It was about a week or so ago that I posted an image I photographed of a female fitness talent on my Facebook Page and received the following comment.

“Too skinny. But for some reason this is what all woman are suppose to try to represent. Needs more photoshopping on face it looks like a man not soft like at most women probably because she been botoxed too much”

Obviously the comment was unacceptable and I chose not to respond to it – however I also chose not to delete it. To some extent, if you want the world to see who you are, I probably won’t stand in your way.

But she continued. On a future post I did, this time of a male model, they commented again.

“It’s better then those Botox scrawny women you usually have photoshopped to the extreme.”

This time I did chose to respond – which I will get to shortly. When you post publicly you open yourself up to feedback and not all feedback will be glowing in your favor. People can dislike what you do and they have that right. The worst thing you can do is attempt to censor the conversation. Instead, welcome it.

Occasionally you will come across people who simply choose to spend their time online and the voice they have to mar others.

Onto my response and some details on how to handle comments you may receive.

Very sorry you have not been liking the work we’ve been putting out. We actually do minimal editing. Our talents look as fantastic as we showcase them.

I took my first response to apologize that she was not liking what we were doing and then stated our position. It was not insulting, it was not fighting – it was direct and to the point.

Being that this was in a public forum (remember, everyone can see everything that is going on) others were now choosing to comment in the defense of me and my work such as: “Comments like these are better left unsaid. If you don’t like what you see you can always unlike the page.”

This, obviously, added fuel to the original poster’s fire. Several posts come in that it is America and they are entitled to their opinion and they don’t believe the women we photograph are “normal.”

This is where I took the opportunity to lay down the ground rules moving forward with the following post.

I do appreciate you checking out the page and the work we do. No one will contest that you are entitled to your opinions and I encourage you to share those opinions (positive or negative) about the work itself. However when you post comments like “looks like a man not soft like at most women probably because she been botoxed too much” as you did on a previous post we did – that goes beyond having an opinion and is a direct insult. I do hope you continue to check out what we have to do and chime in on your insights and feelings – but I simply ask that you refrain from comments that could be considered insulting to those featured. Thank you again.

Unfortunately the original poster was anxious to get the last word in and thus came four more unsolicited consecutive posts:

“I just don’t want to support a photographer that post pictures of unnatural woman”

“What is bad here is your a business owner and artist who has a Facebook page and you can’t take one persons criticism”

“I’m am a model and I travel working with photographers. So I’m glad to say I hope I never work with you.”

“And I do get paid”

The irony being that I welcomed comments just requested a refrain from insults. Share your opinions – good or bad, but don’t be insulting. As before, I chose not to delete the comments. If you want people to see you in a public forum like this – your decision.

This poster will continue to be allowed to be a fan of the page (even though they stated never want to work with me) and allowed to comment until they break the rule I set of directly insulting others. It is their decision whether or not to follow these rules.

So how can you apply this situation to your own page and comments you may receive that are negative?

1. Don’t censor if you don’t have to
The one thing the poster was accurate about was that they are entitled to have their opinions and voice their opinions. You do not want to have a completely sanitized page. Welcome the pro and con.

2. Use it as an opportunity to convert haters to evangelists
Sometimes people just want to know their voice is heard. Let them know it was and see if there is an opportunity that this person could be your next evangelist. Is there an opportunity to bring them in by letting them know that you heard what they had to say?

3. Don’t attack back
Your responses should be calm and professional. Don’t allow yourself to get emotional in your posts as that is the type of feedback they want to have. It is fuel for them. This is not about having a public fight. It is about listening to feedback and responding appropriately.

4. Set ground rules
If it feels like the ball of string is unraveling too fast, then set some ground rules. We appreciate your feedback – here is what is permitted and please refrain from the following. For me it was simply a rule against insulting those we featured. Our page will not be a forum for that.

5. Realize your audience doesn’t want to see a fight
Don’t spend more time or energy than you need in a public forum to address someone who cannot be converted. Your audience, those that chose to like your page, do not care about a back and forth battle. That is not why they chose to go to your page. However – some of your true fans will jump into the mix in your defense. You can’t please everyone, no sense in alienating others.

And lastly – ban or block as a last resort. If you set ground rules and they still break them, then you are in your right. But don’t look at every person who doesn’t agree with you as an evil person who is wrong. Allow the conversation. See if you can get involved in the conversation. Try to convert them into your new fans. If not, they are still allowed to have their opinions – provided it does not break the ground rules you set.

James Patrick
instagram @jpatrickphoto