Don’t feed the trolls

One great thing about the Internet is that everyone has a big, loud voice.

One terrible thing about the Internet is that everyone has a big, loud voice.

People LOVE to complain, and social media is the perfect soapbox.

When someone feels wronged by a company, you can practically see the Twitter bird flapping around in their brain as they formulate the angriest 140 characters they can come up with.

For a social media coordinator, complaints can be a minefield to deal with, but the way you handle negative comments online can have a HUGE effect on your brand.

This is why we hire social media professionals.

It’s not always a straightforward process, but negative comments are an excellent opportunity to engage with your community and make meaningful connections.

Here are five types of negative comments you’re likely to encounter and how to deal with them:

  1. The indirect comment

This is the kind of comment where someone casually drops your brand’s name in a complaint rather than aiming it right at you. They’re airing their grievances, but they aren’t necessarily expecting the problem to be solved, so if you CAN solve their problem, there’s huge potential to get into their good books. Let them know you’re listening and concerned. If you can help them, you’re likely to create a new, loyal customer.

  1. The mixed review

These often come from a fan or someone who really wants to like you, but feels let down somehow. Again, there’s huge potential to make a lasting connection with this person. Always engage with these. If you go above and beyond to help the commenter, even if you can’t solve their specific problem, it will let them know that you genuinely care and want to keep them happy. They want you to keep them happy, so it’s a win-win.

  1. The ill-informed commenter

This person is upset over something that isn’t actually true. This might be your (or your company’s) fault for not communicating things properly. It’s important to address these ones so that the misinformation doesn’t spread. Unfortunately correcting someone on the Internet is always a dangerous game.

Be careful about the commenter’s ego. Let them know you’ve made a mistake by not communicating the facts clearly enough. Look at your communications and make sure that your messages are actually clear and correct. Fix what you need to fix, and let them know you’ve fixed it. Establish a positive connection, and then ease yourself into correcting the misinformation. Have a conversation with them to help them understand. And for the love of God, don’t make them feel stupid.

  1. The irate commenter

This person is past the point of consoling, and you’re not likely to change their minds about your product or service right now. But you may be able to tame the flames a bit.

Before you respond, check them out to see what kind of person they are and how they react to things. If their Twitter feed is full of complaints to companies, they’re probably habitually grumpy and/or just trying to get free stuff. Address them if it doesn’t seem too dangerous, but don’t go out of your way to appease them. It’s a waste of your time and you’ll get dangerously close to feeding the troll. Those watching the conversation will likely realize this, too, so don’t worry so much about your reputation here.

If it seems like this is a one-time incident, you need to take it more seriously and figure out what your company did to make this person so mad. Have a real conversation with them through direct messages if necessary, and if they are reasonable, you should be able to come to some sort of mutual understanding.

  1. The troll

If someone is being abusive or offensive, it’s time to use the exercise your right to the block button. Do not engage. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

No matter the type of comment, some rules will always apply:

  • Take your time. Don’t EVER respond to a comment while angry.

    Don't ever do this.

    Don’t ever respond like this.

  • Be honest. If you say you’ll communicate their concern to someone, actually do that.
  • Apologize sincerely. “I’m sorry you were offended” doesn’t count.
  • Keep your tone on brand. Straying from your established persona could be unnerving to the commenter. Connect personally, but stay on brand.
  • Genuinely listen. Besides this just being a good customer service tactic, there will always be nuggets of wisdom in a negative comment. Listen and learn from them.

    Don't ever do this either.

    Don’t ever do this either.

If you’re still feeling lost, take a look at the US Air Force’s social media flowchart below for their tips on how to survive social media.

Air Force social media

Had a traumatic experience with negative comments? Let us know about them!


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