No Comment: The Dos and Don’ts Of Responding to Online Comments

Norwegian handmade troll with charm and personality.

Earlier today, first lady Melania Trump said about interacting on social media, “Sometimes you need to fight back.” And maybe that point of view makes sense for her husband’s brand of politics, but is it politic for brands?

Whenever we present social media and style guides to our clients, they inevitably ask, “What should we do about negative comments?” Great question. Do you take them down? Respond to them? Change platforms?

No comment used to mean one thing in this business. It was what you said when a reporter asked you for confidential information. And back in the day, we counseled our clients to use it sparingly – like salt. But in today’s world, no comment isn’t always a bad thing, although it falls on the other end of the spectrum from Mrs. Trump’s “Fight back.”

The answer to our clients is always, “It depends.” An unsatisfactory response, we know, but an appropriate one in the rapidly changing, highly customizable environment we work in. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

Do err on the side of transparency, respect that social media is meant to be a public dialogue, and get comfortable with less than favorable comments.

Don’t ever, as in never, ever, ever, keep comments up, however, if they contain hate speech, foul language, or anything else that is offensive.

Do respond. Express appreciation for feedback and dialogue. Share the brand’s point of view, set the record straight, or offer to work toward a satisfactory resolution.

Don’t “fight back.” Good brands never bully.

Do “take it offline” if possible. Ask your commenter to move to email or DM or a phone call to discuss their feedback.

Don’t feed the trolls. Ever.