Whether you’re a writer, YouTuber, or a business owner, negative online comments are probably one of your biggest sources of stress. Not only do negative comments put a serious damper on your mood, they can also damage your reputation. But you are not powerless against angry people on the internet. Here are five strategies for handling negative online comments:
Know the difference between constructive criticism and hate
There are different kinds of negative comments. Some come from generally respectful people saying why they disagree with your views, or why they were dissatisfied with your service. As a freelance writer, I quickly learned that constructive criticism is a part of the job. Others are from people who just spew anger and hate without offering anything constructive.
These types of comments need to be handled differently. The former you should respond to and learn from, while the latter you should refuse to acknowledge and do your best to eliminate or neutralize.
Set up your website so that comments don’t appear until you approve them. This system will naturally discourage people from writing hateful, unconstructive things, because they won’t get the instant gratification of having them published right away. But if someone does submit a comment that contains hate speech and vulgar language, just reject it.
Comments that are negative but also constructive you should approve, because it lets your audience know that you are willing to receive feedback. You can respond to these comments appropriately, as I’ll discuss in the next point.
Write informative, respectful responses
If you are a blogger or columnist responding to someone who disagrees with your point of view, you can either simply tell the person you respect their difference of opinion, or tell them you respect their difference of opinion and offer a well-reasoned rebuttal. Getting angry, lashing out, and engaging in name-calling will make you look worse. But giving a polite reply that is based in fact will reflect positively on your character.
If you are a business-owner responding to a negative message on your website, on social media, or on a review site, always start with an apology. You might inform the person of your customer service phone number, or let them know about another service you offer that could help improve their experience. At the very least, say you appreciate their feedback and will work to address the issue.
Utilize good social media management
Many negative comments come in the form of social media posts or replies, usually on Facebook or Twitter. You should moderate these comments to the best of your ability, using the principles of good social media management. Remember number one on this list: some comments you should eliminate, but others you should use an opportunity to engage with social media users.
You can easily delete hateful comments from your Facebook posts. You also have the ability to block Twitter accounts that spew hate, but be careful about getting “block happy.” Blocking someone might encourage them to write more negative things about you, which anyone can see, so simply not acknowledging them might be a more effective strategy.
Finally, referring back to number 3 on this list, respond to social media users who are giving negative feedback. You just might turn a negative experience into a positive one.
If negative comments on social media become overwhelming, you might want to consider hiring a social media manager to handle those, along with all your other social media needs.
Encourage positive comments
If you are a business owner trying to deal with negative comments on review sites such as Yelp, the best strategy at your disposal is encouraging people to write positive reviews to counteract the negative ones. Sites like Yelp won’t take down reviews unless they violate the sites TOS (Terms of Service), so you have to fight fire with fire, so to speak.
Oftentimes, people are more inclined to write reviews if they had a bad experience, which can skew your rating downward. To reverse that trend, regularly ask your customers to write reviews of your business. This will inspire the folks who had positive experiences to share them on the internet, and counteract the negative reviews.
The most important thing to remember when handling online comments is to stay calm, and not let negative words get under your skin. Getting defensive and emotional can lead to poor decisions, so take a deep breath, and show that you’re a tough cookie who can learn, grow, and bounce back. Oh, and don’t drink when replying. It seems obvious but we’ve had to clean up quite a few messes based on alcoholic diatribes.
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