The other day I saw a woman verbally assault an older lady for changing lanes. The outburst was so loud I heard it driving in the opposite direction. It was also physically violent with shaking fists and offensive gestures directed at someone’s grandmother. Why can we be so mean and nasty when we’re behind 2-tons of steel when acting this same way in person would be unacceptable?
WebMD explains that road ragers don’t view other drivers as a person. Psychologist Ava Cadell says, “Road ragers don’t think about other people on the road as real people with real families.” We see this in social media as well. Research has shown that online anonymous commenting breeds mean-spirited and sometimes downright nasty attacks. People who intentionally post negative messages are referred to as Internet Trolls.
Why all the intentionally negative comments? A new study “Trolls Just Want To Have Fun” found online trolling can be a form of sadism. They post comments or messages to start arguments or get an emotional reaction from others. I’ve been telling my son, in the context of middle school, if someone calls you a nickname you don’t like, the last thing you want to do is get mad saying, “I don’t like that!” That will only make them call you it more! Apparently we can revert to middle school when we get behind the wheel or a smartphone.
Brands can become the target of all this hatred and it can seriously hurt business. Dimensional Research reports 86% of respondents who recalled reading online reviews said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews and most of these negative reviews happen on online ratings sites. What can marketers do?
There are new online reputation-management services, but The Wall Street Journal says many are falsely claiming that they can remove bad reviews. Yelp warns to stay away from services offering to remove negative reviews or otherwise boost your ratings for a fee saying it can’t be done. Angie’s List agrees saying that bad reviews can not simply be wiped off the site. Instead, Google suggests reducing the visibility of negative content by publishing useful, positive information and not trying to game the system.
eInsurance gives us insight into dealing with road ragers that could also apply to trolls. They advise that it takes two to start a fight. So don’t confront or over react to highly negative comments. William Comcowich of Cyber Alert gives similar advice saying “Don’t Feed the Trolls.” Avoid the following types of responses to negative commenters:
- Emotional responses. If a post makes you angry, wait an hour before responding. Once a negative response is out on the Internet, you can’t take back.
- Wrong information. Negative commenters live to prove you wrong. Make sure what you say is true and up-to-date.
- Lengthy explanations. Long responses trying to prove you’re right merely give the attention they want and provide ground for new arguments.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore legitimate complaints from customers. If you honestly made a mistake, acknowledge it in a short and friendly manner. Humility and fixing something can go a long way towards turning a foe into a friend.
Of course there are exceptions. Some have grown tired of the power of ratings over their business and are fighting back against the rating sites. Botto Bistro has started a campaign to discredit the restaurant’s Yelp rating. It is running ads encouraging its customers to leave one-star reviews for 25% off any pizza to become the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area. As you can see below, the one-star ratings do come with somewhat sarcastic negative reviews that leave an overall positive impression.
Whether you are dealing with an angry driver, commenter or middle schooler, it is best to try and diffuse the situation.