As you continue your social media journey, negative posts, comments, and tweets are  inevitable. For the most part, the negative comments will be drowned out by the positive comments, but if you are a social media manager, you will one day face the question: “how do I deal with this?”

First, you must assess the situation. What kind of negative post you are experiencing? Are you experiencing a sarcastic comment from a devout fan? A complaint from a customer? Did you get “trolled” (attacked by users unfriendly to your organization)? Is the person writing not making any sense?

From there, you can make the key decision: do you respond? My general advice is to respond if the comment is negative but not inflammatory. If there is a genuine ability to engage a customer/client/follower who has a legitimate gripe, you should respond and allow that person to be heard. My advice is generally to ask that person to direct message the account, and to follow up with them privately. This works especially well for anyone dealing with consumers. Corporations like Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts do a great job of responding to negative comments, or comments about issues, and resolving them.

However, if the comment uses inappropriate or argumentative language, or deals with a topic with which you do not want to get involved, you don’t have to respond. Instead, you are better off “hiding” the post on Facebook and ignoring it on Twitter.

Now, a word of caution: hiding a comment on Facebook is not the same as deleting. When you hide a comment, the person who commented still sees their comment, and their friends do as well. So, you’ll want to assess the situation here. Does the person who commented have a lot of friends on Facebook? Does it appear that many of them follow your account? Delete the comment, or it’ll get more traction.

Deleting a comment should be your last resort. The goal is to create a community that is authentic, and that allows others to safely communicate their opinions with each other. A good rule of thumb is this: does a negative comment prevent, inhibit, or make it more difficult to create the aforementioned community? Then hide or delete it.