Imagine a colorful room, full of music, laughter, and a weird smell that reminds you slightly of paint (it’s a fantasy and we’re artists, that’s what we love). Everyone is smiling, and everyone is happy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a darkly dressed individual stands up on the nearest table and shouts, “THIS PARTY SUCKS!”, startling everyone in the room into near silence. Babies cry. Women scream. Good feeling gone.
And that, folks, is what happens when you find a troll in your social media comment section. One minute, your piece is getting likes, follows, accolades; the next minute, a black cloud of dismal trollery overshadows the comments and everyone starts to fight. Don’t drop your phone and let out a horror-movie-style shriek though: we’ll get through this together.
What is Netiquette?
Believe it or not, netiquette is a real thing. Netiquette is defined as the correct or acceptable way of communicating on the internet. That’s right; the internet has etiquette, just like my grandmother’s dinner table. Except, unlike my grandmother’s dinner table, the trolls of the internet can hide behind screens and keyboards if they don’t want to mind their p’s and q’s. If you’ve got a professional page where you advertise your artwork, professional netiquette is something you need to abide by to keep your business image well above the murky depths of troll-land.
Let’s take a look at some simple rules of professional netiquette that will help you out in a sticky public relations situation.
This is such a difficult rule to follow, but it’s very important: do not feed the trolls. If someone is posting needlessly negative comments on your work (things like, “this sucks” or “this is awful”), don’t engage them in an argument. Simply remove their comment and block them! As frustrating as their comments are, there are some people who just aren’t happy unless they are making other people unhappy—we could go into the psychology of this for days, but truly, it’s easier just to block them.
Exception: If someone posts on your page that they did not receive an item you were supposed to have sent, or that the item arrived in less than perfect condition, you can choose to engage them in the comments in a very professional, acute way. “I’m sending you a private message right now, we’ll get this sorted out” will go a long way, and will show both the person complaining and your other followers that you care, and will address issues that arise.
This is a long the same lines as “don’t fight.” If you do decide to engage a negative commenter, do not start name calling, swearing, or threatening them. It will solve absolutely nothing, and will negatively impact your company’s image. Although you may have a devout following that supports you, new followers will not be hasty to support a business that acts unprofessionally with customers. If you can’t say something professional, refer to “Don’t Fight” and delete, block, and move on.
Don’t Tolerate Abuse
If someone is threatening you, or being racist, homophobic, etc., you likely have recourse directly through whichever social media platform you’re using. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter have all taken relatively strong stances on cyber bullying, so if you feel that you are in danger or that you’re being harassed, make sure that you report the person immediately. Just because you have a professional page, this does not mean you have to tolerate abuse.
On the flipside, not all criticism is bad. Too often, I see people who receive constructive tips on their work and take it offensively. Unless you’re specifically asking for advice, no one really likes to hear that there is something they could have done better in their piece. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from being a part of our Facebook Group, someone always knows more than you. It’s just a fact! Instead of being offended if a more seasoned artist or even a newbie offers advice, take it. Good free advice is hard to come by, and being an artist is about continuous growth and learning. Even if it’s something you don’t want to do, give a grateful “thank you”; if the person took time out of their day to offer something constructive and polite way, answer in kind.
Don’t Take it Personally
This is so much easier said than done, and I realize that. I’ve been there. If there’s anything you take away from this article, please remember that the negative thoughts of one individual do not make you a bad artist, and it doesn’t mean your piece is bad. It’s very easy to focus on negativity, and much harder to believe family and friends who say your work is good, but trust me; your family isn’t lying to you, and you’ve got to take it easy on yourself.
Responding to Positive Feedback
Enough about the negative! Handling positive feedback professionally is just as important as handling negative feedback professionally.
If you have a big following, it can be really difficult to reply to every comment on social media; but you should still make an effort to at least reply with an emoji or short, positive sentiment. After all, these are your supporters, your fans! Engage with them, get to know them; these are the people that will share your work and cheer you on, and sometimes those interactions will be just what you need to get over a negative day. Try to set aside 15-30 minutes each day, or more if you can, to interact with people on your social media pages; you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it will make with your following. Even if you don’t have time to comment, always “like” comments; that at least acknowledges that you read them.
Social media is a tricky sea to navigate. Follow the simple rules of professional netiquette to keep your company name pristine, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how the refusal of that negativity changes your outlook!