How to Deal with Facebook “Bashers”

In both online and real-life spaces, trolls exist. They may not feed on your tears (well, not literally, at least), but they exist to mess things up because starting a ruckus on the Facebook comments section is just the easiest thing to do. Trolling’s effects are pretty well-documented, too: online bullying has been known to increase depression among individuals, particularly in young teens. And we’re just talking about persons here; we’ve yet to delve into how trolling affects brands on Facebook.

While Maven will always have a soft spot for consumers calling out brands to implement ethical business practices, we also have to address that there are just some people who you just cannot please — EVER — and whose only existence is to drag you down. It’s devastating enough if the attacks were directed against you. But make no mistake: they may also go after your family and friends. And if they ever get wind that you also happen to run a business?

*Shudder*

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the world of Facebook “bashers”, as we know it. And before we get to tackling them, it’s probably best to figure out why they do what they do.

What is a “Basher”?

We’re pretty sure you might have heard the term “hater” before. Simply put, a hater is a person who just… well, hates. Surprisingly enough, even science agrees with that notion. In a story published about the result of that said study in 2013, the findings said:

‘Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign and the University of Pennsylvania propose a new dimension to individual personality: a “dispositional attitude.” Whereas people with positive dispositional attitudes have a natural inclination to like, or approve of, external objects and situations, those with negative dispositional attitudes exhibit a strong tendency to dislike them. It would appear that our judgment is not as empirical as we would like to think.’

So haters do hate because it’s just in their nature. Fine, let’s go with that.

Fast-forward a few years later, and it seemed like a more virulent strain of the ‘hater’ appeared in the form of the basher. It’s basically a “Filipinization” of the hater. Online communities being what they are, the term stuck, and probably because “basher” just sounds more aggressive than calling someone a “hater”.

So, now that we’re all set on what a ‘basher’ is, how can brands and businesses deal with this problem? Spoken word artist Malik Yusef might have an idea on how we can manage one early on in ‘The Psychology of a Hater’:

“People confuse jealousy and envy with hate. People who are envious of us, don’t hate us, they want what we have, or want to be where we are. But, if you don’t address those that are envious of you, the jealousy can ferment into hate.”

So let’s get cracking.

The First Step to Stopping a Basher

One of the tricky things about dealing with online criticism is knowing how to differentiate a legitimate gripe from one which just exists to ruin your day. You know, like this one:

Subtle.

However, there’s one quality that makes all kinds of online criticism similar: the people doing their rantings online just need attention. As a brand, this is where you can start dealing with a basher in a drama-free manner. Let’s break down the process, shall we?

1.  Addressing the basher’s concern early on

Nothing makes a person angier online than knowing that no one’s reacting to his or her post. Of course, that also applies to when addressing a complaint against your brand (and that should make you think twice before laying into a helpless call center agent whenever you’re making a complaint about your credit card bill or something). So, before a random online complainer turns into a full-blown “basher”, it’s important to address what’s bothering him or her from the get-go.

There are generally two ways you can go about it:

The “responsive” badge, for all intents and purposes, is the golden standard for pages on Facebook. It shows people that you respond immediately to all queries and, more importantly, that you care about your customers.

Of course, that’s easier said than done: current Philippine internet speeds being what they are, you can’t expect to respond to a query immediately if you’re not online all the time. In that regard, you can set an automated message that will reply to any queries sent to your page. However, do note that while an automated reply means that your page has acknowledged the concern, don’t make the mistake of assuming that it will immediately address the issue. You still have to come in and ask that person what his or her concern is.

Cebu Pacific, in particular, has been very adept inaddressing users’ concerns online over the past few months.

On the other hand, it’s another thing to actually address a concern either on a post made to or on the comments section on your page. For one, anything you write will be documented, and ruthlessly so.

When addressing a comment online, the messaging you communicate should be clear, concise, and to-the-point. The commenter wants an answer, so it should be wise for you to NOT write something that comes off as confusing or pandering. Let’s leave the legalese to the lawyers, shall we?

2. What if the s/he won’t stop bashing?

Now, this is where things get tricky. There are a few things you can do to address it, but the first thing you should not do is to delete a comment or ban a user. While teaching a disruptive commenter a lesson is all well and good, doing it as a first course of action can backfire on you either with accusations of your page not promoting discussion or, worse, that your page is hiding something from its followers. It all sounds very “conspiracy theory”-esque, but then again, conspiracy theories are getting popular on social media these days!

On the other hand, what you would also not want to do is to engage in a bickering contest with your basher. If you’ve ever been pulled into an online argument before where the “arguments” devolved into nothing but petty name-calling, then you know that you’ve already lost by giving in to your hotheadedness. Just think of responding to a basher online as something you’ll actually do in the real world when defusing a situation: it would help if you’re calm and, if possible, to not involve your ego too much.

Having said that, there are generally two ways you can address a basher who just won’t stop:

With facts

Rappler, owing to its controversial status as a magnet for Facebook bashers, regularly posts “viral news debunkers” that are supported with photos and links.

It’s impossible to go through a Facebook feed without seeing a post screaming “FAKE NEWS”. Thus, it should only make sense that many Facebook users these days are wary of the information presented to them. If you’re like us, then you might be also sick of all that misinformation and deception.

With that said, know that one of the responsibilities you have when running a business or a brand is to present yourself as an authority. And one of the best ways you can do that is by presenting facts to the arguments presented to you.

So yes, you combat bashing by simply presenting genuine and verified information. If you can present supporting studies or links, then go for it. Easy, isn’t it?

With humor

Fastfood brands usually use humor to answer trolls. Wendy’s is one of the best examples of them.

Nothing shuts up a person more than having someone make a joke on his or her expense. Caution for those who will go with this route, though: you have to be ABSOLUTELY sure your joke comes off as really funny, and not in a mean-spirited way.

On the other hand, there’s a fine line between being “funny” and “cruel”, however. If your joke comes off sounding like a playground insult, then it’s better off if you just don’t crack a joke at all.

3. Despite all that, my basher still won’t stop. What then?

If that’s the case, then having a solid policy to deal with online comments may prove to be helpful to you. For instance, this one below by noted investigative journalism website Mother Jones has a no-nonsense policy when it comes to dealing with online commenters:

In short, if any of the Mother Jones readers violate any one of these rules, then they’re automatically banned from making any comments on the page.

Of course, you wouldn’t wish for things to go that far, right? Well, if your brand is lucky enough to have fostered a community of commenters on your page, then you wouldn’t have to worry about replying to every inane comment that comes your way because your followers will do the policing for you.

Conclusion

While it’s perfectly understandable why you should defend your page from a Facebook basher, you do have to occasionally remind yourself that not all negative comments are supposed to be taken in a… err, “negative” light. Some good can come out of that kind of feedback loop, if only to make you realize that there may be possible lapses in how you run your business, how you communicate your messages, or even in a simple manner like dealing with people online.

But just like hearing cuss words for the first time, you’ll know a basher when it appears in your Facebook page’s comments section. Good luck!