4 Ways to deal with social media trolls – don’t slam them

Instead, outsmart them with expert advice and build a positive image of your nonprofit online.  


After months of hard work of putting the campaign strategy together, reaching out to donors, and hosting a string of fundraising events – your nonprofit celebrates a big victory. Your team posts this accomplishment on different social networks, and you receive a flood of positive responses, perhaps even more donor engagement and partnership opportunities.

But all this achievement comes with an aftertaste of sourness.

Underneath your posts, you see some commenters posting negative online comments. Their inappropriate words sting you and even tempt you to slam them instantly (a reaction you would want to avoid at all costs).

At some point, every nonprofit with active social media campaigns have to deal with negative comments, whether it is about Black Lives Matter protests or the anti-feminist trolls targeting the first Egyptian woman captain. Nonprofit haters target the good work with their unworthy, insensitive comments. But it is crucial to outsmart these verbal attacks so that your organization stands out in a good light.

Here are a few tips on how to deal with negative online comments:

1. Stress on your policies

Julia Campbell suggests that all nonprofits should have two different social media policies. An internal one for their employees and volunteers, and the other external, public-facing, stating what your nonprofit will not accept on social platforms. Post your policies on your website or the ‘About us’ section of your social networks. In the future, if your organization needs to take a specific action, such as deleting a deliberately offensive statement, you can do so and link to your policy to back your action.

Pro tip: Ask all team members responsible for handling your NPO’s accounts to save a screenshot of any comments or statements that they delete from social channels as proof that their intention is not to censor discussions but to act as per the guidelines. 

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2. Steer the conversation to a private platform

Social networks are not the best platform to get into a comprehensive debate with people who are just lurking behind their keyboards to make upsetting comments online. Besides, it is impossible to have a well-reasoned chat with them and little value in responding to them. Contrarily, there are some risks.

a. The audience may misunderstand your intentions

b. Arguments can become never-ending

c. People can dive in purely for entertainment

You can’t help it if people start an unwelcome conversation on social media. But the best course of action would be to move it elsewhere. You can ask the commenters to message the page separately or provide them with a direct email address to contact you.

Pro tip: It is best to wait 24 to 48 hours before responding to disrespectful or negative comments. Most of the time, social media trolls turn their attention elsewhere and leave you alone.

3. Use social media tools:

Ben Mathews, the co-founder of Empower Agency, suggests using social media tools to control your account being attacked by inappropriate comments. Here are some options he thinks are best.

a. Twitter’s account blocking and reporting features

b. Hiding, deleting, or using account page-banning on Facebook

c. Deleting comments, blocking user’s account, and reporting to Instagram

An Instagram post – comments are restricted to avoid social media negativity

95% of the time, Ben says a response can be eliminated by the guidelines mentioned above. But if not, your organization can use social listening tools to see what previous interactions it has had with a particular user to understand where the resentment evolved.

4. Distinguish: Complaints vs haters vs trolls

It is often difficult to identify whether a commenter is a nonprofit hater, a troll, or a donor who thinks your organization has failed to live up to its expectations. Your team members involved in handling your social networks must be conscious of this difference.

Besides this, it is crucial to take into account a genuine complaint. Most of the time, your loyal supporters or donors who are concerned about your cause and interested in your nonprofit’s growth are the ones who take the time out to express their concerns. In this case:

a. Respond to them by addressing their concern under direct reply threads

b. Apologize if there’s been a mistake and then go above and beyond to fix it

c. Don’t ignore or delete the post. It is always better to be seen addressing the problem rather than ignoring it or deleting it

d. Acknowledge and thank your commenter or supporter even if you think that it isn’t a justified complaint. This gives you more control of the situation and portrays a positive image

Has your nonprofit dealt with negative comments on social media? What is your strategy? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us @hopefulcompany

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