Responding to negativity on social media

B2B editors need to respond to negativity that shows up on their social media platforms.

Newspapers and mainstream media outlets regularly receive harsh backlash from readers on social media – especially in an era of “fake news.” President Donald Trump is vocal on social media about his opinion on the media, particularly regarding some of the larger publications such as The New York Times.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Almost any time I click to see the comments on articles posted by NPR or other mainstream media outlets on Facebook or Twitter, I typically spot a handful of nasty comments from readers. Some of these nasty comments even have a string of debate underneath them. Some readers post hurtful comments that are not even relevant to the original content that was shared.

Fortunately, B2B publications are less likely to face this type of backlash on a day-to-day basis, but we aren’t immune to having this experience. On the Lawn & Landscape magazine brand, we tend to get the most traction with readers on Facebook. Usually, readers are friendly with the comments they post on our content. However, there are some types of content we share that we know might lead to heated debate or negative responses in the comments. For instance, we know that when we post content on immigration reform or on the largest companies in our industry, we may receive a few offhanded comments. Some of the readers who post rude comments are regulars – we know who will regularly post negative comments on a certain topic.

In general, I don’t think any business is immune to negative comments on social media if they are posting content to these platforms regularly. We will all experience “haters” from time to time – be it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other platform out there.

As editors, we need to address the negative comments posted to the content we share on social media. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when readers post negative or hateful comments:

  • Don’t ignore it: After posting content we know might be controversial to social media, editors should occasionally check the comments to see if anything needs to be addressed. Letting negative comments spiral out of control for too long can negatively impact the brand.
    Also, it’s good to remember that some negative comments can provide insight to readers’ concerns. Although the reader might have handled his concerns poorly by sharing a harsh comment, it still provides editors with a better idea on what’s bothering their readers most.
    So, keep an eye on the comments section to prevent comments from getting out of control and to see if readers are concerned on certain topics. If warranted, editors should respond to negative comments with a question or simple statement to address the issue.
  • Don’t instantly delete: As a journalist, I’m a firm supporter of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. While some readers might post rude comments, many of these are protected by the First Amendment. So, unless a reader’s comment is obscene, threatening or libelous, be cautious before clicking delete.
    If a comment falls under the First Amendment yet still seems highly offensive, consider reporting the reader’s comment to the social media platform.
  • Be personal yet unbiased: If a negative comment on social media needs to be addressed, have a personal, considerate response. Try to remain as unbiased as possible in the response and avoid being argumentative when addressing the rude comment. Before responding to the reader, check with other editors on staff or in the office for their opinions on the best response could be, too.
  • Delete extremes: The First Amendment has its limits – there comes a point when content is no longer considered “free speech.” As mentioned above, if a comment is obscene, threatening, perjury, blackmail, incites violence or libelous, it might be wise to delete it. However, check with other editors on staff before clicking delete to make sure it falls under one of those categories or there is good reason to do so.

Have you had to handle negative comments on social media? On what platform does your brand experience this the most? Feel free to share below how you handle it.

Megan Smalley

Megan Smalley is associate editor for the Recycling Today Media Group at Cleveland-based GIE Media Inc. She focuses on writing, editing and podcasting for Recycling Today magazine. She has been with GIE Media since 2017 in several positions, including associate editor for Lawn & Landscape magazine and managing editor for Recycling Today magazine. She has been working in B2B media in the Cleveland area since 2014. She received a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Kent State University in May 2014.

Smalley previously served on the executive committee of the ASBPE National Board of Directors, and she is involved in ASBPE’s social, website and education committees.

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