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How to Deal With Negative Comments On Social Media Sites Without FunnyJunking Yourself
Three things in life are certain – death, taxes and the fact that no matter what you say someone will disagree with you.
Social media sites usually have terms and conditions, community guidelines, or both (working in concert) to prohibit content that is considered illegal in the real world – namely hate speech, threats and harassment. What they do not prohibit is the free expression of differing opinions, even if they are very unpopular opinions – nor should they.
So what should you do if someone expresses an opinion that does not violate the terms and conditions of the site but is nonetheless hurtful, inappropriate or may otherwise cause harm to your reputation, product or service?
Below I have outlined the most effective way of dealing with negative comments on social media sites. It is a very basic concept – make the user who posts negative comments a “voice in the wilderness”. In other words, for every negative comment, ask your followers to post a number of positive or even neutral comments (to correct factual errors or misinformation).
This has the effect on public perception of putting a lot less weight on negative comments since there are so many more positive/neutral comments that the negative user becomes one of “those” people (everyone knows one) who just likes to complain. There is nothing unethical about this practice because most of the time, the negative comments are indeed posted by one of “those” people. They may also be posted by people who are expressing an opinion with missing or incomplete information. If they are not one of these two, then this article is not for you – you should address legitimate concerns and complaints through regular business practices before it gets to the point of someone posting negative opinions about you.
Posting positive comments also has the virtual effect of making the negative comments either disappear or become of much lower importance in that some sites rank popular comments. If a negative comment is popular, have your followers post positive comments and encourage them to like positive comments.
Although this is a fairly straightforward approach, here are some guidelines you should be aware of before dealing with negative comments:
Don’t Wrestle With a Pig
There is an old expression that goes: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get covered in mud and the pig likes it.” This means that you should never try to directly convince someone that their opinion is wrong. You will simply engage them in a acrimonious debate that will entrench them in their position. It will be messy, public, and may even convert fence-sitters into enemies. It is much better to comment positively, or correct erroneous information, directly without referring to the user in question. All you need to do is look at the Carreon/Inman mess to see how it can really get out of control and spill out of social media onto the open internet. This is a situation where there can be no winners.
Use Don’t Abuse Terms and Conditions/Community Guidelines
You should know what the site’s terms and conditions prohibit in terms of content. It is also a good idea to know what is important to the site owners and administrators. They will actively enforce guidelines that align with their niche. For example, Youtube will quickly pull down videos that violate copyright laws whereas Facebook considers friend requests to complete strangers a form of harassment and prohibits it. This is fine. These are membership based sites and the site owners have the right to enforce terms and conditions as they see fit, notwithstanding activity that is deemed illegal.
If you think someone is violating site terms and conditions, ask the site administrator about your particular case. You can copy and paste any negative comments into a contact form or email you send to the site administrator. Do not make assumptions or be overly demanding about borderline cases. It will put you on the wrong side of the “law” and you (or one of your followers) may be banned from the site for using the rules in a frivolous manner. For example, I have seen followers report negative comments as spam. Not only will this irritate the site administrator and the user who posted negative comments, but it also reflects poorly upon you.
Groom a Loyal Following and Do Not Be Afraid to Ask For Help
This one is a little obvious, if you do not have loyal followers (or friends, fans, people who like you, etc.), you do not have anyone to help you. Do not be afraid to ask your social media supporters to help you out. There is nothing shifty about this practice so long as you simply state that you are being bashed online, post the url, and ask that they help you out. You may also want to ask them to be positive, be kind and follow the rules. You are not coercing anyone, lying, misleading anyone or telling people what to say. Most importantly you are not inciting “cyber-vandalism” and you can prove it. Your supporters are simply expressing thoughts and feeling that they already have – think of it as a mini-campaign more than anything else.
A mini-campaign of this type has the effect of strengthening loyalty among your supporters since you are engaging them in an active way on your behalf and they might even have a little fun with it. Chances are your support base will also grow.