When it comes to responding to negative comments, there's no one right way to do it. Just think context, consistency and case-by-case. Here's what some social media pros—and our own Facebook fans—have to say about responding to negative comments on blogs, forums and Facebook.
Create Guidelines, and Stick to Them
It's up to you to maintain an environment that facilitates conversation. "Create a set of guidelines for posting on your page, and provide links to these guidelines," says Jeff Patrick, president and founder of Common Knowledge. These should include simple, standard rules, such as no personal attacks, no obscenities, etc.
Just the Facts
If a comment contains information about you that is inaccurate or incorrect, play an active role in correcting it. Frame it as: "Thank you, but the more accurate information is?"
Keep a Clean House
If a comment is downright inappropriate, and there's no chance to educate, most people opt to delete. "You can also utilize private messaging," suggests one of our Facebook fans. Let the person know that you deleted the comment, and why, and link to your guidelines.
D'You Know What I Mean?
"Tone is often hard to distinguish on the Internet," a Facebook fans explains. "It might actually be someone looking for a reasonable answer." If there are no other indications you're dealing with a flamer—e.g., a repeat offender, multiple obscenities—give them the benefit of the doubt.
Don't Delete Automatically
Say the issue of dangerous dogs is heating up in your community. People post angry rants on your Facebook page, demanding to know why you don't support breed bans—but you delete these comments immediately. "It can seem fishy if you remove all negative comments," says social media strategist Farra Trompeter of Big Duck. Instead…
Defend Your Position
Perhaps someone has put down your agency, but backed it up with a coherent argument. Why not take an opportunity to reiterate your position? "People will believe what they want to anyway—but at least you have a chance to say what you believe," says Trompeter. And since you're saying it publicly, it's a smart way to get your message out there.
Sometimes engaging someone who's left a negative comment can actually escalate a situation even further. You could always turn the other virtual cheek and do…nothing.
Don't Fight Your Own Battles
Another option when the flames get hot? "Engage your ambassadors to respond for you," suggests Jo Sullivan, Managing Director of Creative Direct Response Fundraising Group. "You may even find that your loyal supporters automatically will come to your defense."
We all make mistakes—and if someone calls you on yours, you may want to just own up to it. "If the comment is true or if the person is on to something, it may be worth keeping and responding to," advises Trompeter. By being truthful and honest, you build up integrity and trust in your organization.
Don't Take it Personally
…just take it professionally. There will always be flamers on social networks. Develop a thick skin, don't stoop to their level, stick to the facts and conduct your social media conversations in a professional, respectful tone.