How to Deal With Trolls

The saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is sooo 20th century. Because nowadays it’s more like, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, open your computer and say it online.”

The internet can be an awesome place for people to connect, share ideas, and get traction for their product. But be warned: here be monsters.

When it comes to social media, you want people to happily, helpfully, constructively comment on and share your stuff, to get engaged with it. But not everyone is the Bob Ross of commenters, and there’s a whole slew of negative feedback you may have to deal with too.

The trick here is knowing how to respond to different kinds of negative comments: The trolls trying to provoke you into answering their riddles three (a.k.a just being snarky), the straight up nasty comments, and the comments that don’t make you feel great but may be giving you good feedback.

To help figure out how to best respond to different kinds of negative comments, we talked to our “Threadhelp Ambassador” Crystal Rosales. One of Crystal’s main roles here at Threadless is to respond to some of the comments and feedback we get on social media.

I asked her a few questions about how she tackles this responsibility with grace. Check out what she had to say:


Some negative comments might actually be helpful (someone correcting a typo, that sorta thing). But how do you deal with straight up nasty, troll-ish, and non-constructive comments?

It’s really difficult not to get offended by super negative comments. Even when customers reply to a newsletter email cursing or saying offensive things, I have to remember that they might not know that an actual person is reading and listening to these comments. There is ALWAYS someone on the other end of the computer screen. Sometimes this also happens with Twitter. I’ll find nasty comments that are not @replied while doing a general search. You just have to stay very positive and acknowledge the suggestion/comment. Also, keep the response simple. No need to be super apologetic or go into detail. I like to think that being awesome and kind to someone being mean will help them rethink being an online bully next time.  


How can you balance responding in, say, a funny or friendly tone without it coming off as sarcasm or snarkiness?

Troll_1Even if you don’t agree with the comment or suggestion, you never want to be snarky in your response. Sometimes that can be tough online because reading words can come off different than saying them out loud. You might be offended by their comment, but always try to be cheerful when responding to criticisms or suggestions. Try to understand where they are coming from and address it. I tend to use exclamation points to keep it more upbeat and friendly.

What do you do when there’s a mistake made in a post or message, and multiple people are freaking out about it?

You totally want to accept blame for the mix up and thank them for bringing the correct info to your attention. You should never just update without publicly acknowledging the mistake. I used to think saying “thanks for calling us out” was weird, but it’s really not.


If it wasn’t for their comment, the wrong information would have been posted and would have reflected badly on us even longer. And in a strangely comforting way, it’s awesome to see customers/users that are passionate about a certain subject, design or post.  

Is there a downside to deleting a negative comment/tweet/etc. that someone leaves?Trolls_4

I suggest never deleting any comments or suggestions. You should always want people to see that you’re open to criticism, good or bad.  Deleting comments shows that you have something to hide or don’t want to acknowledge your flaws. You should always strive to be transparent with your customers.

How do you distinguish between comments that demand a response and are constructive vs comments that are just nasty?

Not everyone is going to agree with you or like your posts. Also, you can’t get into an argument or back and forth with a customer or potential customer. So you have to choose your battles wisely. If someone is saying “this design is so damn stupid,” that’s just negative and not offering feedback.


You have to ask yourself “How is this comment helping me improve my work? Is this something I can fix?” to determine if it really requires a response. Maybe that user happens to hate elephants and you just uploaded an all-over elephant print. It’s not your or your Shop’s fault, so there’s nothing you can do but move on.

When is it better to say nothing?

Troll_2If someone is being very insulting or just saying random statements i.e “You suck,” you shouldn’t respond. Their negative comments are not helpful and you shouldn’t waste your time addressing them.

Also, controversial topics can be tricky. For example, you posted a crazy political related design and a user is SUPER pissed because they don’t agree. If someone is offended by your design, it’s best to just keep it simple and apologize for offending them. Remember, the more you say, the more fuel for the fire. If more users start giving negative feedback, then you should reevaluate your design and response.

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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!

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