During Pride month, both the USMC Parris Island and United States Air Force social media managers made Facebook posts showing support for the LGBTQIA+ communities. Both posts featured a soldier and the rainbow insignia commonly associated with the movement.
Both posts attracted positive and negative comments, but the way these comments were handled was very different. Take a look at how having a comment strategy can alter the way a post is received by your audience.
A Pride Post With a Strategy
USMC Parris Island showed up with a pretty big weapon in their social media arsenal–CWO Bobby Yarbrough. Even though he posted under the official account avatar, Yarbrough was recognized by page followers as a smart and savvy social media manager who followed a comment strategy. Yarbrough was able to control the narrative and respond to the trolls using education peppered with biting wit. By attacking the post but not the poster, CWO Yarborough helped the discussion gain positive traction. For example, when a poster suggested that Don't Ask, Don't Tell "had worked just fine," CWO Yarbrough suggested that those who were kicked out of service would disagree. He was able to manage the comment threads, expose the biases, gain support for PRIDE and bring an audience who showed up to defend the post and the movement. As you can see from the comments, many page followers admitted to coming to the thread just to read the replies.
A Pride Post Without a Strategy
The Air Force, conversely, chose the "fire and forget" method for their Facebook Pride post, and the post quickly fell under siege. Negative comment after negative comment went unanswered. Worth noting is that the higher a page is in the military hierarchy, the more difficult it is to simply reply without a solid comment strategy. Make sure all posts and comments are based on policy and your commander's intent because that is how they will be interpreted. This typically isn't something a page below that level will have to worry about. However, with no one monitoring the page, or applying a comment strategy, trolls took over and the message quickly got buried under the rubble. Many of the comments were hateful gifs, which gave the post a negative impact for anyone who just browsed the page. The fact that no one was answering wasn't lost on those following. One poster drew brutal parallels to how they felt the USAF treated the LGBTQ community in general with his post; "Good to see the official Air Force page standing up for these airmen. Oh, wait, you're not. You're just using them as a publicity stunt with no actual top cover. Typical."
Social media is a battlefield where you're fighting for the hearts and minds of your followers. A strong comment strategy is your best weapon in that fight and the first few hours are critical to steering the conversation.
Continue to own the narrative even after you've made the post. Remember that most trolls don't want to be or expect to be challenged. Pushing back on false narratives and pointing out disinformation silences the trolls, educates the audience and brings in new followers.