Dealing with the Negative: Part I – Is It Really Negative?

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Into each blog, several trolls must fall. This is an immutable law of the Internet, and you should be ready to deal with negative posters, bloggers, tweeters, etc.

The first step in dealing with the haters is to identify which ones are real, and which ones are just annoyances that you can’t and/or shouldn’t do anything about.

For example, let’s say that someone is tweeting something negative about your company. Are they someone you should be concerned about, or is it just a spammer who happens to have latched on to your company name in their spam?

First, determine if the threat is real:

1 – Does the tweet/post/blog seem to actually have an issue with your company or product? You can usually tell because the real people with issues state them clearly and distinctly. “Your product broke and caused something to happen” is more likely to be legit than “Have you heard how bad Product A is?”

2 – Is the poster a real person, or a spammer looking to get visibility by leveraging your product? Spammers will simply post things like “Comparison of Product X and Product Y” with a link to an article that has nothing to do with the poster. In all likelihood, the page they link to may not even be a real comparison or legitimate document, but rather a site full of advertising (or worse, a malware trap site).

3 – Is the issue something you can fix, or just someone airing their opinions? Many times, users spout off about a gripe, but have no intention of actually working to fix the problem. Gauge their reactions to your responses to see how you should continue – or if you shouldn’t continue.

Often, you can find out the answer to all three of these questions by sending a simple @Reply, Comment, etc. that says “Hi, I work for Company A, and we’d like to help.” Avoid using direct messages, even if they follow you, as the idea here is to publicly show everyone else that you’re responsive to negative tweets/posts/blogs. After all, if you can’t help this one person, you want the rest of the world to see that you at least tried.

If the poster in question replies back that they want help, then you have a legitimate user who is frustrated, but one you can work with. If, on the other hand, the poster either doesn’t reply back, or worse they continue to stream abuse, then it would be better to classify them as “unreachable.” At that point, keep an eye on them, but don’t engage them directly. All you’ll do is give them more fuel, and they’re not going to come around to your point of view anyway.

The idea is to find those people who are truly frustrated and looking for help, but to not “feed the trolls” and contribute to the noise level online without getting anything out of it for you and your company.

Next week, we’ll discuss what you can do both in cases where the negativity is real and the person is willing to accept your help; and then those cases where the comments/posts are real, but the user has a bias against your company and does not want help.

Photo Credit: jurvetson

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