This topic came up a few months ago when a friend of mine was running for election in local politics and encountered negative comments on her campaign’s Facebook page. She reached out to me for advice on how to deal with them, and it was timely as I had been asking myself the same question since putting out the How Offensive Ads Get Made post. So, I did some research and asked for tips from people who do community management for larger brands – which is a role that focuses specifically on managing a brand’s social media communities to ensure they’re active and constructive.
The reality is that putting any kind of post, ad, article, opinion, observation, news, or anything on social media is an invitation for negative comments and trolls. Hopefully it’s not something that you will ever have to experience. But if it does happen, then it’s important to know how to handle these comments effectively so they don’t reflect poorly on you.
There’s not one proven approach – all brands are figuring it out through trial and error – but there are some things you can do to reduce the impact of negative comments. These suggestions can be used for your solo business, your employer’s brand, and/or your personal presence on social media.
Tackling the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
If all social media comments were like these, the world would be a much happier and healthier place! But don’t just bask in the glow of validation; it’s important to show positive reinforcement for those who take time to share and comment on your post.
Respond to shares and positive comments with a “thanks for sharing this!” or a “glad you liked this!” If someone asks a question in the comments, even if the answer seems obvious, then it’s important to respond to show that you’re present and available to followers. This approach also encourages others to share positive comments and builds a healthy social media community.
In my opinion, there are two levels of bad comments: challenger and combative.
Challenger: I challenge you to a duel!!
These are your “playing devil’s advocate”, “I disagree” and “I’m going to publicly ask the hard questions” comments. As annoying as these may be, it’s important to respond to them. Reason being is that it can look worse for you to leave hard questions unanswered, as it creates a perception of being either unwilling or unable to stand behind what you posted.
It may not be easy to respond, and take the time you need to craft the most appropriate response possible, but don’t leave those comments hanging. If your response turns into a whole back-and-forth thing, suggest publicly that you two take it offline in a private message (“PM” for the cool kids).
Combative (or combadive – haha, see what I did there?)
These comments lean much more towards the negative side and intend to “call you out” or make you feel bad (stupid, wrong, etc.) for what you shared. Some of these you may decide to leave up as most people will see those comments for what they are – nonsense. But some may warrant a polite and diplomatic reply that allows them to feel heard and acknowledged so they’ll hopefully shut up about it. This could be something along the lines of “seems we view this issue differently. While I don’t agree, I’m glad we’re able to share our points of view.”
This category is reserved for the negative comments that are scathing or racist or offensive or embarrassing. These are the comments you don’t even want seen on your page for fear of being associated with someone who could write such terrible things.
If you ever receive those, go ahead and hide them on your feed. You likely won’t get any backlash from hiding them, and if any individual becomes mad and turns into a troll then you should block them from your page entirely. This also goes for anyone in “the bad” category who doesn’t react well to your responses. If they get increasingly rude or angry, then go ahead and hide/block them.
Overall, putting anything out on social media requires some level of management. You don’t need to be glued to your notifications, but do keep an eye on what’s happening to the content you put out there and ensure there is healthy, constructive dialogue happening. If you have other tips or suggestions for dealing with negative comments on social media, then I’d love to hear them!