How to Deal with Critics, Haters and Trolls Online

by | Aug 13, 2021 | Digital, Media

If your organization has any online presence: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google reviews, a blog, eventually you’re going to deal with an angry or negative comment. Someone will respond to a post or published piece of content in an upset, frustrated, mean, or angry way.

Whether the person is right or wrong, you have a decision to make. What are you going to do?

Here are some guidelines learned from years in the trenches of social media.

Ignore or Engage

The first decision you need to make is whether you are going to ignore or engage with the comment (and the commenter). Unless you are an enormous organization that gets hundreds or thousands of comments every day, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring comments on your online platforms.

If you have a huge platform, ignoring a few negative comments won’t look bad. But if your platform is small, negative comments stand out to other people (customers or donors!) who may be checking you out for the first time. Ignoring a comment stands out like a sore thumb.

So, what should you do?

Delete or Hide

Your first option is to delete or hide the comment.

Deleting is the most obvious choice when you’re dealing with certain types of comments:

  • Hateful, racist, or bigoted speech. Delete it. Full stop.
  • Profanity or obscenity. On Facebook, you can change your settings to proactively moderate comments containing certain words. Click here for a “how to.”
  • Obvious spam (for example: linking to an unrelated website or making comments that have nothing to do with the original post or replies). AKA nonsense.

In those situations, feel free to smash that delete button and laugh maniacally. Think of your social media page like your online living room. You wouldn’t let anyone spew that ugliness in your home. You don’t have to allow it in your online home either.

If the comment doesn’t fall into those sorts of categories, you may want to hide it. Hiding a comment deletes it from public view except for the person that originally posted the comment and people that are directly connected to them like their friends on Facebook. This is useful when you want to ignore (or respond to) a comment, but you don’t want anyone else to see it or engage with it. Use this feature when you want the person to feel like they were heard, but you don’t want anyone else to have to see it. This feature is particularly useful if you’re running Facebook ads.

Respond. Respond. Respond.

As much as possible, you want to respond. Every organization makes mistakes. When someone brings critical feedback, hear them out because maybe they make a good point (in a not-so-good way) or maybe there’s been a misunderstanding that can be corrected. Look at critical feedback as an opportunity to build a relationship.

So, what should you say?

Acknowledge the problem – An “I’m sorry we disappointed you” can go a long way to calm an angry customer.

Offer a solution – Explain the next steps you are taking to correct the problem and make sure that you follow through.

Correct misinformation – Provide factual (not emotional) information if needed, but don’t get into a back-and-forth. Which brings us to our next point …

Take it offline – If more conversation is needed, provide contact information for a real person for further follow-up.

Explain yourself – If the comment is about something that you can’t or won’t change, that’s okay. Skip the corporate speak and explain your position in real words. It’s fine to disagree, just clearly state your position and let it go.

And maybe the most important tidbit …

Remember Your Audience

The normal assumption is that you are responding to the person that originally made the comment. That is not true. You are responding for every person in the future that will ever read that comment. When you respond to someone, always assume lots of other people are watching. There’s a reason that the Michael Jackson eating popcorn GIF exists. People love to read the drama in the comments.

You could have hundreds of 5-star reviews on Facebook and a single 1-star review. You know what’s going to happen? Every person that goes to your review page will seek out and read that 1-star review.

Maybe the review wasn’t warranted. Maybe there was a major misunderstanding. Maybe the person was just having a bad day.

But the best thing you can do is to respond with grace, professionalism, and kindness so that anyone reading the review and your response, will see that you’re reasonable and that you did whatever you could to make the situation right.

Above all, before you respond, take a breath. It’s not personal and you are representing your organization. The quickest way to put out a fire of anger is with kindness and empathy.

Is it time to evaluate your social media strategies? A cohesive plan may be just what you need. Click here or call us today at 724.733.1200.

Kim Rugh