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!

The Art of Failing

I am a compulsive perfectionist in many areas of my life, which is very difficult for me because I have never once been perfect. This becomes particularly challenging when it comes to career development and my work, but like a good Millennial, I don’t blame myself for my perfectionist ways. I blame the system.

From grade school onward, students are rewarded for being right and are told that wrongness is the path to certain doom. Right and wrong are taught to be binary, and only one will lead to success. This is a terrible thing to be taught.

Spencer Silver, a researcher at the 3M Laboratories, was trying to make a new, stronger adhesive, but what he created was actually weaker than what already existed. For years it sat around as a useless product. By all accounts, he had failed. Then one day Art Fry had the idea to slap that stuff onto some paper and call it a Post-it Note.

Mistakes have created all kinds of cool things: penicillin, the Slinky and the microwave, to name a few. More than helping us discover great new things, mistakes help us learn, whether it’s knowing not to do something again or encouraging us to look at it from a different perspective.

The lucky ones

The lucky ones on the Titanic’s last lifeboat.

Obviously there are times for throwing caution to the wind and there are times when you should try very hard not to make mistakes. Not having enough lifeboats on the Titanic? That was a pretty big mistake. Napoleon thinking he could invade Russia in the winter? Not a great choice. But when it comes to our work, mistakes have huge potential to help us grow into far better humans.

Here’s my quick little guide for getting the most out of your mistakes.

1. Evaluate the mistake and take appropriate action.

Is this a little oopsie that you can fix, apologize for and move on with, or do you need to do a deep evaluation of the situation? Can you make sure this kind of mistake doesn’t happen again by putting a reminder in your phone, or do processes need to be re-evaluated?

2. Don’t take it personally.

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Clichés like this exist for a reason. Sometimes failure is unavoidable, and sometimes failure is the direct result of our own actions. Either way, wallowing in self-pity won’t get you very far. You need to remember that even if your actions may have resulted in a failure, YOU are not a failure. You are wonderful and awesome and full of potential, and if you approach a mistake from a negative, accusatory perspective, you won’t get to focus on the opportunity that the mistake could bring. Which leads me to #3…

The international symbol for brainstorming.

Post-it Notes: The international symbol for brainstorming.

3. Find the opportunity.

There is no mistake that cannot yield a positive if you commit to learning—really learning—from it. Sometimes you find a better way to accomplish your goal. Other times, you’ll realize that the mistake has opened new doors or eliminated options so you can make a more informed decision next time. Maybe you accidentally made Post-it Notes instead of super-strong glue. Look for these things and capitalize on them.

4. Continuously monitor your progress.

Are you making the same mistakes over and over? Are people getting frustrated with you because you keep messing things up? Just feel like you can’t get something right? It’s time to figure out why. Maybe you’re not getting the support and training you need. Maybe you need to figure out a process for yourself so you feel confident that you can nail it every time. Be conscious.

5. Find an employer who knows what to do with mistakes.

This is a trickier one, but it’s something I think we should all be thinking about when starting a new job. When you make a mistake (and you will), how will your employer handle the situation? A good manager should be paying attention and looking for the opportunity, just like you should be. They should allow you to fix it and then trust that you’ll be striving for the best possible outcome.

6. Jump in.

Listening to your fear of failure is the best way to get absolutely nothing done. If you’re sitting at home, unemployed, and not applying for jobs because you’re worried you might mess up, it’s time for a reality check. You will probably mess up (a bunch), and you’ll learn from it (a bunch). Get your hands dirty and celebrate your failures.

The world is an uncertain place. No matter how well you plan something out, and no matter how sure you are that you will not make a mistake, you can never know what the outcomes of your actions will be. The world exists today because of continuous change. Get on board that little revolving blue dot and see where it takes you.

That little, pale blue dot is Earth, by the way.

That little blue dot is Earth, by the way.

Photo #1 By a passenger of the Carpathia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

Photo#2 By Shereen Zink 

Photo #3 By NASA (NASA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons