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How to Respond to Hate Comments on Social Media

Kinga Edwards
Written by
Kinga Edwards

Everyone has probably experienced the power of hate comments. In the infamous words of Taylor Swift: Haters gonna hate, hate, hate. And what easier way is there to publicly share a bad experience than social media?

When you run social media communication for a brand, you should be prepared for how to deal with negative reactions. It can be very difficult and frustrating, but at the same time, social media negativity is one of your most valuable opportunities.

Today, we’ll explain why people are hateful on social media and examples of how you can handle (and even benefit from) them. And, as a bonus, we show you two techniques to talk to haters you may want to start using soon!

Why are people hateful towards brands on social media (and leave negative comments)

1. Bad customer service

Not every negative post is a result of this, but many negative comments on social media have their origin in bad customer experience. Delayed delivery, a lack of help, a long and imprecise customer support process, or disappointment with the quality of products and services are just a few reasons for negative comments.

2. It’s easier to show hate than love

It’s an old truth: if your clients are happy with a particular product or service, they MAY spread a word or two about it to recommend it further. If, however, they are not satisfied with what they’ve purchased, they WILL spread a word or two about it to put others off the brand. The difference is easy to spot. Brands need to encourage clients to leave positive reviews when negative comments come much easier.

3. Controversial communication

Controversial communication may be a double-edged sword: it may generate extra engagement, but it can bring more harm than good if it’s not suitable for your target group. Also, you may be left having to respond to hate comments regularly. Before you make such a pivot in your marketing strategy, make sure you know how to respond to hate comments that might crop up as a result.

What can you win by responding to hate on social media?

First of all, hate often communicates problems, so you can consider it as a type of feedback. If there is a repetition in some negative comments or a specific set of reactions under a negative comment, you should not only work on responding to hate comments but also find why your clients keep leaving them.

Negative comments on social media can damage your online reputation. Leaving even a single negative post without a reaction from your side may cause a social media crisis that will be a stain on your brand awareness. Answering the complaints and negative comments, even imprecisely, can buy you some time to resolve the problem.

A lack of responsiveness to hate comments can also negatively affect your sales and put people off of your brand. If it’s noticeable that you only react to positive reviews and hide or delete negative comments, you may end up in trouble.

7 rules – and inspiring examples of – how to reply to negative comments

1. Never delete hate comments

Yes—sometimes it feels like it would all just be so much easier if you delete or block a hate tweet. But in fact, it would only make things worse.

Firstly, a comment posted anywhere on social media can still be found in a web cache or screenshot. Secondly, this means anyone can see you have deleted a critical question, which infuses a lot more hate than the initial problem used to be. And last but not least: you haven’t solved the problem.

Although you should never delete a comment, there are exceptions. Someone instigating racism, sexism, or excessive language can be warned this is not a part of your policy to handle each other. Make sure in those cases you have a social media policy that is clearly stated before you delete anything.

2. Have you made a mistake? Admit to it, can be fun!

Whether it’s a giant fail or something as small as a spelling error – always admit to your mistakes. For example, clothing brand Allen Solly made a whoopsy when it created a giant in-store banner. Unfortunately for them, misspelling this particular word created a bit of an awkward sentence.

Typos are a no go for brands, as it might make them seem careless or slacking. You can avoid that by having multiple levels of content approval process. A social tool (such as Kontentino) can help you with that.

However, Allen Solly’s social media team handled this situation the right way, and received bonus points for handling this with a sense of humour:

Results: over 5000 impressions on Twitter, 58 retweets and 25 likes. For an everyday customer response, on a negative comment!

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3. Don’t leave haters hanging on – act fast

Even if you don’t know what to say to haters (yet), don’t leave them waiting for an answer forever. Every single minute of waiting works like a red rag to a bull. The hate may have started in Facebook comments, but if you ignore it (or, shudder to think, delete the comments and block users) then they’re likely to copy and paste it on their own profile, your LinkedIn Company Page, or even send it to the media.

The Internet never forgets and screenshots can be made almost immediately, so you may find yourself in deep water if you don’t react quickly. Got no answer ready right away? Simply reply that you are looking into the matter and resolve the issue from there.

