Dealing with negative social media comments: The giant bullhorn that punctures holes in organizations’ walls, like an arrow to the chest




A negative comment on a corporate social media post can pierce like an arrow to the chest and puncture holes into an organization’s walls. A single negative voice in a sea of positive feedback can feel as though it is blaring from a giant bullhorn, striking fear into corporate community managers that an avalanche of negativity will overtake positivity like a contagious bandwagon. Why would a corporation consider telling its story in the online battlefield of social media and risk exposing its reputation to a cesspool of negativity? This paper will explore why negativity is an online barrier through research, industry advice and best practices – including from the researchers and experts who use the foregoing colourful idioms and metaphors to describe negative online comments.

To answer the main question of why an organization would consider engaging on social media in the face of prolific negativity and hate speech, this paper will review the evolution of online emotions and the rise of negativity on social media. The paper will define negative online comments in the corporate context using research on trolls, cyberbullying and online personal attacks. Using the psychology of Pareto’s 80/20 rule and negativity bias, this paper will provide quantitative and qualitative perspectives on negativity to show why companies pay much more attention to negative comments than positive ones, and how analysis of negativity can help a company develop emotional intelligence. Examples will be presented from research and industry to understand and combat negativity and review research on user comments that classifies users to better understand their motivations. Using research on tone and voice in online conversation, this paper will share cautionary case studies that demonstrate how companies that are not self-aware can incite negative comments. Finally, this paper will review research on platform content moderation techniques to understand how social media platforms like Facebook manage negativity and will suggest similar solutions for corporations, including not only the online community’s ability but also our collective responsibility to moderate and overcome the online positivity deficit.


Keywords: social media, community manager, online negativity, negativity bias, negative comments, online emotions, user categorization