Trolls: Dealing with Negative Comments Online

Today, we’re discussing another very important topic of consideration when managing a Social Media page for your businesses… the dreaded negative comments! First and foremost, It’s extremely important to know you absolutely cannot just ignore it. Take a moment, do your best to remove emotion from the moment (we understand someone just called your baby ugly and you’re not happy), and respond in the professional and common-sense way you’d reply if the customer was standing right in front of you. This is important for two big reasons:

  1. This is your customer and you worked hard to earn their business. Find out what happened and keep earning it!
  2. You’re not just replying to THIS person, you are also replying to everyone else who may find this comment (after-all, it is public and anyone can find it). This is your opportunity to resolve the issue, or set the record straight.

However, From this point on we’ll address one very unfortunate (but sadly common) phenomenon on the internet known as “trolling”.

Trolling vs. Real Concerns

A “troll” is a user who deliberately posts inflammatory content online for the sole purpose of making people angry. This is not a joke, these people actually exist! It is quite common for trolls to post comments that are contextually irrelevant (e.g. visiting a restaurant’s Facebook page and posting hateful political opinions). The lesson here is to discern between a troll and a customer who may have genuinely had a bad experience.

Investigate All Negative Comments

How do you know if a comment is truly an issue which needs addressing, or a Troll? There are a number of tell-tale characteristic behaviors that will reveal what type of person you are dealing with. A customer who is upset for a valid reason will generally calm down after you start a conversation with them and sincerely take their concerns seriously. A troll, on the other hand, will continue posting negative content… often ignoring your responses, or respond to you with sarcasm & insults. If you are met with this type of reply, DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!

How to Respond

Make sure you post a short response (publicly) and ask to communicate with the customer privately. You might, for instance, ask them to send you a private message on Facebook with their phone number so you can speak further about their issue. This is done so that, no matter what, you can show “on record” that you responded. You need for other customers, or potential customers, to see you investigate complaints within a very short time. If a negative comment is a true statement (not troll), posting your sincere apology with a way to swiftly fix the situation will almost always defuse the situation.

If a statement is false (possibly troll), assume that the person made an honest mistake. For example, you might post “Sorry, but our restaurant does not serve that particular food item.” or “We are sorry that you had a bad experience, but it appears that your comment is referring to a different place.” (Obviously, you should be absolutely certain that a comment is false before responding in this manner!). You never know… it could have truly been an accident.

You may run into situations where a commenter continues to complain after your response. That’s ok—the key is to show a public response, and quickly. Once you know you are dealing with a real troll, walk away. Absolutely do not respond to further comments. And whatever you do, don’t argue! Post your initial response and then stop. If someone is just unhappy with their dining experience, they will accept your offer to communicate with them privately to get it resolved. Trolls are not interested in solutions—they just want attention.

2 quick final things:

  1. Do not engage privately in a way you wouldn’t do publicly. Just because it’s a private conversation, they can easily copy/paste your response and publicly chastise you with your won words. Again… act as if they are standing in front of you.
  2. Once the issue is resolved, or you both realized it was a mistake, don’t hesitate to ask them to revise or remove their review. It’s a valid ask and they should be more than happy to comply

Hi, I’m Travis Ford, owner of Rock Harbor Marketing, a Digital Marketing Agency on California’s Central Coast. I welcome opinions, helpful critiques and comments of admiration. Leave me one here, Follow us on Facebook, or tweet me and we can chat further. As always… I like to end each post with a long sip on my cup of coffee and an exuberant “Ahhhhhhhhhhh”.

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