This past summer, I had a first-time experience in dealing with negativity on social media. I had contacted someone via email that had used my photograph without asking, in an article that was bashing the client for whom I made the photograph. After reaching out to the infringer, I was attacked on Facebook for photographing for my client.

The negativity piled up on that post by a few of his friends, so eventually, I addressed it. What came next was unexpected. It actually ended up benefiting me rather than the person who attacked me.

Limiting Your Response and Staying Positive

Whether you’re responding to a personal attack on social media or a negative review, it’s important to limit your response to what needs to be said — not what you necessarily want to say. Take the emotions out of it. Explain the situation dispassionately, then be done with it. Chances are that if you’re responding to a negative review, you’ve been in touch with the person who is unhappy with your services. You’ve given it your best effort to make them happy and to do anything to come to a resolution where both parties are at least partially satisfied.

Just the Facts

So, tell your story. Say what you did, what you offered the client. Don’t feel the need to show screenshots of conversations. Hold onto those in case you ever need to involve legal counsel. Don’t go in-depth — that can show too much emotion on your behalf. Stay professional. Stay on message.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

In my case, I was surprised by some of our shared connections coming to my defense, without my asking. That they did this weakened the negative argument against me. The attacks were no longer seen as justified by his followers. After a few days, the conversation stalled and ended — without me playing a role in it past the initial response.

What came next was both surprising and awesome. A few of my clients had seen the attack on social media. In response, they decided to leave me 5-star reviews on my Facebook business page, completely unprompted. While the attack wasn’t on my business page (rather, it was on the infringer’s personal profile), doing this confirmed that I had handled the situation appropriately. If this happens in response to a negative review, these positive reviews can help to “flood” out the negative commentary.

Stay Consistent

While we, as photographers, don’t expect to ever get a bad review, it will undoubtedly happen. I had one other instance a few years back where I had a client dissatisfied with the photographs I’d made (mainly due to miscommunication). I decided that the two-hour shoot wasn’t worth fighting over, and ended up not invoicing that client.

Regardless, it’s important to remember to stay professional and to leave emotions out of it. While you can be upset while you’re venting with close friends or family, your public profile should show that you approach every photo shoot with the utmost professionalism, and, of course, strive to satisfy your client.

For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.