Ah, yes, social media. A terrifying place where faceless trolls roam free, stomping around with their big, smelly feet and sucking all the positivity out of the world. Instead of rainbows, cat videos and ultrasound photos, trolls ensure plenty of negativity and feed on commented arguments, all-caps words and the angry face emoji. It’s all in a day’s work for these faceless trolls, and they don’t clock out until they have sufficiently suppressed all positivity.
And while trolls aren’t the only problem on social media (there are plenty of Naysayer Nicks and Negative Nancies), they are certainly one of the largest. Negative, troll-worthy comments on social media pages, which can include anything from a cause you’re supporting to your business’ page, can dampen the livelihood and suck all the positive vibes out of a conversation. Since we all know what happens on the internet most definitely stays on the internet (forever...and ever...and ever…), ignoring these comments will only add fuel to the fire.
So, what can a business (or page) owner do? How can little old you conquer the big, smelly, slimy, wart-covered faceless trolls all the way down to the Naysayer Nicks and Negative Nancies? Lucky for you, we’re the rootinest, tootinest troll slayers around. Keep reading and learn how you can be a troll-slayer, too.
Today, Google, Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram and a slew of other websites are available for customers to rate and comment about businesses online. That means if a customer has a bad experience, you (and the entire interwebs) will probably hear about it.
Sprout Social found that one bad experience needs 12 positive experiences to make up for the negative interaction. That means if you don’t address a negative comment, you’re never getting that customer back. Ever. The same study found that 88% of consumers say unaddressed complaints on social media make them less likely to buy or return to your business. So, we’ll say it again for effect—you must respond!
But how? When? And for the love of all things marketing, how do you make it stop? The painful reality is there will always be internet trolls and negativity. But, if you respond quickly and effectively, you’ll deal with fewer trolls and negative folks over time.
You need a plan of action for defusing or handling upset customers or when negativity crosses the line into harassment or threats. Yes, social media beef between celebrities, reality stars, politicians, and rappers is entertaining. But when it’s directed at your business, it can damage your reputation and throw a wrench into your marketing efforts.
1) Be a Positive Patty
Ever hear the saying, “You can’t polish a turd”? No? Just me? Well, contrary to (my own) popular belief, you can! You can turn negative feedback into a positive moment for your business. Engaging in a positive, constructive and empathetic way can show customers that you’re the real deal. Genuine responses humanize your business and show that you’re willing to be transparent with your customers, and that’s never a bad thing.
Customers won’t write you or your business off if they see a negative comment, but if you respond in a thoughtful and positive way, they will respect your business. We understand it’s no small feat to respond to trolls, naysayers or negativity in an overwhelmingly positive way. But one wrong comment from you, and not only are you down the rabbit hole, but you look bad as well.
The best advice I can give from personal experience is to take a step back from the keyboard, regroup, collect your thoughts and take a few breaths. Once you’re calm, get back in there and craft a polite and positive reply. Remember, it’s ok to be passionate about your business, but not so passionate you dig yourself into a hole with an intense response.
2) ...and an Honest Harry
Ok, I’ll admit, that title was a bit much, but I’m trying to make a point here. Many customers will be completely honest about their experience with your business. The honest, negative comments are easy to address (see above). But if the culprit is a troll that bases their reviews or comments on lies, that’s a different story.
Disarm your defense system (that’s you) and calmly reply with the correct information, like Apple did when it underwent attacks for a bendable iPhone 6, otherwise known as #bendgate. Apple replied to haters with the facts, and nothing more. We know trolls don’t care about the truth, but the rest of your customers and prospects do. Nip what you can in the bud far before there is any inkling of a rumor.
Respond in a positive, concise manner with just the facts and nothing more. Bottom line—keep it brief and don’t engage more than necessary.
3) Evoke LOL’s, Haha’s and Hehe’s (or try to)
We’re not talking about rude, crass or mean humor. We’re talking about witty, carefully crafted humor that not only humanizes your brand but can also defuse the situation.
When responding to trolls, your humor should always fit your brand. If your brand’s voice is austere or deadpan, humor may be a difficult sell. There’s nothing more difficult than a crappy joke that falls completely flat. So if funny isn’t your forte, use another strategy.
For example, the social team at Wendy’s (yes, the fast food chain) excels at creating clever, human and hilarious responses. Wendy’s used quick, funny responses when attacked for their, “Fresh, never frozen,” campaign. While this exact approach may not work for everyone, Wendy’s is reaping the benefits. Their social media pages trend quite a bit, and their responses encourage interaction, positive or otherwise.
George Takei, an actor, director and author best known for his role in Star Trek, has also mastered this approach. As a celebrity, trolls and negative comments frequent his social media. Instead of ignoring the comments, he uses what he does best—humor—to respond.
4) Engage Your Listening Ears...or Eyes
We don’t mean listen to the negative comments and cry yourself to sleep at night because the world is a cruel place (wow, that escalated quickly). We mean listen to what customers are saying and understand their point of view. This is free, unsolicited feedback from a real customer who has taken the time to tell you how they feel. Use this as an opportunity to learn about your customers and improve your brand, products or services—kind of like research.
If you’re dealing with a disgruntled consumer, think about why they’re venting on social media and how you can fix it. Customers who provide negative feedback publicly are giving you the chance to see how your brand can change for the better. And, if they’re just an unhappy customer, they will likely appreciate that you’re hearing them out and giving them a thoughtful response.
Remember how we said that it takes 12 positive interactions with a brand to cancel out one negative interaction or experience? If you thoughtfully respond, listen to the customer and make the changes they are asking for (if they are within reason, of course) or fix the problem, you can turn their frustration into brand loyalty.
If you’re dealing with a troll, the response won’t be as much for them as it will be for the rest of your followers and customers. Even trolls sometimes have useful feedback, so listen to what they have to say and respond. Your response to a troll shows them that you’re unaffected by their attack and may, in turn, discourage them from any future comments or attacks.
5) Bring in the Professionals
If all else fails, know that there are professionals out there who can help manage your accounts, field questions and formulate responses for you. If you are hiring social media experts or a digital marketing agency, make sure you develop clear and consistent social media policies regarding comments, responses, and any other interactions, so they are on the same page as you.
A marketing agency can respond to comments and manage any negativity, but don’t leave them to their own devices. Aside from general guidelines, check in on your accounts and continue to read comments and use the helpful information they may be revealing.
Trolls will be trolls. Take what they say with a grain of salt (and a very tiny grain, at that). Any other comments from disgruntled or displeased customers can and should be used as research to improve your brand. More importantly, don’t ignore these comments! If you always respond tactfully and employ these strategies, you’ll be a troll-slayer in no time.