“I’m tired of stupid comments”: How not to respond to social media followers

 

If you’ve ever had to endure customers’ negative comments about your company or products on social media, you may be giving Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland, a round of applause for his response to Heather, a follower of his official Facebook page. She wrote, “We’re getting Hogan fatigue. Please make it stop.” And he replied, “I’m getting fatigued with your stupid comments every day. If you are tired of seeing what I say on my Facebook page why not just get the hell off my page and you won’t be so bothered by listening.”
 
Or maybe you’re not giving him a round of applause. I’m definitely not clapping for Hogan’s clapback. Here’s why:

  • Heather’s comment was about how often Hogan was communicating, not about what he was saying. Hogan should have a thick enough skin to let that slip.
  • Name calling makes the name caller look foolish. “Stupid”? Really, Governor Hogan? Are you in elementary school?
  • “Get the hell off my page.” Some people might think this hairy-chest bluster is Gov Hogan “being real,” but I think it’s combative and ill-tempered. And why would any elected official tell a voter to get off “his” Facebook page?

Eight tips for responding to your haters on social media 

Heather’s no hater; her comment is too mild. But your company probably has its haters on social media, maybe even its share of trolls. Here are eight dignified ways you can respond to these negative, provocative people. These writing strategies may not shut the troll down, but they will demonstrate to other followers that you can provide a calm, polite response even if the customer is neither calm nor polite.


Example: Here’s an incoming tweet from “hater” @AnimalRights_Jessica to @ABC-Pharma

(Full disclosure: I made up this tweet and the hater’s and company’s Twitter handles, so I could demonstrate the eight ways to respond.)

Hey, @ABC-Pharma, shame on you for testing your addictive, unnecessary products on animals. How many innocent rabbits need poison shot into their veins before you develop a conscience and stop this torture? #ImmoralCriminals

Tip 1: Try empathy
Hello Jessica, the harmful practices you’ve mentioned would concern us, too. We can assure you: we do not test any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing.

Tip 2: Try to lighten the mood
Hello Jessica, we’d never hurt an innocent creature! Since 1997, we haven’t tested any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing.

Tip 3: Offer to help
Hello Jessica, we don’t test any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing. We’d be glad to explain our testing practices, so if you’ll DM us your contact number, we’ll give you a call.

Tip 4: Link to detailed information at your website
Hello Jessica, since 1997, we haven’t tested any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page: bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing and our “Animal Testing Policy” page: bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing-Policy.

Tip 5: Ask a clarifying question
Hello Jessica, we don’t test any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing. Could you let us know why you are concerned about our practices? Perhaps you’ve read some misinformation online.

Tip 6: Link to your social media customer use policy
Hello Jessica, we’ve responded several times to your claim that we test our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals, which we do not do. Your tweets contain violent and offensive language. You are violating our Comments Policy: bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-Comments. If you continue, we will block you.

Tip 7: Suggest the person contact your company in a private channel
Hello Jessica, we don’t test our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing. Please DM us if you’d like to discuss our testing practices or have other questions about our products. We’re glad to help.

Tip 8: Offer facts
Hello Jessica, since 1997, we haven’t tested any of our pharmaceutical products or ingredients on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety Without Animal Testing” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing.

— — — — —

P.S. If you’re interested, you can read in the Baltimore Sun about Governor Hogan’s Facebook tantrum.

Comments

Very interesting, thank you. But what if ABC-Pharma really tested pharmaceutical products on animals? I mean, what if the claim of the customer was true? I think it's really hard to manage social media pages when the company can be criticized in many ways.

Posted by: Emanuela | February 10, 2021 at 05:44:16am

Good suggestions, Leslie! It's important to understand that you're not just responding to Heather, Jessica, or whoever else might share a complaint on social media. You're responding to anyone else who reads the exchange. Your suggestions are terrific for that end. A bystander can read them and be more informed while getting the impression the responding business is reasonable. On the other hand, a fiery response can hurt the business's credibility.

Posted by: Jeff Toister | February 14, 2021 at 10:26:26am

Hi, Jeff - I agree. Governor Hogan behaved as if he were communicating with Heather in private and the only thing at risk was his relationship with her. (Of course, he shouldn't be a jerk to any Marylander or anyone else!) His demeanor is "really real guy," so sadly I bet this tone impressed some people.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 15, 2021 at 04:51:44pm

You're absolutely right, Emanuela. If ABC-Pharma does test its products on animals, it will have a harder time responding placidly in social media because customers will remain angry. But they can still respond courteously. Many companies have practices that are difficult to defend. (For example, a power company may cause a large power outage and be unable to tell customers when the power will be back on.) These companies can't just bail out on social media. They have to figure out how to craft a message that is honest, specific, and calm. It might be something along these lines: "Yes, Jessica, we do test our products on animals. Learn more at our “Product Safety: Why We Test Our Products on Animals” page at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-testing. We understand that some consumers do not want to purchase products that have been tested on animals. We offer a line of products for these consumer. Shop our Kindness brand at bit.ly/ABC-Pharma-kindness." This response isn't perfect, but it is candid. All companies have practices or policies some consumers dislike, so competent companies develop messaging around those practices and they use that messaging in social media, too. Some consumers do stay angry or get angrier, but ignoring the posts or glossing over the truth aren't options. Candor is the only way to go!

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 15, 2021 at 05:04:44pm

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