Dec 05, 2017

How to deal with haters on social media

While social media has enabled companies to engage directly with their customers, one of the draw backs is that they can engage directly with you. How you deal with your online haters can be the difference between setting off the Internet rage machine to changing the mind of a sole irate customer.

First thing is to properly identify the nature of a customer’s online negativity. It will either be one or two things, a personal complaint or a negative reaction to something your company has done. A personal complaint will most likely be related to your service, or your product. Something along the lines of receiving a bad customer experience, or faulty product. While a negative reaction may be a criticism of your most recent press releases or ad campaigns.

If it is a personal complaint.

The first thing you must do is react fast, you do not want to give other users time to rally behind the complaint. If others see that your company has responded they will usually leave it be. Use humor and a personal first-person touch in your reply, and do not address any issue of the complaint specifically. Using the usual platitudes invite them to converse with you on a private platform.

For example:

I’m sorry that you have had such a negative experience! I will try my best to make things right for you! Could you reply to the direct message I just sent you? I can further discuss your issue there.

From there onward you are safe to use usual customer relations tactics to quell the situation. If they refuse to take the issue into private channels, keep insisting. If they still refuse simply state that while you want to help them, you cannot do so unless they take it to private channels. Any viewer of this interaction online will hopefully see that your company has been trying to resolve this issue, and it is the complainer being unreasonable in not moving things along. If the same user puts new complaints elsewhere on your social media, simply treat it as a new complaint and start with the first friendly message.

If it is a negative reaction.

Do not respond immediately, gauge the magnitude of the negative reaction first. You want to find out if a lot of people are posting the same thing, are the reactions contained to simply one media channel, do these reactions receive a lot of attention themselves. If the reactions are sparse and do not rally other netizen users behind them, do not respond yet and watch to see if the problem grows or persists. If it seems like it is subsiding, just ignore it and continue with normal posting activities.

If the reactions are fast and are spread to other social media platforms, especially if the particular ad campaign or press release they are reacting to does not have anything to do with the platform the reactions are posted, you will need to prepare a response.

Your main aim of the response is to not add fire to the flame. Do not cast blame onto anything or anyone, this is always the fault of the company as a whole. It is also important to address the reactions are valid in your product, not that you think their emotions are valid reactions of your product.

For example the difference in:

“We acknowledge that members of the community have been offended by the perceived sexism in our most recent ad campaign.”


“We acknowledge the possible sexist nature in our most recent ad campaign that have offended the community”

In the first you are focusing on the reactions of your customers, while the second you are focusing on what they are reacting to.

Be professional in your reply and always express regret, that you have learnt from your mistakes, and that you will continue to uphold the standards that your customers loved in the first place. Keep it short and post it on the platform that you received the most reactions as a new post without tags to any others.

You will undoubtedly get many negative criticisms on this new post, this is to be expected. Do not post anywhere else about this issue, just one on the most popular platform is enough.

Identify if the further complaints are related to the original issue or your most recent apology post. If it is to the original issue, just wait. After a while it will die down, anything extra you do at this point will just refresh the incident in users’ minds. Continue with your normal post schedule as if nothing has happened.

If they are now irate about your most recent post, congratulations, you might have started a new internet firestorm. Follow the same rules as above, monitor, reply and wait. If it doesn’t die down after your second reply, just give up and either wait for internet notoriety or people to be bored. It is clear at this point that anything you say seems to have the opposite effect.

For a great example of this in action, see this response to the ‘racist’ Dove advert (pictured above). While their response did garner a lot of negative reaction itself, they were all still about the original advert. Dove simply waited and the internet firestorm died down, at least until their next mess up.

Good luck, and hopefully you will sail safe in these troll filled waters. For more weekly musings on social media, check our blog here, or hire us to work for you here.