Community management: using customer opinions, avoiding shitstorms

Community management: using customer opinions, avoiding shitstorms

Sissy Scheible
Sissy Scheible
published on May 24, 2023   

Community management - The essentials in brief:

  • Community management is important for customer retention, but also for identifying emerging discontent.

  • Positive User Generated Content (UGC) can be selectively used for business purposes.

  • Negative UGC can quickly turn into a shitstorm.

  • Monitoring tools help to manage and properly respond to reactions on all social media platforms.

There is hardly a company that is not represented on one or more social media channels in addition to its own website. There are good reasons for this, because nowhere do you get as much reach as on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, etc. However, it’s not enough just to create regular posts, stories, and reels. You need to build up a community and get in touch with it.

Why is community management important?

Nowhere do customers have as much power as on social networks. They can support a product or company with positive feedback and thus ensure more organic reach, but they can also put it in serious trouble with negative comments. One wrong post, a creative or product not thought through enough, and a so-called “shitstorm” can develop against your company, with unforeseeable consequences. This is what happened to the startup “Pinky,” known from the show “Die Höhle der Löwen,” which produced tampon gloves. After such a shitstorm, they had to completely shut down production, despite the support of investor Ralf Dümmel.
You should by no means underestimate the power of social media communities and use them to support your company, through targeted community management. In this way, you can build long-term customer relationships, identify optimization potential in your own product, get valuable first-hand customer feedback, uncover trends and get to know your target group properly.

Tips for good community management


Good community management starts with the selection of suitable platforms, setting goals, and establishing internal processes.

  • Channel selection: Only use social media channels if they are a good fit for your company. For example, if you are in the B2B sector and are sure that your target group is not to be found on Tiktok, Snapchat or the like, then your company does not need to be represented there. The chance of building a supportive community would be extremely low, while the risk of negative feedback increases. So the choice of platforms must fit your company’s corporate identity. However, you generally can’t go wrong with Facebook and Instagram. Here you will find users from a wide range of professional groups and of all ages. In addition, LinkedIn is of course a must for companies in the B2B sector.
Community management: using customer opinions, avoiding shitstorms
Learn more about which social media platforms are right for your business.
  • Goal-setting: Once you are present on social media platforms, don’t just post anything. Beforehand, ask yourself what goal you want to achieve with your accounts. Do you want to increase the awareness of your company or product? Do you want to attract employees or showcase your social engagement? Do you want to highlight your unique selling propositions, rejuvenate your target audience, or perhaps achieve multiple objectives simultaneously? Always tailor your postings to your goal.
  • Corporate Identity: Your corporate identity should also be clearly recognizable on your social media channels. Create brand templates for your employees so that they can post in appropriate fonts, colors, tone, and style that align with your company. Nothing is more confusing for users than seeing an account managed by five different people who each post in their own style. Accordingly, determine who is allowed to create and publish postings, reels, and similar content, or establish approval rules.
Community management: using customer opinions, avoiding shitstorms
How to develop a communication strategy for your social media accounts.


If your communities are still small and manageable, receiving occasional likes or comments and not having many followers yet, it is sufficient to have one or more employees regularly monitor the platforms. Are there any questions that need to be answered? Negative comments that require a response? Are there reactions indicating that a post did not resonate well? On the other hand, are there posts that have been well-received, with many likes, positive comments, or even frequent shares? This way, you can learn what resonates well with your followers and what doesn’t. It allows you to nip potential shitstorms in the bud.

If your social media presence is already larger, with many followers and interactions, it’s recommended to use suitable monitoring tools. While the platforms themselves offer various insights, they are often not sufficient. With the help of tools, you can gather and analyze the key metrics from all the networks you use on a single dashboard. You can have a quick overview of where new interactions have occurred and where your assistance or intervention may be required.

Here you will find an overview of the most important social media monitoring tools 2023.

Response time

If a customer has to wait a long time for a response, such as an answer to a product question, they will feel disregarded. Users on social media tend to have less patience compared to other platforms. On average, Facebook users expect a response within two hours, while Twitter users expect a reply within one hour. However, even responding late is better than not responding at all. If you ignore your customers, they may turn to the competition or express their dissatisfaction through negative comments.


Usually, your customers don’t read through all the posts and comments to find out if a question has already been asked and answered before. For your community management, this means that you often have to answer the same questions over and over again. It may sound tedious, but it can easily be managed with a solid set of frequently asked questions. However, be careful not to always provide the same standard response. Using a few linguistic variations and personal greetings ensures that the customer feels acknowledged with their question. If you don’t want to repeatedly answer the same questions publicly, you can move the conversation with the customer to a private chat and possibly direct them to the FAQ section of your online presence.

Interaction with the community

It is not only important to communicate with the community in the case of questions, negative or positive comments or personal messages. Good community management proactively engages in dialogue with followers. Keeping your community active ensures that your online presence is consistently visited by your fans. This can be achieved, for example, through surveys, polls, competitions or simply by encouraging discussions. This way, you can create user-generated content that can be used for your purposes, which we will discuss further below.


Listening is the most important task in community management. Be empathetic and make your followers feel heard and valued. You can achieve this by providing specific assistance and addressing concerns or criticism. Additionally, it’s important to relay repeated criticism, suggestions, and requests to the relevant colleagues in order to bring about change. This leads to increased customer satisfaction. Feel free to adopt a relaxed or even self-ironic tone when interacting with customers, as long as it aligns with your brand’s identity. The Dr.-Oetker-Pizza-DE account, for example, shows how well it can work not to take yourself too seriously. A self-ironic post from their account even led to the creation of a unique pizza flavor.

Using User Generated Content

What is User Generated Content?

User Generated Content (UGC) is, as the name suggests, content that is produced by users and usually for free. UGC ranges from posts on Facebook, Insta, etc., to text, image, and video posts on blogging platforms like Tumblr, product reviews in an online store, and even encyclopedia articles.

Advantages of user-generated content

Authenticity and trust

People trust people much more than brands. According to a study, 91 percent of people trust recommendations from other users. In contrast, only 38 percent trust the advertising messages of brands. Trust in the brand can therefore be increased enormously through the use of UGC. Positive user reviews, enthusiastic contributions or even entire blog articles about the product have a more authentic effect than advertising messages from the company.

Higher Conversions

Product reviews often play a crucial role in whether a product is purchased or not. Too few or negative reviews can be discouraging, while many positive ratings instill trust and often lead to a purchase decision. Positive user-generated content (UGC) helps alleviate concerns about a product’s quality. Strong enthusiasm for a product, such as through posts on Instagram, is contagious and can even persuade people who previously had no interest in the product to make a purchase. This is one of the reasons why influencer marketing works so well. Therefore, user-generated content ultimately increases the conversion rate.

Increased Engagement and Brand Loyalty

Large campaigns that encourage user participation boost engagement and brand loyalty. Users feel like part of the community, they actively engage with the brand to contribute, and they interact more intensively. Campaigns that involve users in product design or other decision-making processes tend to work very well. For example, the chips manufacturer Lays received over four million recipes for new chip flavors when they called on users to come up with a new variety. Similarly, McDonald’s launched a successful campaign where users were invited to create new burgers, and the winning creations were actually added to the menu. To gather more votes for their own burger creations, participants shared the campaign extensively on social media. The result was a stronger identification with the company and enhanced, sustainable brand loyalty.


Increased Reach

By not only commenting on posts but also sharing them on their own accounts, followers can significantly increase the reach of content, as seen in the mentioned McDonald’s campaign. Users act as many brand ambassadors by making the product more widely known within their own networks.

Utilizing UGC

If you decide to actively use user-generated content by incorporating followers’ posts into your own posts, blog articles, reels, or stories, it is polite and appropriate to ask for permission. Even if you plan to modify the content afterwards, it is advisable to obtain permission. If the UGC is intended for larger campaigns, offering a small compensation is only fair. Before using the content, it should also be determined if it is suitable. Does it align with the company’s message and current goals? Does it mention any sensitive aspects? Is the person who created the content reputable or possibly associated with a scene that your company would prefer not to be associated with?


User-generated content can also become a problem for companies, particularly when it is negative. While a few negative reviews among hundreds of others can lend authenticity to a product or company by not portraying it as unrealistically perfect, a growing number of negative comments can escalate into a shitstorm, often with devastating consequences for the company.

Avoiding shitstorms

The primary goal of your community management should be to prevent the emergence of shitstorms in the first place. To achieve this, it is important to pay attention to warning signs, such as:

  • An above-average number of comments under a post, for example on Instagram.
  • Numerous overly critical or negatively emotional posts without specific factual content.
  • Increased discussions revolving around your brand.
  • Unintentional influencer mentions in news, blogs, forums and social media.

If you notice one or more of these warning signs, it’s important to react quickly.

  • Take negative criticism seriously and respond to it, but thoughtfully and calmly. Ignoring negative comments and the like usually actually makes the situation worse. The philosopher Paul Watzlawick says very aptly: “One cannot not communicate…”. By leaving criticism of your company or product unanswered, you communicate to your customer that you do not take them seriously or are not interested in their opinion.
  • Prepare statements in advance for topics that are likely to evoke negative emotions among your customers. In the event of an emerging shitstorm, it is important to act quickly and defuse the situation immediately.
  • To prevent a hostile tone on your social media pages from the start, it is advisable to have a netiquette in place. Clearly define the desired tone and what is not tolerated. This way, you can delete inflammatory negative comments while referring to the netiquette, without being suspected of rejecting all negative feedback. A good example of a successful netiquette is that of ARD.
  • Another factor that can help prevent shitstorms from arising is the way you acquire your followers. It is better to focus on organic growth, even if it is slower, as this allows you to build a community that is genuinely enthusiastic about your product and company. Such a community stands more firmly behind the company in times of crisis compared to a rapidly growing community through paid marketing efforts.
  • Avoid trying to conceal bad news about your company or product. Instead, communicate it yourself before someone else does, to prevent the suspicion that you wanted to withhold the negative news. By announcing the bad news yourself, for example, through a Facebook post, you can largely control the reactions to it.

The shitstorm is here: How should you respond?

Despite good preparation, effective monitoring, and communication with disappointed users, it is possible for a shitstorm to still develop. Sometimes people are simply looking to start an argument and are not receptive to even the best arguments. But how should you respond when the shitstorm cannot be stopped?

  • As mentioned above, it’s important to react quickly and not hush anything up. It is always better to acknowledge a problem and address it actively than to stubbornly insist on your own point of view.
  • Express your regrets. Don’t be too proud to apologize. Phrases such as “We regret the incident and will do everything we can to ensure this does not happen again” have appeased many a user.
  • Under no circumstances should you delete criticism, unless it violates your netiquette. Doing so will only worsen the wave of outrage.
  • Remain composed. Do not engage in panicked actions. With the help of a crisis plan, preferably prepared in advance, you can keep a cool head and respond appropriately.
  • You don’t have to respond to every single comment, as it would not be feasible due to the sheer volume of comments during a shitstorm. Instead, collect common points of criticism and provide clear, honest, transparent, and empathetic responses to them.

Burger King successfully managed a shitstorm in 2014, which ultimately turned into a positive outcome, after issues such as hygiene problems were exposed, triggering a wave of outrage. You can read about the steps the company took to restore its reputation. Here you can find more information.

Trolls: Dealing with them properly

Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of “trolls” on the internet. Trolls are individuals who take pleasure in deliberately provoking others and inciting negative emotions on social media channels. Sometimes trolls are even hired, for example, to cause problems for competing companies.

How do you recognize a troll?

You can identify trolls by the fact that their comments usually don’t address a genuine issue. For example, they may not genuinely seek a solution when experiencing problems with a product. Trolls also don’t stop at one comment; they repeatedly engage, often becoming personal and attempting to incite other users. Another typical sign of a troll is spelling and grammar errors. However, it doesn’t mean that everyone who makes mistakes in writing is a troll. Trolls also tend to use capital letters and exclamation marks frequently.

Dealing with trolls

As explained earlier, you should establish guidelines on your pages, especially regarding the tone of communication. If a troll violates these guidelines, you can easily delete their comments or even block the person entirely.
Some troll comments can be ignored. “Don’t feed the troll” is a common expression for a reason. If the troll doesn’t receive attention, they quickly lose interest and often disappear on their own. So, don’t get involved in an extensive discussion. Instead, offer a direct conversation with the troll, as they won’t take up the offer since they thrive on having an audience.


Community management is an important topic that should not be neglected. It is crucial for all departments in your organization to work together because even the best community manager cannot always intercept the reactions to too many negative events or actions by the company. Therefore, it is essential to develop a corporate philosophy that not only you but also your customers can identify with. Nowadays, for example, if you don’t prioritize sustainability, you have already lost. Ensure that everyone in the company adheres to this philosophy, and there are no negative slip-ups. If your company does not generate negative headlines, your product is good, and you are constantly striving to improve, including with the help of customer feedback, you will be on the safe side with your social media presence. Above all, you can use it to strengthen the bond between your customers and your company.