Opening yourself to the online public also means opening yourself to thousands of different opinions, personalities and temperaments. Everyone wants their voice heard and the veil of anonymity allows people to be much more forward and even more aggressive than they would normally be, which encourages trolling.
The main problem is that it takes a bit of skill to sift through needlessly harsh critiques, unsubstantiated opinions and troll comments, and find some constructive feedback. And this is an important distinction, as there are different approaches to dealing with the first two, and you need the last one if you want to keep improving.
This is why we are going to take a look at each of these things separately, explore the main differences between them and set some ground rules on how to deal with them.
The Attention-Hungry Troll
Trolls have been around for decades, and people have slowly started to realize that the best strategy is to ignore them, but it sometimes takes an experienced eye to identify a true troll. While the most basic button-pushing comments like “you suck” and “this is an utter joke, I can’t believe anyone takes this guy seriously” are easy to spot, some trolls are a bit more subtle.
Some use sarcasm as a powerful tool or pretend like they want to spark an open conversation only to lure you into an online screaming match. Their ultimate goal is always the same, however – to get you to lose your calm and start arguing.
If someone keeps trying to push you into a heated battle of words, to the point where they just assume the direct opposite view of anything you say and resort to ad hominem remarks, arrogance and outright insults, you’ve got a troll on your hands.
It’s best to just ignore these people, but if they trick you into starting a conversation and reveal their true inner troll a couple of comments down the line, just say goodbye and break off all communication right there and then.
The Self-Proclaimed Critic
Some people just see the bad in everything around them and feel that they need to show everyone else just how bad, wrong or inadequate they are. You’re not a psychiatrist, and even if you were, you couldn’t cure them of their delusions and compulsions over the comments section, so you need a better strategy to deal with them.
Here are just some of the most common types of online critics:
The backhanded compliment master – what starts out looking like praise quickly turns into a rant about all that you are doing wrong. Thank this commenter on their feedback, offer some hard-cold facts in return, wish them a nice day and leave it at that.
The unlikely expert – some comments are aimed at stroking the person’s ego and showing how much they know instead of offering actual feedback. Leave a concise retort, keep the tone neutral and wish them well.
The nitpicker – this person will get caught up on minor details and tiny mistakes and blow them out of proportion as a way to discredit you. Thank them for their observation, explain why such minor details don’t make a huge difference and that you are constantly improving, and leave it at that.
The doomsayer – for some reason this person feels that you are the worst thing since the plague, yet offers very little in way of facts to back up such claims. Simply ignore such comments or leave a short line with statistics that show how many people appreciate your effort and would argue otherwise.
The accuser – you see this a lot in the science community, where everyone with a different opinion is accused of being bought off by some corporation, but you’ll find it in most corners of the web. Again, some cold-hard facts and a polite tone will suffice, just avoid getting into a drawn out argument and keep your responses short.
As you can see, the trick is not to get triggered and leave emotionally charged responses – kill your harshest critics with kindness and rebuke their claims with logic and facts. It’s more about coming across as reasonable and professional than it’s about winning an argument or proving a point.
A Friendly Voice Offering Feedback
Now, don’t think that we are lumping everyone with something negative to say about you and your work into the “unreasonably harsh critic” group – even negative feedback can be constructive. Someone who enjoys your brand and your work, but wants to offer a suggestion on how you can improve, will be easy to spot.
Their overall tone will be much more neutral – they’ll offer facts, get to the point straight away, be polite and avoid any emotionally charged or provocative language. This is the type of commenter you actually want to start a conversation with. Exchange a few words, thank them for their input and tell them that your team will look into the issues they’ve brought up.
There’s a big difference between people who are just being negative to vent their frustrations or troll you in the comments and those who want to offer some genuine feedback and help you improve. Hopefully, this short overview has given you an idea on how to approach different types of commenter and weed out the bad seeds.