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Social Media Etiquette: How to Handle Negative Feedback

01.11.11

For those first getting involved in social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, the initial pushback can be over what content to post.  And since social media for business is different than social media for personal use only, that means repeated posts about what you’re eating for breakfast probably won’t cut it, while instead sharing a link about something in your line of work will.

So, why did I post about my breakfast yesterday morning and how was it received?

I don’t have a Facebook Official Page, just my personal profile, so it gets a mixture of business and personal.  And while I don’t recommend only writing status updates of “I’m having Life cereal for breakfast” or “I’m hungry. Time to eat” (regardless of whether or not you use your Facebook profile for business), writing about food in general is hardly off limits.  People love talking about food, seeing images of food, and learning about food.  And with so many people in my sphere of influence interested in healthy living, it seems relevant.

So, I took a photo of the box of donuts next to the bunch of bananas and posted it to Facebook with a question.  As far as posting about something as vapid as breakfast, I thought it was as interesting and engaging as possible.  At the very least, harmless.

As sometimes happens, though, it wasn’t liked by everyone.  In fact, today, this post brought out a negative response from one of my friends.  Shortly after I posted it, I saw this in my Recent News feed:

Now look: this isn’t all bad.  Sure, it’s not quite the response you long for, but here’s the bright side:

  1. My posts were showing up in his News Feed.
  2. He didn’t instantly hide me.

And now it offers a chance to be gracious and informative — even if the snarky, defensive, juvenile route appears optional, as well: avoid that if at all possible.  It’s very difficult to sense tone in people’s online posts – especially when it’s not someone with whom you regularly converse.

So, I responded:

The reality is that not everything you post is going to be interesting to all your friends.  Even the most interesting people that I’m friends with post things that don’t do much for me.  It’s just the way this whole social media business works: we post what we find interesting and thus we attract people with similar interests.

And if someone honestly doesn’t like anything I post, then they have two options: hide me, or defriend me.  While, I’d rather neither option, I also don’t want to be bothering people either.  I’m not going to change who I am, so the onus is on the other to decide whether or not to have me in their Feed.  No harm, no foul.

Turns out, my friend didn’t want to hide me altogether:

I took the opportunity to inform my friend about the different options of viewing the Facebook News Feed, suggesting that Top News might be more their speed.  Even then, my random posts could sneak through — although it’s less likely.  (And in doing so, another mutual friend saw the thread and chimed, liking my posts.  That may not have happened had I responded defensively.)

Not that it’s easy to keep your cool sometimes.  It’s easy to take things personally online, especially when it’s about something you’ve written or something you feel strongly about.  (I don’t care much about my own breakfast either, but it’s still something that I posted and, let’s be frank, we want people to like what we post otherwise we’d just write things down in a diary for only ourselves to see.)

Negative feedback doesn’t always have to end negatively.  Even plain old criticism can be spun into either constructive criticism or – in this case – a teaching moment.  Remember that the next time someone drops some dislike on your latest Facebook post.

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8 comments

  1. Another amazing blog. Mason, you are so good for people!


    • Ha! Thanks so much, Kelly. I appreciate your kind words.


  2. This is especially helpful for the creatively inclined – nothing sucks more than getting a really mean comment on your art. What would you recommend doing with outright mean comments – like “Everyone in this video is an ugly dinosaur” or “you’re a creepy perv for posting this comment” (actually saw this one once when a friend posted that he liked girls in Yoga pants) ?


    • In some cases, it comes down to just moderating comments — meaning, if it’s just straight up negative, delete it. People tend to frown upon that a bit more because then your comments section becomes just high praise from (seemingly) everyone and you then take a bit of a hit on your authenticity.

      So you’re left with a couple options.

      1. Ignore the haters. Probably your best bet, to be honest. (As tough as it is.)
      2. Respond positively. Depending on how many negative comments you receive, this might work. Respond with “Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. But thanks for listening.” It neutralizes their vitriol and takes the fun out of it for them. Again, this is the high road and, frankly, sometimes just isn’t worth your time or energy.
      3. Moderate only the truly offensive. Essentially a combo of the previous two: delete comments if they’re more than just negative, but just blasphemous or inappropriate. And then ignore the haters.

      The thing is that every now and then you’ll get constructive criticism which is healthy for any artist to hear — as difficult as it is. And you develop a thicker skin as time goes on and you receive more comments. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is a critic.

      Hope this helped!


  3. Great blog Bro. Loved it!

    I think that its easy to forget that social media is like any other form of the written word: inflection and nuance can be lost easily and misunderstood by all. I like how you approached this subject and I hope many take the opportunity to read your blog. Exchange, discussion,criticism, and disagreement don’t have to be negative. In fact, they can be postive factors for personal growth and understanding.


    • Thanks, Mike! And totally agree with you, too. It’s something I always have to remind myself of before I respond to certain comments because it’s easy to just instantly be defensive. So long as both parties are interested in what the other has to say and isn’t just there to tell the other that they’re wrong. In which case, it won’t matter how polite or mean you are: it’s like talking to a brick wall and a pointless endeavor in real life or online.


  4. Your response was perfect – what a well-mannered educated young lad you are.


    • Thanks, JGryff. I do what I can.



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