How to handle negative comments on social media


Quick answers:

  • Report and delete content that breaks the law
  • Only delete comments or mute people as a last resort
  • Don’t rush your response and get another opinion on what you say
  • Remember you’re representing the body of Christ in how you respond

Many people and churches cite negative comments as a key reason why they are no longer on social media, or why they never joined in the first place. There are lots of sociological reports and insights on behaviour in the digital space which are worth looking into. In this article however, we’re going to focus on the practicalities of navigating the murky waters of handling negative comments on your church’s social media accounts.

As Christians, we have declared a personal faith in Jesus. We have the perfect example of how to treat each other, to love our enemies and our neighbours. What does that look like digitally? I’d argue whatever the comment made on our church’s social media we should choose to lean on the example that Jesus gives us. We should always use the pillars of our faith to shape our response.

The example of Jesus shows us is that the Son of God was willing to be associated with darkness in order to bring light. He hung out with people who were despised in society. How is this relevant? Well, don’t panic when negative comments land on your social media and don’t worry about who is commenting. Instead embrace the opportunity to reflect the character of Christ.

Engage or delete

Knowing when to engage with comments and when to delete them is a core to social media management. Comments can be aggressive, abusive, unkind, ignorant and in some cases they will breach the law. If comments are racist, sexually explicit or raise concern about someone’s welfare, capture a screenshot, report it to the platform administrator (e.g. Facebook) delete the comment and report the matter formally to the police if necessary.

If a post or comment on your social media is clearly spam – a link to a ‘special deal’ for example – then also delete it. Remove anything which has no connection to your channel.

If, however, the comment is negative but isn’t spam or grossly offensive then you don’t need to necessarily delete it. You have an opportunity to reflect the qualities of Jesus in your response. Pray about what would be best. Someone has taken the time to come to your social media profile to share their thoughts (good or bad). It may be an opportunity to invite someone to have a coffee and discuss it directly. Take the time to plan a template of responses you can use such as “Thank you for comment. We value everyone’s perspective. Would you like a coffee sometime to discuss this?” or “We’ll DM you so we can talk about this in more depth.”

Don’t rush.

Social media is so immediate and people expect things quickly. So on one hand don’t take days to form a response but an hour or two is fine. Consider your response and ask the opinion of someone else in your church.  Never get caught up in a frantic reply thread – inevitably you’ll end up being drawn in and be more likely to say something you will later regret.

Blocking people

Sometimes you may find an individual causing ongoing problems and it might be appropriate to block them. Grounds to for doing so could be:

  • They are in breach of your social media guidelines
  • They have shared content which breaks the law (racist or explicit content etc)
  • You have attempted to gracefully engage with someone publicly and privately and they display no interest in a constructive dialogue and continue to be disruptive.
  • They are constantly attacking others

When you see comments which need to be addressed, flag them for the attention of the social network then delete the comment and block the user.

Managing social media accounts can be a real challenge at times. If you ever run into a quandary and you’re unsure about how to manage a social media post, fear not – you’re not alone. Join the Church Comms Project Facebook Group and you can ask questions in a private context and receive support and advice from CPO social media experts and peers.

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