How to Handle Negative Comments

How do you handle negative comments in your social media posts? Today's article explores why they happen and what to do when you get one.

Category
Content Creation
19 January, 2022

Ever had to handle negative comments on your business social media account? It happens a lot. The bigger the audience, the more negative comments you get.

Are you prepared for that?

A lot of content creators end up in an uncomfortable relationship with their audience, and I’m going to write a bit about why that happens and what can be done about it.

As a small business owner using social media, knowing how to handle negative comments is key.

The Media Glorifies Online Communities

I bet you’ve read some articles online about audience growth and being responsible for the people who have helped you get where you are – whether that’s on YouTube, on your blog or on Instagram.

I bet you’re a bit obsessed with keeping them happy. It doesn’t take much to watch the numbers, checking incessantly for growth.

The media tends to glorify large audience numbers, so, much of the information out there on audiences promotes pandering, or ‘winning’ over these people. Which makes sense.

They’ve chosen to follow you, and they like you. They may even buy your stuff, which means that you can indulge in Taco Tuesday every day of the week if you want to. I won’t get between an entrepreneur and their Tacos.

But what happens to the individual content creator who creates based on their personal lives and becomes shackled to the whims of their audience? A lot. Not all of it is good – there’s a dark side.  

negative comments

The message we send content creators is clear:

  • Keep your audience
  • Pander to your audience
  • Win over your audience
  • Grow your audience
  • For the love of tulips don’t ever upset your audience lest they cast you into the fiery ash-mounds of Hades

 

I don’t think this is right.

And I don’t think it’s going to work long-term for individual content creators who are publicly online – living their lives and changing in the process.

It’s going to cause panic, anxiety, and serious break-downs – especially when handling negative comments. Hold onto your pearls for this one –

As much as we pretend people are brands, they’re not.

They’re just regular people that are being commoditized – and there are social repercussions.

Let’s talk about them.

Personal Content is Tied to Personal Growth

So, you’ve been posting on Instagram or YouTube for 5 years now. Kudos!

You’re probably not posting the same stuff you were posting 5 years ago, or even a year ago – for that matter – unless you’re a rock and nothing affects you. In that case, rock on.

But if you’re a ‘run-o-the-mill’ homosapien, your content will naturally change, because you change. Your business changes. Life changes.

As a human person, you will learn and evolve, and this will directly impact the content that you create for the internet. As this happens you will experience backlash from your audience, because of something called ‘discovery bias.’

What Pray Tell is Discovery Bias?

Some members of your audience will be newer than others.

Your older audience members have probably been chewing their faces off waiting for you to do something different, or they don’t care – as Blessed Unions of Souls once sang, they like you for you.

But for the newbs, they just discovered content that they really like.

Like, like. Like, love. And now you’re changing it! Like a trash person!

Because they have only recently discovered your content, they will be more disappointed than your older audience members – because they’re biased towards the content you’re veering away from.

They’re in the honeymoon phase of getting to know your content, and now you want to abscond with their hopes and dreams for the future.

Is Discovery Bias Your Fault?

Here’s my controversial opinion.

I once spent a lot of time and energy trying to teach people about audience flow. There is no such thing as ‘once I’ve got an audience – it’s there forever!’

Audiences are like slinkies, and content creators are the staircases leading them in imaginative directions. But they never stop slinking. People unsubscribing, unfollowing, unliking you is normal.

An audience is an ever-changing organism. Like a butterfly. Or Lady Gaga.

People will find your content and fall in love with it, but they’re also likely to break-up with it at some point. A content break-up is a good thing. It makes room for audience alignment.

You know what they say – the best way to get over a content break-up is to get under some new content. No need to parade your future content around suggestively to get them back.

You don’t want them back.

The Cult of Personality

A few years ago I wrote about the rise of The Cult of Personality, and how the most successful content creators will realize and nurture this phenomenon in order to sustain their audiences.

As a media student back when I was but a writerling, I was introduced to this concept and immediately saw it in social media.

You, as the content creator, are the idealized, heroic figure that is unduly worshipped by your throng of followers.

This is supported by the thousands of praise-based comments you receive on a daily basis. These blandishments are worse than bot comments, which are at least, strategic.

Back when men rocked hair horseshoes on their faces, and women were strong-armed into being free concierge services for their husbands, The Cult of Personality was a political instrument used by governments and the media to control propaganda and exert influence over people.

And I believe content creators unintentionally recreate their own versions of this on a smaller scale. Your audience becomes devoted to you, involved in your lives and influenced by your opinions, thoughts and decisions.

Your content becomes a cult influence in their lives. A controlling force.

That’s why the stronger the PERSONALITY, the more sustainable the audience.

Creators on YouTube encounter this, a lot.

It’s the reason channels with strong personalities behind them tend to weather changes and hang onto their audiences for longer.

