Does your business know how to deal with online trolls and negative comments?

For many people in business, the main concern is how negative comments on their social media channels could ruin their reputation or damage their brand. Trolls are an unavoidable part of the web, with social media providing the perfect veil of anonymity. If you want to keep your online reputation intact and your consumer relationships thriving, it’s important to learn how to deal with the downside to social media.

Here are nine tips for dealing with social media hecklers and coming out on top.

Establish a policy

The first step when handling social media hecklers is to establish a clear policy for user comments. This policy should detail what kind of comments are allowed across your company’s online channels and be outlined on your website and social media accounts. This will ensure consistency from your staff and set the tone for online activity. For a guideline on how to create a great comment policy, check out the Content Marketing Institute’s version.

Don’t fight fire with fire

When dealing with negative comments, it’s important to not respond in anger and keep your tone neutral and friendly. Before you interact with unhappy customers make sure you’re level-headed and the response is quick, calm and useful to deflate the situation rather than inflame it.

Also, no matter how rude or unsavoury the comments, always treat your customers with respect. Keep in mind your conversation is taking place in a public forum and will be accessible online for anyone to view for years to come. You’ll be surprised how rising above the fray and showing your audience respect disarms hecklers and could earn you a lot of respect in return.

Formal yet friendly

When it comes to negative consumer feedback, time and time again brands will make the mistake of using canned responses by copying and pasting an automated response to each bad comment. As a result, people react negatively because they just want to be heard and a copied and pasted response can cause them to be more upset. To avoid self-inflicted brand damage, have a basic messaging strategy for negative comments in place across your social media channels.

And even though your response should be friendly, it’s still important to maintain a professional attitude and tone. Remember you’re representing your brand or your company brand, so a relative degree of formality should be consistent with your company’s marketing voice.

Acknowledge the issue

The worst thing you can do is ignore a complaint and hope it goes away. Even worse is deleting a complaint and pretending it never happened. In fact, ignoring or deleting a complaint can make the situation worse because an assumption is made that the allegations must be true. Lush Digital’s Sarah Mitchell suggests a simple response such as, ‘Wow, you’re really upset’ as a signal you’ve heard the complaint and are listening. Acknowledging the customer’s point of view and starting a conversation instantly makes the conversation more of a positive for you and your brand.  

Offer a solution

Once you have acknowledged the complaint and the consumer knows they’ve been heard, make sure to provide a solution. A call to action is a classic marketing technique that can be put to use in these situations. Then, if they decide to take the action you suggested, everyone is a winner.

Similarly, you could offer a point of contact. By responding to the customer via the comment on the company’s feed, you’re giving them a point of contact to follow up with in order to resolve their issue. This will also make it evident to other users your company is dedicated to the customer experience and will benefit your customer relationships.

Be empathetic and listen

A customer may not always be right, but they still deserve to be heard. As Sarah Mitchell suggests, it never hurts to show empathy through a simple response such as ‘I’m really sorry that happened to you’ or ‘That must have been so difficult for you’.

Similar to empathy, listening is also important for your company’s reputation. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not listening to your consumers. According to Spin Sucks author Gini Dietrich:

‘If the online troll is really just a customer complaining, know the difference and listen. Sometimes people just want to be heard. Hear them, try to help, and they’ll almost always thank you publicly’.

In an online world filled with stories of customers’ bad experiences, it’s important to listen. Actively monitor your social media and blogs to see what consumers are saying about your brand because by not listening, you’re missing out on opportunities to build brand loyalty.

Correct mistakes and check facts

While you shouldn’t instigate a situation by fighting back, if an online troll is spreading rumours about your brand you should clear up this misinformation. But rather than call out the customer as a liar, it’s important to counter a negative argument with concrete facts. Ensure this by thoroughly researching the problem first.

On the other hand, if a troll points out a mistake you’ve made, make sure to look into it, correct the problem, and be honest about it. According to author and TV host Jeffrey Hayzlett:

‘Let the person who wrote the complaint know you have corrected the error and explain what you did. Most times you’ll never hear from the person again, but I can guarantee the individual will appreciate that he heard directly from a company representative and didn’t have to navigate an endless phone tree’. 

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

While dealing with negativity has its downsides, it also provides opportunities for your brand to enhance its online reputation and build consumer relationships through the way you interact with the troll. If you behave in a reasonable way, your brand has a very good chance of coming out of a social media attack with more supporters than before.

Take it offline

If the preceding eight strategies don’t work and the comments continue to escalate, the best option is to take the conversation offline. You don’t want other consumers seeing a messy situation unfold on your business’ social media as it could negatively impact your brand reputation. Instead, reach out to the user on a private channel such as email to discuss the problem and provide a solution. However, if all else fails walk away because an irrational person won’t be won over no matter what you do. Often a strong network will put pressure on a heckler they feel is not treating a company fairly.

For more information on handling social media hecklers

If you have any questions regarding online trolls and how to handle negative comments, contact us or stop in for a chat.