HOW TO: DEAL SKILFULLY WITH NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON THE INTERNET

HOW TO: DEAL SKILFULLY WITH NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON THE INTERNET

Where there is light, there is also shadow! As a Marketing Manager, you do your best every day to let your business grow, to offer content with added value and to be positive overall. Unfortunately, not everyone on the Internet sees it that way, which is why there are always negative comments, criticism and sometimes real hatred and shitstorms. What is the right way to proceed in these cases?

Do not worry! Here you can find out how to correctly classify and possibly respond to comments on the Internet. Because criticism and constructive feedback are not bad at all, while other strategies are required for trolls and haters. We give you tips on how to proceed correctly. After that, we will go into more detail about review portals, which can be very important for companies, but also very complicated. You will also gain insights into applicable media law and the opinions of PR experts. This will prepare you to deal constructively with negativity online in the future.

First things first: Classify and answer comments correctly

If you see a negative comment on your blog or in your social media, your heart will surely slip into your pants at first. This is perfectly normal. But before you panic, it’s important to classify the comment correctly . Some contributions are critical, but at the same time constructive or at least interesting.

Completely negative or even hateful comments quickly trigger a shitstorm on social media, i.e. a whole mass of comments. This is a serious subject. As a victim, your focus should be on protecting yourself . Because a shitstorm is similar to a psychological trauma and can even end in post-traumatic stress disorders.

This means that you should seek help first. Get support from your team, but also from your group of friends or family. It often helps to refrain from social media for at least a few days and let the shitstorm pass .

It is also important that you do not answer in the heat of emotion, even if you make a few comments . It’s always best to take a deep breath and gain some space and time before reacting. You also always have the option of not responding or deleting the comment.

Here is an overview of the basic strategy for negative comments :

  1. Classify the comment : Is it a constructive, purely negative or even hateful comment?
  2.  Distance yourself: Take time to think with your team about the best way to respond to the comment.
  3. Formulate a reaction : You can reply to the comment, delete it orignore it. If you decide to answer, spacing is ideal.

But what to do if it really is a real shitstorm? To do this, we will first explain to you how the haters are typically organized. Then you will receive tips on how to deal with hateful comments on the Internet.

How are the Haters organized?

Shitstorms often affect politicians, companies with strong political opinions, and companies committed to a contentious issue. There is often a surprising amount of organization behind the shitstorm . These can be bored people hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. But “info warriors”, who often have a right-wing extremist political background, are also among the haters.

Covert campaigns can destroy, or at least cause significant damage to, businesses or political organizations. That is exactly the goal. Many haters organize themselves in secret groups on social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram . That means your business is often outnumbered. Even if you delete all comments, the haters are just faster. They keep an eye on everything, up to date, and share it with each other via push notifications.

There are also trolls who enjoy annoying companies and people. This is similar to bullying at school and at work and can also have drastic consequences. Trolls are often less organized and more solitary, but still very annoying.

 The right way to deal with hateful comments on social media

Basically, you should build a so-called “shitstorm resilience” . Even if you’ve never dealt with hateful comments, this is a useful exercise. You must not lose your fear of social media, because this is one of the most important sources of what your customers want. Instead, you can visit your online community to share ideas and show your appreciation to prevent shitstorms from happening in the first place.

Also, learn from other companies that are adept at dealing with trolls and haters. For example, the news site welt.de, which deals with conspiracy theorists and know-it-alls, is very good here. Welt’s social media editorial team always reacts to hateful comments in a humorous, cheeky and intelligent way. There is now a dedicated fan page for this on Facebook .


But sometimes all the preparation doesn’t help and you wake up one morning to hateful comments on your lovingly maintained social media profile or blog. Then the following tips will help you to proceed correctly:

Stay calm

Hateful comments usually only become really dangerous for your company when you make the wrong decisions. This is more common than you might think, as many people react with fear, reluctance, or ignorance when faced with completely unexpected negative emotions. This can result in a crisis situation that you actually want to avoid.

Therefore, it is important to first take a deep breath and remain calm . Analyze the comments and determine whether it is really a shitstorm or just individual haters. Important: Avoid hasty activism. That doesn’t mean that you have to passively sit out the crisis, but that you have to act carefully.

Don’t feed the troll

Even though trolls are often loners, their anger and time invested can trigger a shitstorm. The rule here is that you shouldn’t get involved in the debate . Avoid escalation by not giving the trolls and haters any more fodder. Instead, try to take the wind out of their sails.

manage the crisis

This is where preparation comes into play again: In order to deal with a crisis like a shitstorm quickly and efficiently, a company needs clearly defined shitstorm officers and a crisis plan.

Those responsible can then object and argue where this seems sensible and expedient. It is important to communicate at eye level, which can be done with a wink.

Delete comments

You can either answer or delete individual negative comments. If it is trolling or spam, in addition to deleting it, you also have the option of blocking the person concerned and reporting it to the network operator . This will protect other companies from being put in a similar situation with this person.

Document and secure evidence

You have the feeling that the shitstorm and the hateful comments are a personal campaign against you as a person? Many social media are in the legal gray area here, but you should still consider taking legal action against the operator or against the corresponding trolls.

It is important that you document the hate speech in detail, for example with screenshots and storage. This is how you secure evidence that will be helpful in a possible criminal proceeding. Remember to double and triple back your evidence . This applies in particular to unfounded insults and intentionally defamatory statements.

seek support

If the shitstorm gets worse, you also have the option of getting support. Among other things, there is the digital campaign “YouGeHa ” which specifically campaigns against intolerance on the internet . The Council of Europe initiated the No Hate Speech Movement, which can also provide you with important resources.

