This is a collaborative post.
According to a recent article, some hate and harassment online is a ‘…common part of being a content creator.’ This has long been true of outspoken influencers and bloggers, and it’s hardly surprising considering that such individuals have made a brand out of their personal opinions.
Sure, your blog might have felt like preaching to the choir when you had a few thousand avid fans, but if you’re taking your posts to the big time, you’ll likely come across some people who don’t agree with what you’re saying. And, with a screen to protect them, many of those individuals will get pretty nasty about things like your lifestyle, your gender (particularly in the case of female creators), or even something as simple as your outfits.
While trolls are now an unfortunate part of blogging territory for many, there isn’t a standardized way to respond to them. Some bloggers might go in with all guns blazing, while others prefer to say nothing. But, from a business perspective, responding to trolls is rarely worthwhile for a few different reasons that we’ll discuss here.
Thou Shalt Not Respond To Blog Based Hate
IMPORTANT: When to report trolls
It’s typically best to ignore trolls, but it’s also vital to note that there are some pressing exceptions to this rule. After all, while the vast majority of trolls pose no personal threat to you beyond how hard their comments might hit (which shouldn’t be hard when you think that they likely post similar hate to plenty of other bloggers), some trolls take things too far.
You should report trolls to your hosting platform moderators or other online outlets if you experience things like death threats or the sharing of your personal information. Equally, if trolls begin to plague you in real life, which is incredibly rare, you should seek legal help immediately.
When NOT to respond to negative comments
Responding to trolls often becomes a blogging mistake that can quickly get out of hand. Responding too harshly to even the worst trolling comment could see you facing notable backlash and a lot of lost following.
While you certainly shouldn’t avoid responding to every slightly negative comment you receive (more on that later), there are some tell-tale signs that a response isn’t necessary or helpful. Those include –
- Negative comments that don’t relate to your content but insult your appearance, personality, or surroundings.
- Excessive hatred directed towards either you or your blog
- Antagonistic comments that attempt to draw you into an argument
Why is it important to ignore these comments?
Ignoring comments like these is essential because you won’t do any good by replying. There are also a range of other reasons not to rise to troll bait on your blog, and they include –
- Playing into the hands of your trolls: Trolls are typically people looking to vent their frustrations online. If they target a blogger who never responds, they’ll quickly get bored and go elsewhere. But if you come back with a sharp comment that reveals how the trolls are getting to you, they’re likely to jump on you even harder. Your upset is what they want. Don’t give it to them.
- Risking reputational damage: You have a lot more to lose than any troll does. After all, this is your blog, and it’s a business in which you need to remain professional. If you unleash and reply to a troll, you risk people picking up on your comments and using them out of context or seeing what you’ve said as a reason to stop following you. Suppose you respond to the nastiest comments about things like your gender, political beliefs, or any other potentially volatile topics. In that case, you may even face such a public backlash that you have to turn to professionals who repair online reputation to avoid the worst damage. That would be terrible for business, and you can avoid it by simply scrolling past.
- Giving your haters more air time: If you’re a successful blogger, your comment section is likely active. While a troll’s comment may catch your eye because you’re constantly checking your feed, most troll comments move so quickly from your front page that your readers will probably never see them. Unless you respond and enter an ongoing argument with a troll, that nasty comment will keep coming back to the top of your comments reel. This significantly increases the chances of people seeing what a troll says, giving them way more air time than they would otherwise.
- Arguing a losing battle: Like it or not, trolls will hate. They don’t care what they’re commenting about but instead look for an argument. Even if you have a decent defense for their original comment, they’ll pick something else and then something else. With this in mind, replying would mean arguing a losing battle, which is never worth your energy or time.
Are there any exceptions to the rule?
Not all negative comments that you receive will come from trolls. And, to complicate matters, neglecting to reply to those comments can prove equally detrimental to public perceptions. Some signs that a negative comment deserves a response include –
- Well-thought carefully worded criticisms or questions
- Reporting a negative experience with products or opinions from your blog
- A negative comment that receives a lot of likes, shares, or public attention
- When some sort of resolution is required
How to respond in those instances
You must handle this matter carefully if you’ve received a negative comment that fits one of the categories listed above. After all, even worthwhile or justifiable negative comments are much harder to respond to than agreement or positivity. Plus, your response to these comments often distinguishes you as a standout blogger or a potentially problematic person. Some of your best options for response in this instance include –
- Be polite: No one likes negative feedback, and even if there are signs that this person isn’t a troll, you may feel an urge to respond defensively or use short language. But remember, this is your business, and you need to remain professional. This means being polite, asking for any clarity required, and generally keeping your hot-headed responses off the page.
- Encourage private communication: Being able to respond well to negative feedback can help your blog brand overall. But you still want to keep your worst critics off your comments page. Responding to each negative comment with an urge for that person to message you privately is, therefore, a great way to show yourself as a calm, reasonable business owner without airing your dirty comment laundry for every follower to see.
- Respond quickly: If someone’s posting a valid negative comment, they already have a reason to feel annoyed. If you take excessive time to reply, that annoyance will only grow and may even spread when other followers notice that you haven’t responded. Avoid that by posting at least some response to negative comments within a few hours.
- Resolve the situation: It’s possible to turn most negative comments of this nature in your favor if you find a satisfying resolution. You certainly shouldn’t leave negativity like this unsolved. Instead, think about the complaint and what action you can take to turn things around. For instance, if a commenter is offended by something like the accidentally offensive language used in your post (e.g., the wrong pronouns, incorrect terminology, etc.), issue an immediate apology and change your post. Equally, if a commenter has had a bad experience with a recommended product, provide them with all the contact information required to resolve things with the company.
Receiving hate online never gets easier, no matter how big your blog grows. There is, however, some truth in the belief that a certain level of online hate is now somewhat standardized for most online creators.
As well as helping you to feel less despairing in the face of those comments, knowing how best to respond and whether or not you should respond at all is crucial for the ongoing success of your blog. And that is more challenging than you might think.
Ultimately, it’s never worth your time to respond to trolls, meaning that you should always avoid or immediately delete comments that –
- Pick apart your life/personality
- Seems unrelated to your content itself
- Are regularly posted by one anonymous account
- Never resolve despite your best efforts
Equally, it would help if you aimed to respond to, and ideally resolve, comments that –
- Pose genuine concerns/queries regarding your content or ad products/merch
- Highlight mistakes in your posts or opinions
- Receive a lot of public attention, thus revealing a widely shared opinion
Follow these simple distinctions to ensure you never waste your time on blog-based hate that doesn’t deserve attention.