Ten ways charities can manage negativity on social media

One of the biggest upsides to social media is that it gives you unmediated access to your fans and supporters, helping you to build longlasting relationships and facilitating open and honest two-way conversations. But as anyone who’s spent any time managing a social media community will know, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Social media also offers consumers a platform to voice their opinions, complaints and frustrations. When these frustrations go unheard and questions are left unanswered, customers can quickly turn into critics or, worse, trolls.

Trolls hold grudges and social media gives them a platform to vent and influence others’ opinions and perceptions of brands and businesses. Simply ignoring the troll can sometimes make matters worse.

Every case is different, but here are ten ways to neutralise negative comments on social.

Be prepared.

As an organisation, you may have more than one person managing your social media accounts. As such, it’s important to establish in-house policy and procedures up front to determine how negative feedback will be handled.

Be vigilant.

You want to be the first to read both positive and negative comments made about your brand so that you can start valuable conversations and mitigate the risk of critics turning into trolls. Start by using free services like Google Alerts to be notified when your brand is mentioned online. You can also use online social listening tools to monitor real-time conversations and keep track of what’s being said about your charity and by whom.

Accept that you can’t please everyone.

You’ll quickly learn that not everyone will have positive things to say about your charity and negative comments can be difficult to deal with. Just remember to take a deep breath and don’t take things personally. They’re not upset with YOU.

State your rules.

On forums like Reddit and Facebook Groups, you can list house rules clearly on the page. This reminds customers how to behave on the forum and how to engage with the brand and each other. It’s also a good fallback to point to if a conversation starts to get out of hand.

Engage the critic publicly.

Don’t simply ignore or delete the negative comment. It makes you look guilty and can backfire. Once you’ve spoken to the critic offline or in private, craft a public response and reply to the original post/comment.

Take the conversation offline.

A simple response to the critic’s original post is all that needs to be public to show others that you have actively engaged. Once that’s taken care of, it’s time to take the conversation offline or to a private message. This gives you a chance to really get to the bottom of the complaint without creating an extended public thread that others may view and potentially add to.

Listen.

Most of the time the critic just wants to be heard. It’s important to listen to their feedback if it’s useful and could improve the way you deliver your services. But, if it’s blatant hatred or abuse, simply remind the critic of the house rules and politely warn them that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

Offer compensation (where necessary).

Apologise and offer compensation, especially if the organisation is at fault or has made a mistake that can be easily fixed. A generous and genuine act of kindness can turn your critics into ambassadors and change the way they think about your charity.

Stay in control.

Trolls want to engage in a war of words. Don’t let them take control of the conversation and influence others on the thread. If their accusations and complaints are false or without merit, you can ban them from your page or exclude troll accounts from seeing your content. However, this should really only be used as a last resort.

Reward the positive comments.

While you may get hung up on the negative comments, remember that you will also have a flood of positive comments too. So, reward them and encourage more of it. Not only could they become loyal advocates and ambassadors, they will more than likely defend your brand against trolls as well.

Five quick tips for identifying a troll:

  1. Trolls are anonymous. Click to see their profile and you won’t find very much about them. They create multiple profiles to lurk the internet and use throwaway email addresses and proxy servers
  2. Trolls are rude. From the minute they comment, they do not add value to the conversation. They simply try and get a rise out of you and your followers.
  3. Trolls don’t pay attention to spelling or grammar. You’ll notice that they’re online etiquette is poor. They’ll misspell words and make mistakes without correcting them. They simply don’t care.
  4. Trolls are online bullies. Without prompt, they will pick on a random stranger or worse, your brand.
  5. Trolls use profanity. Trolls like to shock people and will use profanity to do so. They are online vandals and will flood your forum until they get bored or are stopped.