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Tips for Handling Negative Comments and Trolls on Social Media

Some of us are more sensitive than others. Make a negative comment and some people will break into tears. Some will take it on board and modify their behavior. Others will turn into an attack dog and bite right back.Tips for Handling Negative Comments and Trolls on Social Media

If you are a business then that approach is maybe not optimal if your brand is the target of the negative comment.

In the past, customers could only complain in a fairly private manner, either via phone call, within the storefront, or by letters.

Today, many businesses have second thoughts about joining the social media world because they are afraid of the potential for negative comments. Instead of missing out on one of the best marketing tools available, businesses can be prepared to handle the negativity that is likely to come their way.

The fact is, the negativity is likely already happening, but without a presence on social media sites, these companies have no way to combat it.

Taking a proactive presence on social media will allow you to respond and have a better chance of controlling your brand image online.

4 Social Media  Monitoring and Management Tips

Before you engage in any responses to complaints, consider the following general policies as a guidelines to how you monitor and manage your handling of negative comments and complaints.

  1. Track all complaints (this can be done internally or externally by a “community manager”)
  2. Respond quickly in public
  3. Stay positive publicly
  4. Deal with details privately

This will assist you in stopping minor issues becoming a major public relations disaster.

Valid Complaints and Trolls

Negative comments come in two main types: Valid complaints and Trolls. Real complaints are problems that customers are having with your products or services that you need to address.

Valid Complaints

When a valid customer complaint shows up on one of your social media sites, take action quickly.

  1. First, document the comment in case it ends up being deleted so that you can keep track of the conversation.
  2. Take some time to think through a response. Don’t take the comment personally. The customer has had a frustrating experience with your product and is seeking you out, giving you a second chance.
  3. Handle the issue with tact and respect

If you take this assertive and positive approach you will most likely gain your customer’s trust and continued loyalty and they will become a a raving fan.


Trolls are a type of public spam that is usually illicit and unrelated to your business. Their language is strong and emotive and it is designed to get you to react. If you respond they win.

They are hunting for attention and gain their energy by eliciting a response on a public forum that they don’t deserve. Usually they don’t have a large social network audience of their own but are relying on your social networks to leverage and amplify the message.

So, don’t give them oxygen , don’t let them use your social media channels to use as a pulpit to scream from and delete them immediately.


When you respond, use a respectful and even playful tone to keep the mood light and friendly. Admit that you messed up. Use your customer service policy here: the customer is always right (unless it is a completely unfounded complaint). Publicly send an apology on the social media site because you are dealing with more than just that one customer. Privately contact the customer who complained and fix the specific problem by giving a discount or some benefit that fits the problem.

Next, share how your business plans to fix the problem in the future. Explain with the appropriate amount of detail what went wrong and what you have done to fix the problem for all of your customers. The more transparent you are here, the more trust you will gain from your customers.

Although every situation will be different, if you learn how to respond appropriately and effectively to negative comments on social media sites, your customers will be happy to support you even more.

What About You?

How do you handle negative comments or complaints? Have you had a troll turn up on your social networks?

I look forward to hearing your stories in the comments below.

Guest Author: Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing and web related topics. She writes for PrintPlace.com and other companies.


Want to Learn How to Market and Manage Your Business and Brand on Social Networks?

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  • I have a client who picked up a troll from LinkedIn. We just didn’t approve of his remarks. He replied a second time and we didn’t approve that one either. He left. I’m not sure we handled it correctly, but he wasn’t nice.

    Ann Mullen who recently published Outbound and Inbound–How Can an
    Inbound Marketing Coach Can Help? at http://bit.ly/RIuhNn

  • Great post. I’d add that it is important to have real service agents plugged in so real issues can be responded to quickly rather than redirected.

  • MaryJ

    At first I worried about these rude or negative comments, but now I respond in a positive and professional manner.

  • @SooSooSees

    Someone encouraged others to weigh in on whether I was hiding something in one of my videos. I responded that the interview was about actor John Schneider, not me. No one else responded and that person went away.

  • Hi Jeff,

    I always SMILE before responding.

    Puts me into a light, playful vibe, so I resonate strongly with you.

    I remind myself, the negative comment has nothing to do with me. Sure, I might have screwed up, but the negative take is the individual’s frustrated perception..so I know I can respond without being upset or angry.

    Since I am human I get pissed at times…which leads me to the blessing or working online, where we have a 10 second, 10 minute or 1 hour buffer we can build up, between reading a comment, cooling down and THEN responding 😉

    Thanks for sharing Jeff!


    • Great tips, especially the SMILE. 🙂 And I think it’s a very valuable tip you give for waiting to respond until you calm down. Thanks for sharing!

  • geofflivingston

    I find with the trolls it’s best to give one quick answer, factual, and leave it at that. If it’s repeat performance, no oxygen, no anything. It’s the corner office with glass windows and nothing else for them.

  • Hey Jeff, should you simply delete Troll comments? Is that not the best thing to do for an unrelated, off-topic attack at your brand?

    • If it is abusive and hunting for a response that has no validity the answer is”Yes” delete.

