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From the author of Responding to Online Comments

Dealing with Negative Comments

So what do you do if you come across negative comments out there on the social web? It's your choice how you should respond, if at all.

One way to deal with negative comments is simply to remove them, if you can. You have this option in many media – on your company blog, for example, and even on your Facebook page. While some might feel that deleting unwanted comments is censorship, if it’s on your page you have that option. You don’t have to accept unwanted guests to your party, after all.

You don’t always have the option of removing negative comments, of course – especially when they appear on someone else’s page or site. You may not even want to remove said comments from your own page; many company’s prefer to present a more open image.

In this instance, sometimes the better part of valor is to simply walk away. Rather than engaging hostile commenters and turning the encounter into a full-fledged flame war (which you can never win), it might be better to let the comments stand without response. Eventually the hatemongers will grow tired of being ignored and cease their troublesome postings.

That's not to say you should pretend that negative comments don't exist; even the most virulent comments can prove useful for designing new products or formulating marketing campaigns. After all, if you know what some people don't like, that can help guide you producing something they do.

A better way to deal with negative comments is to deal with them head on – by responding directly to the disaffected commenters. Most social media let you add your own responses to any comments left by others; this can be a good forum for exchanging views and opinions with your customer base.

You also need to respond positively, even to the most negative comments. (This is why I like assigning this task to the marketing department, which should also have the company’s best image in mind.) Don't be defensive, and certainly don't be offensive; don't resort to name-calling or other insults. You need to be the adult in what might otherwise be a childish situation. Be professional, be calm, be cool, be collected. Don't let yourself get angry.

There's a certain amount of acceptance involved in all this. You simply can't control everything that people say about you, no matter how much you (or upper management) might like to. You're always going to have some people saying bad things about your company, your products, and even your people. You simply can't take it personally.

To participate in today’s world of social media, you have to accept that negative comments exist and learn to live with them. A thick skin is a must, but it also helps to develop an understanding of how people use the Internet to amplify both their legitimate and petty complaints. Remember, as a company you are a lot bigger than any single complaint or complainer. Be the grown-up in the room, and try to turn negatives into positives. It can be done.

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