Don’t Feed the Trolls: dealing with negativity in social media communities

When I started a new job recently, I was stoked when I found out that my first project would be creating and managing a Facebook page for the organization. I’ve helped develop and administrate a social media presence for a few organizations over the past couple of years and I’ve always loved watching online communities develop and grow.

Trouble is, I’ve realized over the past few weeks that although I’ve administrated social media pages for varied organizations, they’ve all been organizations that have solid community support. And now, for the first time, I’m administrating a page that attracts a pretty decent amount of distrust, with a bit of full-blown hate and a couple of crazies thrown in for good measure.

There’s nothing quite like arriving at work on a Monday morning and combing through a weekend’s worth of wall posts and comments that, for the most part, are pretty negative about the organization I’ve chosen to work for. I knew when I took the job that it wasn’t going to be a picnic, but I may have underestimated the complexity of dealing with negative community sentiment. As a result I’ve done a lot of reading lately on this topic, and I thought I’d share what I think are the three best take home messages for keeping things positive and dealing with negativity in an online community.

1. Step away from the delete button. It’s easy for organizations and companies to head straight for the delete button when negative posts start to appear, but it’s not a sustainable or practical way of dealing with the issue. Being unresponsive is the same. It’s not a good look when organisations only respond to the people who say nice things about them, and if you’re not responding to any posts, negative or nice, then you need to seriously reconsider whether your organization belongs in social media. Instead of deleting negative posts, thank the community member for their feedback, respond to any specific questions and move on.

2. Let your community respond. If you’ve worked hard to develop an engaged and thriving social media community, then there’s a good chance that your community will respond to questions and comments before you even have a chance to. Let them go – a lot of the time your community are a better endorsement of the organization than you are.

3. Don’t take it personally. If you’re passionate about your job, it can be difficult not to jump on your high horse when people start to diss what you’re doing. Like I mentioned above, there’s something slightly demoralizing about receiving a barrage of negative feedback from your community, but you can’t take it personally. Stop, step back and have a cup of tea before your respond to anything negative. I guarantee it works.

Masthead photo from this photostream, body photo from this photostream and this photostream. Both used with the permission of a Creative Commons license.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Feed the Trolls: dealing with negativity in social media communities

  1. Great suggestions, Jilly! I’ve had this discussion about a couple of different projects and I agree, if you’re going to use social media, you’ve got to take lumps. If it’s an idea worth keeping, supporters are the best ones to define a response.

  2. Thanks Pete! You’re right – leaving it in the hands of your supporters to define responses can lead to some amazing interactions and ideas. And it’s always nice when someone in your community goes in to bat for you!

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