  • Negative comments are part of the game. If you want to play social, at one time or another you’ll have negative comments.

  • TheOtherRosie

    If Twitter would add an option that allowed us to block the followers of someone we’ve blocked that would help a lot with trolls&negative comments.

  • TheOtherRosie

    The biggest problem I’ve had on twitter as a woman of faith is groups of atheists attacking like a school of pirranha, without my doing or saying anything to them.

    • If the comments are only harmful and not helping anyone, then you can probably get away with deleting them. However, you will want to leave some and respond. If you remain positive in your responses, then people will disregard the commenter as a bully rather than a reliable source.

  • Well said! These guidelines will even help KFC India to regain its Good Online Reputation after the Worm Issue

    @jeffbullas:disqus & @tarahornor:disqus .. What if the complaints which we get are not worthy to be spoken in a public.. If we answer them we have to address every such worthless issues. And each of our responses will be noticed by other customers. This may even lead to loose our Reputation. Instead can’t we just neglect or delete the post or even make a deal with the customer in private after deleting his post ??

    • Yes, I think that for the ones that need to be dealt with in private, you should definitely delete the comment and go offline to deal with it.

  • gohardtiggers

    I have had ppl send me DM’s saying someone is saying terrible things about me l tell them it is SPAM, but how do l find out who they are and what they are saying. Ty Rod

    • It is all spam…no one is saying bad things about you. It’s just a ploy to get you to click on the link so they can garner information from you.

  • Megan

    Any advice on responding to questions about your business? For example, we’ve had a few customers who have realized that we give different discounts to different groups of people and they want to know why they dont get the best promotion when they are good customers.

    • Simply explain your policy. Be honest and open and, if possible, explain how they can become part of these groups.

  • You bring up a great point that businesses and individuals should take negative comments and trolls on a case-by-case basis.

  • I would reply generically to the customer and invite them to contact you privately so that you can work with them to fix the problem, for example: “We greatly apologize for your mistake. Would you please contact us at business@email.com so that we can discuss further how to repair this issue?”

  • Not a bad idea!

  • Nice! Thanks so much for sharing…this is an excellent example of how to treat trolls.

  • I run a few blogs and profile for a for-profit online school and for every 1,000 positive comments we get, there is always that one troll comment that everyone else seems to see. I usually try to check in with the troll via private message and see how I can make their experience better. I’ve had good luck. I do my best to celebrate and thank the positive commenters (publicly) and use my street cred as a social media manager to act as a messenger back to my support team for the ticked off ones. They wrote us for a reason, the least I can do is say sorry “I’ll try to get to the bottom of it”. Your reply alone makes a difference to someone who feels as if they are getting nowhere with your brand.

  • Thanks Mike for the insight and pickup on that error!

  • I have a troll who used to visit my blog monthly to attack me for days – that was when I would respond to him. Now I hear from him a couple times a year. He develops a new name and email address, but complains about the same thing. I respond as if I don’t know who he is, I remain polite and share my commenting policy (i.e. my blog isn’t a place for him to attack me or my readers), I then blacklist him.

    Once I stopped getting upset and just handled it professionally and respectfully while setting boundaries, it seemed to take the wind out of his sail. The first time I blacklisted him, he raged at me via email and when I didn’t respond, he apologized and begged me to allow him to comment again. That’s when I finally realized that I was feeding his hysteria by getting upset.

    I wish I would have had this email a year ago – LOL 🙂

  • Jessica

    I’m going to launch my forum http://www.phonepartworld.com go live and be active. Any advice on it regarding new users?

  • Thanks for this piece, you’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. However, I do wish that the fact that the majority of abuse women face online is highly sexist, and often very scary . And it would have been great to see some advice for this sort of abuse – something I have recently been researching around – to be mentioned, to make the advice more relevant to the realities of gendered abuse online. Points like ‘start an offline conversation’ aren’t particularly helpful if your attacker has randomly found your profile picture on twitter and decided you are a ‘slut [he] wants to rape’. Also advising people to think about ‘how they present themselves online’ ignores the realities of a lot of abuse that takes place, which is based on your identity (race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, etc) – sure, if I didn’t say I was a woman, I may get less abuse, but is that the solution? I do really think there’s some useful stuff in here, and it’s important not to panic, respond to attackers, etc, but I think that the nature of abuse really varies, and when its identity based (which is most often is) the issue becomes a lot more complex.
    Also, relying on social media policies is difficult, particularly when you look at their attitudes towards gender-based abuse. For example, Facebook lets numerous pro-rape pages or rape jokes go unchecked, but censors pictures women consensually put up of themselves. I suppose the point is that while these neutral options do exist, the identities of the people involved at the nature of the attack means that the response to it – personally and by social media – can vary.

  • well If Twitter add an option that allow us to block the followers of someones we’ve blocked then it will be easy to get rid out of this.
    this site have some instagram info similar to this http://www.dritteliga.net

  • Peter S

    those are some useful tips on how to treat trolls, basically i go by with the usual dont feed the troll.


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