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How should I handle negative reactions from people online? Do I respond, ignore, block, or delete?

“You have enemies? Good…” — we’ve all heard the famous quote, initially by Victor Hugo and often misattributed to Winston Churchill. And while the quote is empowering, negative feedback can be overwhelming in the age of social media — especially when you know that people who are interesting in your organization are reading those comments online. So what do you do about negative feedback?

The options appear simple enough:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Delete it (if possible)
  3. Respond angrily
  4. Respond kindly

And the truth is, there isn’t one action that’s fit for all situations. But deciding how to respond takes a level of nuance that some strategies can help determine the best course of action for. Some things to consider before you respond include the tone of the comment, an honest opinion on whether the comment was justified, and, most important, the effect your response will have on your overall audience.

Overall, it is always best to respond to any criticism in a measured, rational tone. Those who write angry comments tend to lose legitimacy. If you feel upset while responding, let someone who’s head is clearer take the responsibility, or give it 30 minutes to cool off.

How to Respond to Positive and Negative Online Conversation

Generally speaking, a rule of thumb is that if the comment is actionable, justified, and not overly aggressive, it’s always best to respond. When comments don’t fit that mold is when it becomes more difficult to develop a response. To help strategize, Dell has created a useful and timeless infographic which can help you decide whether or not to respond to negative feedback online.

Finding the comments to begin with is also an important part of this process. You can use tools like Radian6 or another social listening tool to find criticism online.

When considering removing comments online, remember that it may always be rewritten with the same account or under a new pseudonym if the platform allows for it. Removing comments should be reserved only for the rare case that the user 1) has no credibility to begin with and 2) is being disruptive to other people’s experience of finding information about your organization. If the comment appears to be from a troll, remember that these types of users feed off your response, and deleting comments counts as a response. Where possible, simply ignore.


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