Running an online community can be a great experience. However, if you are experiencing negative comments in your community, here is our handy guide to deal with them effectively.
Before we look at what to do when you receive negative comments in your online community, it may be helpful to establish how they can be minimized. Think of this as pre-empting the negative comment and stopping it at the source.
Whether running a community forum or social media accounts, setting clear community guidelines can be advantageous to minimize negative comments in your online community.
This allows you to set acceptable terms for interaction within your community. You may wish to set a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, bad language, intolerance, spam-posting, obvious trolling and other things that could have a negative effect on the kind of community you are trying to create. You can also include what the response to breaches of the community guidelines may be, such as a suspension to an outright ban on users' accounts.
This can make it easier to address negative comments when they appear, as the commenter was aware of the rules and guidelines before posting. You have a clear protocol for what to do, which both you and the offending party are already aware of.
Okay, so you've set clear community guidelines, and everyone is clear on what is and is not acceptable within your community. However, if have still been some negative posts, let's break down how to deal with them!
Sometimes, the negative posts in your community will be legitimate negative feedback. The posts may be from angry customers or just customers leaving constructive criticism in the form of negative reviews.
While this is far from ideal, it is also essential to running a business and any online community. This negative feedback may be entirely justified, and constructive criticism should be learned from wherever possible. This kind of negative comment, then, is integral to online communities, as it helps businesses learn and grow and holds business owners and the runners of online communities responsible in a positive way.
It is always best to respond to this kind of negative post. If you genuinely believe the negative comment is unjustified, provide a reasonable explanation as to why this is the case. Avoid being defensive, however. Wherever possible, attempt to disarm angry customers and apologize sincerely for whatever has caused the customer's negative sentiment. Thank the customer for their constructive criticism.
While we always want to avoid negative reviews, do not delete negative comments like this! Instead, deal with negative feedback maturely and try and learn from it. In the long run, this can improve brand image and a sense of community, as customers know that their feedback is taken into account and you strive to deliver the best service you can.
As opposed to customers and users leaving legitimate negative reviews, trolls are generally quite obviously attempting to harm you or your community deliberately. In doing so, they will likely cross the community guidelines you have laid out. Other users in your online community often report their behaviour to you, or you may notice it yourself. Be sure to warn them and remind them of your community guidelines before implementing a ban unless they have broken one of your guidelines for which there is a zero-tolerance policy.
You are unlikely to have to justify the suspension of an obvious troll from your online communities, as most users can easily recognize a troll. However, it still may be useful to post a community-wide message reminding users of your guidelines and why a particular troll user has been removed from your community.
There may be someone in your community who isn't necessarily a troll, but persistently leaves negative comments and attempts to spread negative sentiment. It is still best to interact with this person and their negative comments, to show others in your community that you are willing to listen to and interact with this person, and manage negativity as well as positivity with equal effort.
Interact with their negative post and attempt to provide a means to help their problem. The rest of your community will be able to see how much effort you have made to try and deal with this user's negative comments. If the negative comments are breaking community guidelines, remind the user of these guidelines before taking further action.
If they continue to repeatedly make negative comments, consider something like a temporary ban. This will ensure they understand that persistent negativity will not be tolerated but that you still value them as a member of your community and are willing to let them continue to participate. If they continue to violate community guidelines or spread negativity in a way that negatively affects your community, then provide a warning before taking any further, more permanent action.
If you run a business with a thriving online community, you may not have time to view all the comments. This may lead to you overlooking some negative comments and therefore missing the opportunity to respond to them as you may like, or to act accordingly if they break community guidelines.
In this instance, it could be prudent to appoint a moderator whose job is to maintain adherence to community guidelines and address negative comments by members of your community. Whether you have a community forum, or private channel or your community operates through your business Facebook page, having one or two moderators whose job it is to police this online community during designated hours can lead to a more tightly run and thriving community with fewer negative comments.
These moderators should be empowered to enforce your community guidelines and respond to negative comments on your behalf, though you may wish to deal with certain negative comments yourself.
Running an online community can be a great, highly rewarding thing, both for you and your users on a personal level, as well as highly beneficial for your business. While negative reviews are part and parcel of learning and growing as a business, and constructive criticism is beneficial, online communities can also attract trolls and negative comments that are unreasonable or intentionally harmful. In these circumstances, a clearly defined set of community guidelines, a designated process for dealing with trolls or unhelpful negative comments, and empowered moderators can save you a lot of time and help your community
How Should I Respond To Negative Reviews?
The best way to respond to negative reviews is to acknowledge the customer's problem and to apologise and explain what went wrong if necessary. Show that you are conciliatory and will take their review as constructive criticism. This shows that you are professional and willing to improve. However, do not feel you have to admit fault where if you know there was none.
Why Should I Set Community Guidelines?
Community guidelines help avoid any confusion. If everybody knows what the rules are, and what the protocol is when they are broken, then you, your moderators and your community members all understand how to behave and how breaches should be handled.
What Is A Troll?
A troll is someone who deliberately contributes inflammatory, insensitive, negative or otherwise unhelpful behaviour to an online space. Trolling can take many forms, some more obvious than others. If you suspect someone is trolling your online community, inform them of your community guidelines. If they ignore this, follow your protocol for dealing with community guideline breaches.
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