Let's say you have someone trashing you on Twitter, their blog, or an online forum. How do you respond? Online commenters are notoriously as stubborn as they are vocal. The trick to mitigating damage from online grousing is knowing when to put up a fight and when to walk away.
Advice on dealing with negative online comments--or "trolls"--isn't unanimous, and different experts offer different strategies.
Zammuto recommends simply not engaging when at all possible. "Don't respond to online complaint boards," says Zammuto. "This just increases strength of listings and invites more attacks."
The picture is a little different if the commentary is taking place on your own blog, your Facebook page, or your Twitter account. Here, you control the battlefield, and if a comment is truly damaging, inflammatory, or slanderous, you can always delete it. (Although it's a common strategy, bear in mind that this tactic can have its own fallout by branding you a quasher of free speech.)
If you don't want to delete a comment, you can fairly easily bury it. A negative note on your Facebook page or Twitter feed will rapidly fall off the radar if you post another dozen updates. Comments on blog posts are also quickly lost as you publish more and more follow-up posts. While these things tend to live forever in Google's search results, fresher content is what the vast majority of your visitors and customers will see.
Next page: When and how should you respond to negative reviews?
When is a response warranted?
What if you believe that a complainer has the capability to engage in a mature debate instead of a hostile flame war? Can a measured response ever be appropriate? Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik thinks that it's possible, provided you aren't dealing with someone whose message is littered with profanity and hostility. "Unless the person is truly nasty and it's clear there's no room for productive conversation, in most cases you should indicate your desire to resolve the situation as soon as possible. Let them know you'll contact them--this protects their privacy and enables you to fix the issue without an online audience. Make sure to follow through," he says.
Your overtures should be as private as possible, such as via email or a direct message on Twitter. Your goal should always be to encourage the complaining party to revise or remove their message from whatever forum it's on, although directly asking for action like that should not come until after you have corrected the problem they're alleging.