Social media haters: what to do when people say mean things on Facebook or Twitter

When I’m helping clients set up their social media platforms, one of the most common questions I get asked concerns crisis management. What do we do when people leave horrible comments? they ask, nearly always. They’re really scared of opening up the possibility for disgruntled clients or customers or nasty members of the general public to say something bad about them.

So far the only disgruntled client comments I’ve had have been from hungry bellies
wondering when the chocolate cake will be served at our workshops.

My answer usually goes something like this:

First of all, I tell them that if people have complaints about your business, they’ll very likely talk about you online anyway, on their own profiles or platforms or wherever, so you’re definitely better off having an online presence so that they can talk about you where you can see them and and do something about it.

Next, I tell them that they’d be surprised at how infrequently this happens. I’ve worked with all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries over the years and do you know how many have come back and actually said somebody had commented nastily on their Facebook page or sent them a mean tweet? None. Not one! That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. And in certain industries, of course, it’s more likely to happen than others. I’m talking about unnecessarily nasty stuff, not just a complaint about service or product with some kind of legitimate (or at least vaguely reasonable) cause.

But, if it happens, then I tell them that the best strategy is not to engage with the content of the comment online, but to politely thank them and give them a way to take it further offline (like giving them a way to contact you by email or phone so you can talk to them privately). I’ve always said that deleting the comment is likely to get them further annoyed and do it again, whereas if you’ve acknowledged them and given them an opportunity to continue the conversation elsewhere then they look pretty stupid if they keep commenting. The other bonus of a social media community, assuming you’ve kind of been taking care of them, is that your advocates/fans will often jump in and tell them to shut up, basically!

(It’s probably better not to use Basil Fawlty’s methods of dealing with complaints, as in this video …)

However, at the Problogger Event I heard a different answer from two very experienced people – Amy Porterfield (my favourite Facebook guru) and Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs. Amy started off saying that she used to say pretty much exactly what I’ve just said – but that recently she’s changed her mind. Kind of to my surprise, she says these days if nasty comments come up on her page – people who have said nothing constructive but just nasty or hateful things – she just deletes them – and bans them from the page! Trey Ratcliff agreed although he had a great alternative if you were after some more fun – let them stay on and “your community will have great fun tearing them apart!”

So basically, it’s up to you. Reply or delete – that’s the two basic choices – but the best news is that for most of you, you’ll never actually have to decide.

But have you ever had anyone leave a nasty comment? What did you do?

2 Replies to “Social media haters: what to do when people say mean things on Facebook or Twitter”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *