When the comments are directly towards you at a personal level you may tend to re-act a little more strongly. When it is towards your business or brand then you at first step try to plan but yet could have a strong urge to re-act.
There are couple of reasons why people react negatively. Before we re-act to negative comments we need to have a basic understanding towards the human mind set.
People face different situations in their daily life and this they interpret with their own individual understanding and thus portray certain attitudes and traits and thereby a particular behavior takes place. Before we re-act we need to take a step back. We need to realize that each person comes with some background / situation / circumstances in life. Yes, this is very easily said than done. However we need to try and step back. Many a times a person voices negative remarks within the online space is because they feel maybe this way you will at-least adhere to what they are sharing and quickly work towards solution. Perhaps they have been given the feeling of not being heard otherwise. They could also be voicing - just so that they feel they are heard. For some it is a good ego boost.
There are a couple of ways in which one should re-act or rather let me say 'address' negative comments.
Weigh the comments first:
Re-read, try to listen to what the person has actually been driving towards, what is being referred to and mentioned, rather than what is being read by you. Read between the lines. There would be aggressive words and tone of voice however beneath this is the person trying to share with you that they are quite troubled and fed - up with a certain aspect / reason to comment. See if in the first place the comment is to be addressed. Try to move your anger and aggression out. Is this person justified in what they have shared and voiced?
Do not make each response public:
Just because the person has made their comments publicly towards you or your brand or your business it does not mean and is not necessary to re-act in a same public manner. Sometimes connecting with this person on a one to one basis could be helpful. Yes one could feel that 'others may think i am a coward' and so on. Let us not be hampered by our own uncertainties, as there is already the commentator in a not so good state of mind. By going public we could unnecessarily make a situation ugly. Remember you are judged by what you do and not do. If the person is a regular aggressive commentator people will realize. You do not have to degrade yourself.
Not to re-act:
Sometimes senseless rantings need to not be addressed at all. Yes you need not comment and start to get into a dialogue with each comment; while this is being said it should be very clear that you should be noticing, listening to each comment and would be having a logical reasoning as to why you do not re-act to certain comments at all. Silence speaks. It is just like the case of pen being mightier than the sword. Silence speaks a thousand words. So be very careful when you choose to silence yourself with respect to some comments. Definitely if it is a feedback please do not get into a silence mode. Yes if it is some comment that has just intercepted into an ongoing conversation in a aggressive manner then perhaps silence towards that comment could be justified.
Accept the problem:
If the person is correct in what they have shared then you need to accept this case. However please do not make each bad remark into an apology. In the sense if some third person comes to that particular page they should not find a string of only apologies. I have seen this in cases of certain brands. You may go on Twitter and check that these are full of a sentence that goes as 'we are sorry to hear this, can you please send your email id or contact number so we can contact you'. While this is good customer service it may not be the right engagement in the online space. It so happens that wherever you scroll on this page this sentence seems to have been the template for all cases. The acceptance can be on a one to one basis as well.
Be in-sync with your brand:
If the person whom you would be addressing is a online contact alone; who does not know you personally / professionally and whom you may also not know this persons only see and perceives you in the manner in which you react within the online space. Lets be clear that your personality is constantly being portrayed and comprehended by what actions you do and not do. It is critical that you have a planned brand personality within your system. How should you re-act should be driven by the brand personality. It is also essential that you have an escalation matrix within your system. And all concerned are aware of this. The reason being is that you finally need to deliver what you are mentioning online.
Be consistent with your brand image. Have a planned escalation matrix. Remember online material many a times cannot be deleted from the mind. Think before reacting. Consider and listen clearly. Move out the negatives wording see between the lines and listen in to what is being said, get an understanding of why it being said rather than concentrating on the how / the words being used.Please be empathetic.
Do share in your parameters and caution points as well. Do join in here.