How to deal with negative comments and trolls

Don't feed the trolls. By: Dominique Chappard

Don’t feed the trolls. By: Dominique Chappard

One of the scary things about social media is, that you open yourself and your organization up to criticism and there have been plenty of examples how mishandling negative comments has resulted in PR disasters. Here are some constructive examples showing how to deal with negative comments and trolls.

Trolls and negative commenters require different strategies because they are completely different and have different interest. Most people who leave negative comments will have a legitimate grievance – at least in their minds. Whether you agree with them or not is not the point, they have a point of view and they want to be heard.

So called “trolls” on the other hand don’t care about what they write, they just want to call mayhem. The urban dictionary defines a troll as “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

The short article by Karen Fratti shows some of the perils of engaging trolls, but also raises the question whether it’s really always the right thing to ignore them and let them spew hatred unchallenged. It certainly is a fine line to toe and taking the high road is a challenge.

Of course, sometimes people are just angry – without being trolls.

Kim Stephens has a great example of how keeping your cool can be the best strategy when dealing with angry people. In this case, the community that the organization had built on Facebook came to the rescue and deflected the criticism so that the organization itself didn’t even have to get involved.

Obviously this assumes that you have an online community that will support you.

This article looks at how you can pro-actively include comments into your communications strategy. I find this quite interesting since most organizations simply view comments as something that happens and don’t think about how comments can be used strategically. James Brown wants you to think about what comments can do for your organization so that you can start fostering an environment where these types of comments are made.

So what about legitimate criticism and complaints? Obviously these have to be answered!

  • Airforce blog assessment. (C) US Air Force

    Airforce blog assessment. Click to enlarge.

    Air Force Blog Assessment

For me, this graphic (click to enlarge) is still as valid today as it was in 2008 when it was first published – and it has spawned many variations since then. As far as simple decision trees go, that show when to respond and how, this flowchart is still extremely useful.

Of course it’s also possible that you simply made a mistake and that that is the reason why you are in hot water. In that case, Cheryl Bledsoe’s post on dealing with erroneous tweets might come in handy. It’s also worth reading the comments below the article.

How are you dealing with negative comments? Does your organization have a comment policy? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.