People don’t come to the channel to see your latest video. They come to see you.

YOU are your channel. YOU are your content.

This is true for influencers and small business creators alike.

What This Means

It’s not uncommon for content creators to freak out over negative backlash received by their cultish audience members. This is usually triggered by a content direction change.

In one case, the content creator decided to focus more on her music. In another, the creator started going to gym – and posted more about that.

Then the chorus of outrage started.

Some people didn’t like the new content, so they took it upon themselves to tell the creators as much. With the internet, one-way communication gives audiences the illusion of knowing a person, which creates feelings of entitlement. And there are no repercussions when they engage.

That’s right people. ENGAGEMENT is dysfunctional AF online.

It is all a bit toxic for individual creators.

Over the years, after watching personalities and creators attempt to engage and connect with their audiences, with naught but cultish praise and worship slathered on in return – one of two things happen.

The content creator’s ego inflates (don’t let it, it will ruin your work) and an upswell of isolation and depression creeps in. Or, the demands of content leads to overwhelm and burnout.

Then –

One disapproving voice booms out barking in the foggy moonlight of angelic praise – and oops – your minds gone to hell in a handbag.

One messed up comment can cause a business to close. Worse still, they’re thoughtless comments. Comments created by audience members who feel entitled to tell you what to do, and tell you who you are. Because, you know, they’ve consumed your content.

They know you better than you know yourself.

Is there a tree above me, or has it just become shady in here?

When The Cult of Personality Flips

In an especially twisted knot of events, the internet has created a new take on The Cult of Personality, where the personality’s audience is exerting influence of its own.

And it’s doing this through DATA and DISSENT.

There is no manual on how to manage a large audience, many of which can become hostile for no apparent reason. A tiny percentage of a million to one, is still not a fair fight.

No-one is teaching content creators that it’s okay to address dissenting voices, and actually – it’s good to face them, for your mental wellbeing.

Here are some rules to keep you sane:

  • What you create is part of who you are. Your ‘brand’ the one the world keeps pushing on you is not a good idea that has received loads of views or shares. It’s you. YOU. The worst thing you could do is stop growing, changing and exploring.
  • No-one has the right to tell you who you should be, or what you should create. You got yourself to where you are, you’ll keep crushing it, regardless. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are important. But taking a rando person’s ignorance to heart is just a one-way ticket to tragic-town. Trust yourself and your own vision.
  • Your content, your rules. Your audience does not own you and you should never feel trapped by them. People will always be disappointed, but weigh that disappointment. They don’t know you. You’re entertainment. You’re a business. You’re a real person that needs to be protected – they have other creators they can focus on or switch to.
  • Content responsibility is not about giving your audience what they want. Remember what happens when you do that with a child? Screaming in the middle of Tescos, surrounded by trampled bananas. Don’t apologize for your ambition or your passion. Communicate it, and your real audience will stay aboard the ship or X-men Mystique into something better.
  • Take risks. Creators are defined by the risks they take. Be proud of change and stand for who you are. Going against yourself does more damage than you know.

How to Handle Negative Comments

What about those harsh comments that shake you to your core?

Here are some things that don’t help:

  • Trying to ignore them
  • Reading them hundreds of times and talking about them with everyone you know, including the rest of your audience
  • Converting that negative energy into negative self-talk
  • Being complacent, passive and internalizing self-loathing
  • Allowing your audience to come to your rescue
  • Quitting on your business

 

Instead, I want to encourage you to take back the power.

You are the creator. You make the rules!

  • If someone challenges you, address it with them in private if you must – depending on the comment. Accountability sometimes means being present, for your mental health. A real negative comment is an opportunity to help someone, even if that someone is yourself.
  • Block them. Mute them. You’re not a brand. You’re a human being. No-one has the right to make you feel like that, especially in front of your audience. Act and never look back.

 

I do believe creators need to be more active and more protective over their online spaces. I don’t know who made the rule that it’s not okay to delete twisted comments or block negative people from your feeds – but I’m declaring that a terrible rule.

Let’s acknowledge the other side – the damage being done to creators because of thoughtless comments, discovery bias and influence exerted by occasionally fanatical & thoughtless people.

They’re not going to go away, so let’s learn to handle the dark side of audience engagement better.

I know you love your audience. But love yourself also. Balance doesn’t happen by accident.

You make the world you live in.

Any negative comments you recently had to deal with? Tell me how you handled it below.

 

Written by Carla Dewing

I’m a content strategist, creator and director. I’m a bit obsessed with SEO, conversion optimization and the internet. One day, I’ll master the electric ukulele, get my pilot’s license and won’t eat so much chocolate. Maybe not the last one.

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Handle negative comments

How to Handle Negative Comments

How do you handle negative comments in your social media posts? Today's article explores why they happen and what to do when you get one.