Fact: The Internet is filled with jerks. The anonymity and the faceless nature of the Internet seems to unleash something deep inside people. They’ll spew venom and hate about everything from the most trivial (your favorite TV show, for example) to the most important (politics and religion) to the most personal (you, your business, your profession). They’ll post things that are flagrantly untrue, hurtful or just foul and full of profanity and lies. And just as it’s easy for them to pound out a scathing attack on something you hold dear, it’s incredibly tempting to sit down and immediately pound out a devestating counter attack.
Don’t. Stop. Wait.
Why? Because if you let that flaming response fly, you might wind up looking just like the owner of Boner’s Barbeque, who posted a profanity-laced tirade against a customer who left a negative Yelp! review, complete with a photo of the customer in question. The company instantly became an Internet laughing stock, the poster child for how not to deal with customer service issues on social media. But the problem goes far beyond customer service: it goes to the heart of how we see people and interact with them in the digital world. Because we can’t hear their voice or look into their eyes, we suddenly give ourselves license to say and do things we would never, ever do in the physical world. So the next time you’re faced with a blog post or social media comment that makes your blood boil for any reason, follow these simple steps:
1. Remember, it’s just the Internet. I know this runs counter-intuitive to a digital marketing company that makes its living selling people on the importance of the Internet, but at the end of the day, one negative comment isn’t going to sink you. What might, however, is your response. Remember: it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
2. Weigh the pros and cons of responding. If someone has written a negative review or comment about your business, you need to respond quickly and helpfully, without anger. However, the whole issue gets a lot more complicated when you just read a blog post that pisses you off something fierce and you just HAVE to show the other person how wrong they are.
Before you hit “reply,” stop and think about what leaving that comment will really accomplish. Is it going to reflect well on you? Is there actually any chance that it might persuade someone to change their view? Is it going to help you get new business? If the answer is “no” to all of these questions, ask yourself what you’d really be accomplishing by responding, besides making yourself feel better.
3. Give it a positive spin. If you must respond to a negative blog post, be better than your opposition. That is, don’t respond with a relentlessly negative attack from which no one walks away unscathed. Instead, look at the post for lessons, and respond to them in a positive way.
Recently, an Indianapolis business owner came to me for advice on dealing with a blog post about his industry that made him furious. I encouraged him to take what made him mad about that post and turn it into an educational, positive post for his clients. Transform someone else’s hatred into something useful, and you’ve truly won the day.
Remember: Breathe. Stay cool. Recognize that arguing on the Internet rarely ends well, and you’ll keep your online reputation on course.