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Anna Carlson

Charter: responding to negative feedback and criticism online

The conversations we have on the social web are no different to conversations we have in the real world. Except that once they are out there, they are truly ‘out there’, so it’s even more important to conduct ourselves in the best way as we can, even when faced with negativity.

It’s important to recognise though that we’re not all perfect in real life, we all make slip ups, say what we don’t mean, lash out and react to unfair criticism and negativity.  We all need a ‘sanity check’ now and again, something to remind us of what’s really important and what will help us stay on track and on this mission of creating stronger unions between our brands and our consumers.

So with this in mind, we have decided to put together a charter to help guide us in how we conduct ourselves on the social web when faced with negativity.

Here’s a starter for ten:

  • Don’t be afraid of criticism. Be curious about it.  There is always a reason behind it.  By getting to the bottom of it, we are best equipped to deal with it. Make like a doctor who suppresses an emotional reaction to clear their minds to best understand and diagnose the problem.
  • Criticism can come in many forms – fair, unfair, fairly put, snidely put, constructive, unconstructive, wrong, right, right but put in a ‘school yard’ way and so on.  But if we stay consistent in our approach we can soon weed out the bad from the good, convince the sceptics and learn from the constructive critics, and our reputation for being decent and consistent will see others come to our support when we really are being unfairly attacked or misunderstood.
  • Negativity presents opportunity.  An opportunity to learn and grow from constructive criticism, an opportunity to explore and understand unfair criticism to get to the point where you can give your side to the story that they may not be aware of, to turn around sceptics in the same way, or to not rise to ‘trolls’ and see them scuttle away (due to not getting the equally troll like reaction they were hoping for).
  • Don’t be afraid of debate.  But be clear on the line between debate and argument.  Argument is unconstructive and alienating, debate is healthily challenging and exciting.  Debate is based on only after listening, understanding and acknowledging another’s viewpoint putting forth your own viewpoint, argument is based on emotional reaction and failing to look beyond your own rationale.
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes made – practice makes perfect as they say, and no truer than in finding the way of conducting yourself in the world and now the new online world.  If you make mistakes, if you react in a way you’re not proud of, hold your hands up, put them right – you will be respected for your honestly, braveness and awareness of your own failings.
  • Get on with it, react fast – fresh and honest beats ‘too late and carefully contrived’.
  • And finally, keep in mind all the time the ‘8 magical philosophies’ of conducting yourself generally online (and real life too!) that we like to hark on about at NM:
  1. be authentic
  2. be transparent
  3. be helpful
  4. be remarkable
  5. pull, don’t push
  6. be open
  7. act fast
  8. be brave

Can you think of anything else that should be included on this list?

This post was filed under Not for profit, Social media and tagged Comments are currently closed.


  1. saw this and thought it complements your blog post nicely so I thought I would comment:

    People online are real people.



    • If you send a nasty email, there’s a real human being on the other end who gets it.
    • If you flame in a forum, you’re wasting real people’s time.
    • If you spam someone, you’re really only making yourself look bad.
    • If you write IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS it sounds like shouting.
    • If you want something to happen your way, try asking instead of demanding.
    • If you give, you’ll probably wind up getting, too.
    • If you blog just to pick fights, don’t be surprised when people don’t trust you.
    • If you collaborate, say thanks.
    • If you’re independent, say no thanks.
    • If you like someone, tell them.
    • If you don’t, walk away from the computer.
    • If you’re giving feedback, lead with just one good thing.
    • If you’re getting feedback, realize that the person must care a lot to have sent it.
    • If you goof, apologize.
    • If you apologize, mean it.
    • If you smile, mean that too.
    • If you don’t like something, don’t do it.
    • If you do like something, spread it.


    But far far more important:



    • Give people a break.
    • The break you probably deserve yourself.
    • People are out to do good, 99% of the time.
    • You probably are too.
    • Say thanks out loud and a lot.
    • Try making someone’s day.
    • Chances are they’ll make yours in return.

    Taken from Megan from the Squidblog

    Posted 7th November 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  2. I love that – thanks for sharing :)

    Posted 8th November 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  3. Pete

    So many people (including myself) spend too much time pretending not to be fools. When really we are all fools.

    So my suggestion is “be a fool, at least you’re alive”.

    And secondly, drop certainty. Most of us think we are right so much of the time. And certainty really gets in the way – of understanding, and of knowing others.

    Which would you rather be: certain? or happy?

    Posted 2nd December 2008 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  4. More golden delicious advice from Seth Godin:

    Love it ;-)

    Posted 19th January 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

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