One of the great things about social media marketing is that it allows you to engage in a conversation with your organization’s followers, fans, and customers. Interacting with comments on a social media post can go a long way toward forging important relationships with people who follow your organization online. 

But while there are many benefits to being able to personally interact, sometimes personal interactions can be as messy as the people engaging in them. So the comment section, on occasion, can take an unexpected turn south. 

In some cases, you can predict that a particular post might garner strong responses if it touches on an important but controversial topic. Other times, social media managers can be blindsided by negative responses that they couldn’t have anticipated. 

Whatever the case, wise social media managers and content marketers develop and refine skills for taking a negative comment and turning it into a moment where your organization can actually increase social influence, show empathy, and gain the respect of those who see your response. 

Here are five tips for responding to negative comments in a way that can change the tone of the conversation. 

1. Respond to Negative Comments Quickly and Sincerely.

When you get a negative comment on a post, it can be difficult to know what to say in return. But don’t let that discomfort turn into delay. Sometimes, silence can be interpreted as acquiescence to whatever the person is saying about you.

So when you receive a negative comment that seems to be gaining attention quickly, do your best to respond to it both quickly and sincerely. Let the commenter know that you’re taking their response seriously. Apologize where necessary for any misunderstanding or dissatisfaction the commenter is expressing with your organization, thanking them for their feedback. 

2. Use Humor To Break the Ice.

Many times, when people comment negatively on a post, they do so impulsively. They felt a strong negative emotion, threw their fingers at their keyboard, and hit send. Sometimes, by responding with a positive and humorous tone, you can disarm them and redirect the conversation in a more positive direction. 

This doesn’t always work, so you shouldn’t necessarily use humor in response to every negative comment. When you do respond with humor, be sure that your tone is jovial rather than snarky.

However, humor and sincerity aren’t always at odds with one another. Sometimes a response that’s lighthearted and mildly self-deprecating can do the trick. 

3. Know When to Move From Comments to Direct Messages.

Sometimes, people use the comment section to raise a genuine concern about something that isn’t directly related to your post but instead relates to a bad experience they’ve had with your organization after purchasing a product or service. 

In these instances, it’s best practice to move the conversation offline and out of the comment section. There are a couple of ways you can do this. 

One way is to direct message the person who made the comment, in order to work out whatever particular issue they are experiencing. Once you’ve responded to them privately, be sure to reply to their comment publicly saying that you have reached out to them personally. This will alert the commenter to a direct message that they might have missed, and it also signals to everyone else in the comment section that you are taking the matter seriously and following up quickly. 

Another way to move the conversation offline is to direct the commenter to your customer service hotline or email address. Politely apologize for the negative experience the commenter had with your organization and let them know that you would love to follow up with them personally, providing the means by which they can further the conversation with you. 

4. Know When To Delete and Block.

Many times, you can turn a negative comment into a positive conversation with a winsome, sincere, or humorous response. But the fact of the matter is that not everybody is going to interact with your brand in good faith. 

It takes some wisdom to detect when certain commenters are simply being negative for the sake of it, and you don’t want to unnecessarily cut off people too quickly. In fact, being quick with deleting comments and blocking people can work against you, as it can make you come across as overly sensitive to negative feedback or as an organization that seeks to dominate and control the conversation. 

However, you don’t have to take a beating from everybody who decides to show up in your comment section and try to ruin everyone’s day. 

Respond to people in good faith. But when it becomes apparent that they aren’t reciprocating the same respect, don’t feel guilty about blocking them—particularly when the negative commenter is a “frequent flyer.”

5. Don’t Take It Personally.

As a social media manager or content creator, when you craft a post that you feel reflects good intentions and highlights the important work that your organization is doing only to receive a particularly nasty response, it can be discouraging. But do your best not to take it personally.

Remember that your identity, and the identity of your company, does not rest in the hands of the few people who share harsh words about it. Remember why you are a part of your organization, its mission, and respond in a way that reflects those values. 

And if you need to, close your laptop, leave your phone on your desk, and take a quick walk. Remember that online comments aren’t the sum total of your life or the work of your organization. While you should respond to legitimate concerns with care and empathy, you don’t need to take negative comments too seriously—or yourself, for that matter.