My favorite t-shirt is one that I bought from woot.com many years ago. It’s a simple grey t-shirt with a drawing of a young Shakespeare look-a-like with the words “Those who hate shall hate henceforth.”
Haters gonna hate.
No matter what your business or nonprofit is marketing, someone will have an opinion about it. Make the best potato chips in the world? (I’m looking at you, Paprika Pringles!) Someone is going to tell you that they taste like bird feces. Rescue baby kittens from burning buildings? Someone is going to tell you that you’re contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.
Your nonprofit or small business may deal with sensitive or controversial issues that spark commentary. Or not. You don’t have to work within a controversial field to garner criticism or “hateration.” But if you are going to use social media, blogs, or review sites as part of your marketing plan, you need to have a response plan for negative comments.
So how should you handle the haters when they spit their hate on your organization’s website or social media accounts?
There’s no blanket formula for responding to negative feedback or comments. The type of feedback, the platform, and your company’s tone online must all be considered. Here are a few kinds of feedback and what you can do about it:
Someone used your product or service and had a less than positive experience they wanted to share with you and/or the world. In these instances, we think it’s important to leverage “social listening,” that is, listening to what people are saying about your brand and respond positively. When the comments or reviews are public, “the world is watching” and what you say and how you react will leave an impression on future customers, clients, partners, and donors.
Some comments may be from followers/lurkers/passersby who don’t agree with something you shared or believe. These comments are a little trickier to deal with. Engage, and you can start a public fight on your social media page. Ignore it, and you can be viewed as 1. Being out of touch with your social media and/or 2. Being complicit and not standing up for your beliefs. The latter can be especially dangerous as a nonprofit organization or social enterprise. When people support you by becoming volunteers, donors, patrons, etc., they also consider your other values. Your social media presence is a way that you can publicly “stand up” for or disavow a cause, belief, or injustice.
Hate for Hate’s Sake
There was a scene in the Christian Bale Batman franchise where Alfred says, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” I think this is true when it comes to trolls. Some people just want to hate on stuff, just cause. And in this instance, what can you do? Not much. We’ve talked about this before, and the end result is you can’t change a troll. It is what it is. But for all the other types of negative feedback, there are a few things you can do.
Ways To Deal With Negative Feedback Online
If there’s an opportunity to do so, as with a negative experience, try to understand the whole issue. Politely encourage the commenter a chance to tell their story in a less public arena (e.g., DMs, emails, etc.).
Stand Your Ground.
Don’t feel that because “the customer is always right,” you have to give in. Sometimes the customer is wrong. Or sometimes, the customer just doesn’t agree with how you run your business. That’s okay. You can apologize that they feel the way they do and politely state your stance/policy, and then leave it at that. Maybe even offer them a way to reach out to someone internally if they have more concerns.
Block. Ignore. Hide. Delete.
Each platform has different options, including anything from blocking or muting users to hiding and deleting comments. Users or comments that violate the platform’s terms of service can often be reported and, in some cases, banned from the platform. Some social media experts say you should never delete negative comments. I say, “Never say never.” There’s a time and place for everything, and some vitriol is too toxic to be left alone.
If you choose to respond to the hater publicly, we always recommend authenticity over anger. The hater may have said or done something egregious, but as Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Sometimes they want compensation or want something to change. Not all negative feedback is 100% negative. There may be an opportunity for you or your team to learn something that will improve the experience for all customers.It’s not always easy dealing with Haters, but if you’re doing any sort of online marketing, you are bound to come across some negative feedback. But don’t let that feedback get you down. Deal with it. Learn from it. And handle it – just don’t ignore it. When organizations don’t respond to negative feedback, they look complacent or nonchalant. Don’t be that guy.
Get In Touch
If you need help managing your social media accounts, let us know. New Why manages social media for businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and corporations across the country. Contact us to learn more about our social media consulting and management services.