One of the goals in blogging for a non-profit organization (or a for-profit business) is to engage your audience. Successful bloggers will tell you that they want people to respond to what they say. It’s one of the things that distinguishes blogging from advertising: It’s not a monologue, it’s a conversation. The same thing is true with social media platforms such as Facebook. The interaction is what makes it social.
But there can be a dark side to social media. What do you do about comments or postings that are negative? Let’s look a couple of scenarios and how you can respond.
When there’s a legitimate problem.
Sometimes we simple make mistakes and people point them out to us. We may not like it, but it happens to all of us. In the age of social media, the worst things you can do are to deny it, try to cover it up, or try to excuse it. Be honest. If you blew it, admit it. Apologize. If possible, talk about how you’re going to make it right (but don’t make promises you can’t keep—that will only make it worse). Thank your readers for pointing the problem out to you. The great thing about most non-profits is that the constituencies are generally pretty passionate about what the organizations do. They are complaining because they care. Thank them for that.
When someone is just venting or is simply hurtful.
Unfortunately, there are some people that are just looking for a fight. They want things done their way, and if you don’t do things exactly the way they think you should, they will criticize you—or worse. The fact is that blogs and social media platforms are good places to have discussions—but they are lousy places to have arguments. You will never win an argument in a blog or on a social media platform—and you’ll look bad if you try. Don’t defend yourself. Let your friends come to your defense. It’s much more powerful to have someone else defend your virtue than it is to launch a “counter attack.” Some organizations have a small group of special friends they can turn to in times like these. They will contact these friends and ask them to respond (not telling them what to say). Once these friends start the ball rolling, other friends tend to come out of the woodwork.
Another option is to turn the criticism into a question and pose it to your general audience (after taking some of the venom out of the accusation): What do you think the real problem is? How would you address this? Again, don’t get defensive—and don’t ignore the issue either. A big part of the reason organizations engage in social media and blogging is to build friendships. Encourage your friends to respond.
What kind of negative comments have you received? How have you responded in ways that have diffused the situation?