Back to News

May 4, 2016

Handling Social Media’s Negative Side

By Michelle Scheuermann

Uh-oh, a quick review of your social media accounts tells you the dreaded “Pitchfork Nation” has visited your pages. They left a mess in their wake, with comments unflattering to your business. You know what you want to do, especially when you know the criticisms are unfounded and the comments are otherwise rude, but what should you do as a business owner or professional?

I handle a few social media accounts in the outdoor space. One in particular, for whatever reason, excites the vehemently anti-hunter, anti-gun celebrity Ricky Gervais every now and then — and when that happens, boy do I see the dark side of social media.

I’m not going to lie, seeing and dealing with these comments will put me in a funk. So before I get into how to deal with the comments, let’s talk about how to keep your sanity on social media.

  1. Realize It Is Not About You

    • People can be vile on social media because of the platform’s relative anonymity. It’s easy to scream, shout and vent from a computer keyboard. So, while you feel an attack on your store or range is a direct reflection of you personally, much of the time it really isn’t. For the sites I handle, I’ve learned to step outside of my ego and view the situation from 30,000 feet — in other words, as if a passive bystander. It helps to separate fact from emotion.
  2. Accept That You Can’t Please Everyone

    • If you are like most retailers, your motto is “The customer is always right.” You also probably know that some customers simply can’t be pleased — under any circumstance and no matter what you do. Accept it and move on.
  3. Monitor, But Don’t Let It Rule Your Life

    • Day-to-day operations shouldn’t include constant monitoring of your social media properties. Luckily, some, such as Facebook, offer settings to help your business reduce the attention they need.

Now that you’ve taken a deep breath and are looking at the situation from 30,000 feet, you’re in a better position to make a plan that works for you when it comes to handling the negative.

  1. Facebook Settings

    • As I alluded to in No. 3, go to your business page’s “Settings” tool and click on “General.” Scroll down and you’ll see a “Profanity Filter.” Set accordingly. Right above that is another option called “Page Moderation.” This is where you can filter out certain words — I’ll let you use your imagination here. By doing these two things, any comment or post that contains these words will not be seen on your site. Also under “General” is an option called “Visitor Posts.” If you get in a situation where the Pitchfork Nation is attacking you, this tool provides you the option to immediately shut down the ability for those parties to post to your page. You can also shut down comments to posts in this area. Just keep in mind that to enable any of these options you need to be a designated Admin on the Facebook page you are monitoring.
  2. Enlist Help

    • It literally takes a village on social media sometimes. To keep your sanity, enlist the help of a few key staff whose judgment you trust when working with your company’s social media. In other words, you know they won’t become emotionally invested in the comments and spew negativity back at those posters under your store name, which we all know just makes matters worse. On Facebook, these staff members can be a “Moderator,” which means they can comment as you and delete comments, or you can upgrade them to “Editor,” which means they can also make fresh posts.
  3. Separate The Negative From The Hateful

    • Customers do often have legitimate complaints, be they about your store, your staff or a product you’ve sold them. If they decide to vent their frustrations via social media, versus emailing or calling you, don’t ignore them. In fact, the worst thing you can do is leave complaints or poor reviews unanswered. Message that person on Facebook (presuming that’s where the complaint originated and follow up to help correct the situation. Once the situation is rectified, ask them to either remove their comment or change their rating on your page (for something like a Yelp review).
  4. “Delete” “Block” Can Be Your Best Friends

    • If you’ve determined a comment is truly hateful in nature, then delete the comment and block the user. I have a zero-tolerance policy on all the social media accounts I handle when it comes to unstructured, over-the-top and hateful behavior. These posters can be trolls, and sometimes they are part of an organized “anti” group working specifically to harass you. Delete the comments, block the user and move on. Doing so is especially effective on Instagram, where I notice more out-of-country folks will throw in their two cents on how we do things in good ol’ America. On Instagram, before deleting a comment, you will need to ban the user by clicking on their name. In the upper right side of their page, click on the three dots, which will open a menu that will allow you to “block user.” Next, to delete the comment, you must click on all the comments, find the offensive post and slide to the left. From there “delete” will pop up. Instagram will ask you to report it and, depending on its offensiveness, you might consider it. Facebook has similar reporting functions for its posts.
  5. Don’t Rely On Your Facebook Fans To Help

    • You might notice many positive comments on a recent post, but then one hateful comment pops up and, suddenly, your fans are attacking that person. This is not good. While your fans’ hearts are in the right place, you have to look at the experience — specifically the experience a customer that might be in your store — being created virtually on your page. At the same time, you will need to differentiate between worthwhile discussions and unwarranted attacks. Good, intelligent discussion should always be welcome, but if it looks like the conversation’s going downhill, you might reply directly in the comments to the person steering things in the wrong direction, ask others to discontinue engaging, and then drop it.
  6. Think Before Engaging

    • I know your first reaction is to fight back when you’re being attacked. But think twice before engaging on your business page, even if you’re in the right. I’ve seen too many times where engaging in conversation with people who ripped their “facts” from Buzzfeed goes nowhere. You can try to quote Aldo Leopold or Theodore Roosevelt or show stats from the latest NSSF campaign on gun safety, but for some it will fall on deaf ears. Why? Because they simply don’t care. They are the pot-stirrers, and all they want to do is create a bad experience on your social media accounts to raise the awareness of Facebook bots. (Yes, bots exist to monitor Facebook activity.)
    • Please heed my words regarding this last sentence. Think about Facebook’s reasons for existence: networking, staying in touch with friends and family and business, to name a few. There’s also an entertainment value for many. Recall that in the first part of this post that I said one of my clients irks a certain celebrity? Twice my client has had their Facebook page taken down by Facebook due to the nastiness. The last time, Facebook said it was because users weren’t having a good experience on their page. Can that suspension hurt your business? Of course it can.
  7. Resist The Urge To Wear Your Hate Comments Like A Badge Of Honor

    • An unfortunate trend I’m noticing in social media is that some pages seem to be taking joy in sharing hateful words. They’ll take something derogatory and then repost it, saying, “Hey folks, did you see what this clown said?” Trust me, this gets you nowhere.
    • If you are looking for support, email me and we can host a pity party for two because trust me, I feel your pain. But never, ever will I post on my clients’ pages the torrent of hate they sometimes receive. You have to have a standard, and you have to set the tone for others — which is reason enough you shouldn’t do this. In other words, take the high road.

Finally, my last word of advice when it comes to social media is that we should support one another. Work on creating a positive experience on your page for your employees and customers and help others do the same. Your virtual store experience you present through social media should mirror the one you promote in person. Keeping this consistency in mind can help you find your balance when it comes to fending off the Pitchfork Nation.

You may also be interested in:Instagram Part I — How to Pair This Vivid Platform with 5 Social Media Apps To Boost Your Business

About the Author
Michelle Scheuermann is the owner of BulletProof Communications, LLC. Check out  listen to her own industry podcast, “Back at the Lodge.”