When Things Get Negative: Handling Social Backlash

It can be a terrible feeling to see a nasty comment from one of your followers after you’ve worked so hard and invested significant emotional energy on your brand. Unfortunately, social media managers deal with this all of the time.

This following is one of my favorite stories to share in relation to this topic, because it is actually somewhat comical:

When I worked at Parents, I published an innocent blog post on how Kourtney Kardashian is a great mom (which I stand by – haters gonna hate!). I put it on our Facebook page and quickly realized strangers were commenting on it and attacking me, saying I didn’t know what it meant to be a good mom, etc. Here I was, writing about a Kardashian super casually because I am slightly addicted to Keeping Up With the Kardashians, when all of a sudden things. got. real.

The key is to recognize that when people attack you on social media, it’s not really a personal attack – at least, not usually. They don’t know you; they are looking for a way to channel anger about who knows what. It is much easier to hate on something from the privacy of your home/Twitter account than it is to go up to someone and let her know exactly what you think.

woman holding cup wearing tank top sitting on bed
Photo by Bruno Cervera on Pexels.com

I almost always recommend that people ignore the trolls. By engaging, you are giving them ammunition. In the blog post scenario, what could I really say about myself or Kourtney K. that would change their minds about what they wrote? Better to let it be and have everything blow over until the next celebrity parent scandal.

The feedback I got from my blog post was definitely not constructive; however, there are some occasions when comments may be hurtful but they still deserve a response. The key to generating a successful customer service response is to remain professional and make sure you are expressing empathy. Use facts to explain a situation, and don’t try to diminish the customer’s anger over something. Don’t get overly defensive; you can share your true thoughts later to your best friend or, better yet, take a deep breath and let it go.

I like to save my more generic responses and then cater them to individuals. It can be a lot of work to generate an effective response and it is helpful to have templates.

You can also ask a couple of people to read your response over and provide feedback; but you don’t want your answers to be overly polished to the point where they seem fake.

A lesson that I’ve learned the hard way is that you should always move the conversation to a more private space, such as your DMs (direct messages). Yes, it is possible that your customer will screenshot your messages – always write with this in mind – but it is less likely. Keeping things public gives additional bait to the customer to continue his or her public criticism.

Another point: some criticism is good. It means that people are so deeply invested in your brand that they have a powerful emotion about something. If everyone is indifferent, that is bad news.  In the case of this Kardashian blog post – holy cow – I was like 24 years old and receiving national attention. (Not to toot my own horn … that may have been my peak as a writer!)

If the hate is weighing on you, take a break and reconnect with the real world. Take it from me: a 15-minute walk in sunlight can be completely mood-altering.


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