Haters Gonna Hate: Dealing with Negativity in the Social Space

We’ve all encountered negativity in the social space.  It often comes in the form of nasty reviews, personal attacks, brand bashing, even bullying behavior.  But it can also come in the form of a frustrated customer seeking assistance for an issue or answer to a question.

First let’s address the haters, bashers, trolls and bullies…

A while back when I had more time on my hands, I used to blog about issues, often politically-charged ones, that were near and dear to my heart. One post that was inspired by several back-to-back incidents of horrible parenting I had witnessed garnered one response that crossed the line from critical comment to targeted personal attack.  Although the comment was posted anonymously, given the content of the attack and the poor grammar, which was a thinly-veiled attempt to disguise the commenter’s identity, I know exactly who authored the comment.  I did post a response, but what I realized afterward was that I didn’t need to.  Why? Because my supporters came out in full force to defend me.  Turns out there were many people who read my post and agreed with me and were more than happy to put my attacker in her place.

From a professional perspective, I have noticed the same phenomenon.  While working for a destination marketing organization, I would encounter angry rants from time to time on Twitter or on our Facebook page about how horrible the destination was.  And while working for a resort and casino, people would go on tirades about how our evil venue stole all their money (disgruntled problem gambler, perhaps?).  In both instances, I found that rather than go on the defense I was able to sit back and let our supporters handle the rants.  These supporters responses proved to be more credible and valuable than any response I could have posted from a branded perspective.

So let the haters hate.  Those who love you will step up to defend your honor.

Now, with that said, I would argue that if the hater’s rant is vulgar, threatening, or completely unrelated to your brand (for instance, a rant about abortion on a restaurant’s Facebook page, or a comment preaching religious intolerance on your social media blog), REMOVE IT.  It has no place in your social space.

But what about negative or critical comments that have weight to them?  Perhaps someone had a terrible experience at your restaurant and they post about it on your Facebook page or give you a negative review on Yelp.  Or maybe someone disagrees with your perspective in a blog post and posts a critical comment from an opposing perspective.  How do you handle those?

The answer is: PUBLICLY and DIRECTLY.

By addressing issues and concerns publicly, you have the opportunity to counter your criticizer and/or provide a resolution.  These kinds of interactions can actually work in favor of the brand by offering the opportunity for humility (often in the form of an apology) and authenticity, which can humanize the brand and strengthen the brand’s credibility.

Having a set plan in place when determining the appropriate response to comments and criticisms is essential, especially if you have a large social media team.  This flow chart is a great example of a response plan:

Social Media Response Flow Chart

GreatWebsites, 2013

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2 thoughts on “Haters Gonna Hate: Dealing with Negativity in the Social Space

  1. I think a company can really showcase how great they are when they face criticism. That is, if they follow the easy instructions from your infographic. I’ve often become a better customer after there was an issue that was well-addressed because now I trust the company even more than before.

  2. Hi Bethany, Thanks for the informative post based on personal experience. The graphic is a nice addition. Whenever I see a complaint on a social media site, I feel I can tell if it’s someone just being a jerk or if they are a customer with a legitimate beef. If there’s name-calling or abusive language I tend to automatically write it off and am not bothered if the brand doesn’t respond. I find complaints explained logically and passionately credible and would hope the brand would address it. Your post can be a lesson for brands and fans who want to complain in a way which will get a response. Another thing you can do is post a customer service number for the user to call with a reference number or ask the user to direct message you. It takes the complaint off the page and looks good. Maybe they follow through or maybe they don’t. Either way your brand has been responsive and has shown it takes complaints seriously.

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