4. Don’t feed the trolls

Laughter is the best medicine, and so is handling those who seem to have endless hate. A factual answer or extensive customer care never works for trolls—because they are not looking for answers.

h3h3 production is a YouTuber who deals with hate and trolls every day, as do a lot of public figures on social media. But instead of letting it get to him, he shows the best and only way to handle it—he created a playlist with videos showing his response to the meanest comments. This proves he knows very well what is being said—and it won’t hurt him.

5. Love the hate

A good example of celebrity-to-business hate is comedian Jon Stewart, who wasn’t a big fan of food chain Arby’s. He had a way of showing it on The Daily Show, a talk show with a quite sizeable audience. For years, Arby’s was the center of bad puns and constant hate on the talk show.

Arby’s never got offended and took it like a champ. On the day Jon Stewart announced he would quit the show, Arby’s decided they would turn over all the years of hate into something to their advantage. How do you make your biggest critic the star of your social media campaign? Like this:

Not only did Arby’s offer Jon Stewart a job, soon followed two YouTube commercials, edited in a way that made it seem Stewart actually advertised for Arby’s himself. Last but not least, they named a sandwich after the hater who had tried to crush their image since day one.

The unusual ‘cooperation’ was the recipe for a successful influencer social media campaign. Arby’s set the perfect example on how to deal with the ones who hate the most.

6. Don’t make the haters jump between platforms

If you do, you just make things worse. If someone makes a complaint on Facebook, they want you to solve it for them right there (and then). Giving them a phone number to contact or a long-form on a website may cause you even more problems. Shorten this unpleasant customer journey with prompt actions when possible. Bear in mind, though, that taking such actions may not always be available. For example, if you need some personal data then solving the problem in Facebook comments is not advisable.

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7. Have procedures, templates, and tools (!) at hand

Many negative comments may have never led to a crisis if they had been tackled in the right way. The better prepared you are before a crisis escalates, the better you will be at responding to hate comments and reacting to any negative post. Make and use some procedures, templates, and tools for social media management and social media monitoring to avoid any dangerous situations, or to at least minimize their impact.

Dealing with hate and negativity can be a bit overwhelming. You might consider taking turns with your colleagues, so you won’t spend too much time with it in a single day. You can use time tracking software to have a better idea of your time spent on different tasks.

Two methods to help you lead a dialogue with an author of the hate comments

5 WHY method

5 Why method is a popular technique for getting to the core of any problem by simply asking “Why?”. Each answer is followed by another “Why?”, which may resemble digging in a mine until you find some coal. The coal here is the root answer.

The Five Why method can support eliminating small issues that may have a snowball effect after some time. When the very first negative comments occur, approaching them with five whys may help you eliminate problems in the future, understand your clients better, and satisfactorily resolve their issues. In turn, responding to hate comments may become easier for you.

LATTE rules

LATTE was created by Starbucks as a customer service framework, and can easily be applied when it comes to responding to hate comments on social media. What does LATTE stand for?

L | Listen to the customer. Don’t blame them for having an opinion – that’s not what you say to haters. Make sure they know you’ve seen their request. You can’t see their reaction to this, so you need to know how to put it into words wisely. 

A | Acknowledge the problem. Own up to your mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with making them sometimes, but refusing to take responsibility is different. 

T | Take action and solve the problem. Apologies may not count for much if you don’t actually turn negative comments into actions for further improvement. Show the client that you take their request seriously and that you are doing something about it. Describe what actions you are taking to resolve the problem and keep your customer updated.

T | Thank the customer. Is “thank you note” a good reply to haters?? Yes. You should thank your customer for reaching out. This can reduce their anger and make them more patient, but also feel appreciated. When the problem is solved, they may even become your brand ambassadors, and you can therefore show the world how to deal with negative comments on social media and turn them into marketing wins. 

E | Encourage them to return. It may sound impossible at first, but getting through such a crisis may win you some loyal clients. Try to build a relationship and highlight its importance to your brand.

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