grammatically correct sentence together . . .)
  5. Negative comments: keep public, hide, delete, exclude and block. This can be a tricky one because sometimes negative comments can also be fair, and acknowledging this in an appropriate way can become a positive thing as people will see obvious humility and honesty in your brand. However, unreasonable comments – especially those which are malicious and abusive – don’t belong on your ad. Where this happens, you need to take a view on what action to take based on the nature of the comment and how serious, with options being:
    • Hide the comment, with this meaning that only the person who posted it plus their FB friends will be able to see it – but they won’t know you’ve hidden it. This can be the right action where, for example, the person is actually a known customer so you certainly wouldn’t want to offend them by deleting the comment.
    • Delete the comment, with this usually being appropriate when someone is being especially malicious and offensive. This might also apply to a comment made in response to someone else, rather than directly to your post. This point also relates to the need to monitor conversation threads between people. You can also prevent the offending person seeing your ad again by excluding them, and this using settings in the Ads Manager.
    • Delete the comment, exclude them from seeing your ads, and block them from your page, with this ultimate action only being the result of exceptional or repeated offensive and malicious comments, and including on organic posts on your page.
  6. Take the conversation offline. As mentioned before, this applies more to complaints but there are also circumstances when it’s the right thing to do for comments which then turn into a conversation. For example, if the conversation becomes detailed and even protracted, then a) you won’t necessarily want Joe Public to also read it, and b) bringing it to an end is easier to do one-to-one. Other reasons would include content which was of a personal nature, and perhaps if someone was making observations about a member of staff. This can be achieved by asking the person to switch to messenger, or give them an email address and deal with it that way.

A further and major consideration is to ensure that even if you contract out Facebook advertising to a marketing agency or social media specialist, then you still totally own the responses to the comments and questions on the ads they post. This is because although the agency or person is very likely to have all the necessary skills to ensure the right targeting and management of spend etc., it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to properly handle specific comments and questions about your products and services – and they anyway shouldn’t be expected to.

Overall then, it can be a bit of minefield and you’ll never win all of the time, but sticking with the above will at least help you ensure that you a) get increased value from your advertising spend, and b) you also minimise any damage to your brand.

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