In addition, each social network has its own groups that fight against haters and promote a better culture of discussion. On Facebook, for example, this is the “IchBinHier” group. The “Initiative for Civil Courage Online” can also help. On YouTube, there is the “Not Egal” initiative against hate speech.

See the shitstorm as an opportunity

As difficult as the shitstorm is, it offers many opportunities. Because, among other things, you get a lot more attention here than with traditional marketing . Many potential customers will look closely at how you manage the crisis and how you communicate.

If you manage to cleverly resolve the shitstorm, answer cleverly and openly communicate any problems that may arise, you’ll be in control again . Your customers know that the shitstorm probably didn’t appear without a reason. Therefore, it is up to you to communicate publicly about what changes your company will make in the future. At the same time, of course, you can also talk about the fact that a shitstorm is not an appropriate reaction to events. Be transparent and credible , and your customers will remain loyal to you.

How to deal with hate on review sites

Rating portals are even more sensitive than social media, because bad feedback has a direct negative impact on your company. Surveys show that negative reviews not only lower a business’ GPA and ranking, but also have a long-term impact on the business. Poor ratings are reflected in a loss of sales in the short, medium and long term .

Experts advise addressing criticism directly with a counter -comment . You usually don’t manage to get the bad rating deleted or changed. But at least you can explain to future customers that this is not the standard they should expect from your company.

The following procedure is recommended for hateful or negative comments on rating portals:

  • Prepare yourself in good time by appointing those responsible in the company who will keep an eye on and manage the portals.
  • Respond quickly to criticism. This does not mean the same moment, but a same-day response is often advisable.
  • Take every review seriously and treat it with respect. In the case of obvious fake ratings, you can get support from the portal to enforce a deletion.
  • Never let yourself be provoked. Only respond to factual and never emotional allegations. Make sure you only communicate facts.
  • Communicate as equals and offer an explanation or even a solution to the problem.
  • sincerely apologize Most customers are already satisfied with this. Additionally, you can offer a discount or a new product as a replacement.
  • Find direct contact. This is particularly recommended for complicated topics that you would like to clarify in detail. Nevertheless, a publicly visible comment from you should also appear, for example with the offer to contact you.
  • Thank you also for positive comments and for positive feedback. It is important to maintain the rating page just as thoroughly as your social media, because here, too, customers can see which values ​​characterize your company.
  • Offer interesting added value. Maybe it’s a problem that already has a documentary film or an expert voice on it? You can link to it in your answer and thus reinforce your feedback with an external voice.
  • Make the necessary changes. Negative comments offer an opportunity for improvement. You can publicly communicate these changes in an addendum to the assessment.
  • Follow the evolution of ratings and comments. Stay active on the platform and also reply to new comments or ratings.

Also pay attention to which portal it is. Google+, Yelp, Trustpilot and Facebook are particularly important for companies these days . Smaller rating portals play a lesser role. Depending on what type of business you have, you should consider how your target audience searches for you and which reviews are relevant.

Remember what is important to you as a customer: You want to be taken seriously by companies, to be able to trust them and to know that they stand by their values . This is exactly what you should show in your interactions on social media and review sites, including in response to comments of any kind

That’s what media law says

German media law is based on pillars such as freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of broadcasting and the press, freedom of art and telecommunications secrecy . There are also other laws, of which the Network Enforcement Act of October 2017 is particularly relevant.

This law is intended to improve law enforcement in social networks and thus combat hate crime, criminal false news and other criminal content on social media more effectively. This means you have the law on your side when:

  •       insult
  •       Defamation
  •       Defamation
  •       Public incitement to commit crimes
  •       rabble-rousing
  •       depiction of violence
  •       threat

So if there are hateful comments against you or your business that contain such content, you can request their removal from the relevant social network . This also includes further steps such as the banning of trolls and haters as well as criminal consequences . The providers of social networks have a legal obligation to report, so legal consequences are easier to obtain.

In addition, international organizations such as UNESCO provide important information on how to deal ethically with the media . This includes education and information about social media, conscious and respectful reporting, the regulation of social media, support for the victims of hate speech, and the consequences of so-called hate crimes.

That’s what PR experts advise

Public relations professionals can help you deal with negativity and hate online correctly. They look after companies and can also refer you to specialist lawyers. This makes it easier to protect your data and operate what is known as reputation management.

Basically, experts also offer these tips for dealing with criticism from the Internet :

  • Use criticism as a boost and don’t let it put you off.
  • Take criticism as a compliment, because envy for your success is often behind it.
  • Improve your online visibility by reacting intelligently or making a joke of it all. Here are more tips for trolling back .
  • Stick to your company values, for example by always being friendly and empathetic.
  • Consider whether there is an important message behind the comments that you might even be grateful for.
  • Use the comments as an opportunity to question yourself and your company self-critically. At the same time, keep in mind that the absence of criticism often means you’re not brave or controversial enough.
  • Learn from the experience and make changes in the company where necessary.

Conclusion: The shitstorm as an opportunity

As frightening as negative and hateful comments and shitstorms are for many entrepreneurs, they also offer an important opportunity. You can learn a lot for your company, avoid future mistakes and, thanks to skillful online marketing, demonstrate to your target group how you deal with the downsides of social media.

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