How to Handle Criticism and Negativity from Online Community Members

Your least favorite part of being an online community manager may be reading negative comments or blog posts about your brand. As community manager, it may fall to you to deal with the negativity. At times, you may even be blamed for the negativity because a community manager is tasked with ensuring a positive online image.

The truth is, not everyone is going to love your brand. You or someone else in the company may do something that doesn’t sit right with the community, or someone in the blogosphere may have a negative experience and decide to write about it. You may even encounter a disgruntled community member who has made it his mission to drag you or the brand through the mud.

Bad buzz seems mortifying at first, but the good news is that it won’t stay that way for too long. You’re probably going to worry about several questions right off the bat:

  • How can you get the situation to die down as quickly as possible?

  • Will you get into trouble or lose your job?

  • Will your reputation take a hit?

  • Should you address the situation or ignore it?

First, take a deep breath and understand that the uproar won’t last. Online negativity generally lasts a couple of days and no more than a week. The longevity of the negativity depends on how you choose to handle the situation.

Also, remember that not every situation requires action. If a blogger writes about your strict comment policy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means you don’t put up with a lot of trolling or nonsense at your community, and your members can interact knowing they don’t have to put up with a lot of silliness. You don’t need to do anything in this situation.

If one person doesn’t like a policy, you can certainly thank her for the comment and tell her that you’ll keep it in mind, but you don’t have to take other immediate action.

If, however, one person writes publicly about your strict comment policy and lists the reasons why it’s unfair, and it’s soon followed by dozens of comments in agreement, you have a more difficult situation on your hands. Consider taking the following actions:

  1. Determine whether the comments have merit.

    Before reacting, be sure to read everything written about the situation, including comments on the social networks and your own community pages. Then decide whether the comments are valid. Be honest.

  2. Determine whether a response is in order.

    Don’t react when there’s no need to react. Discuss the situation with your team, if necessary, and figure out whether the situation will die down on its own or whether you should make a comment or statement.

  3. Respond, if necessary.

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