How to Handle Negative Sentiment in Your Online Community

5 min read
February 14, 2023

Negative sentiment in online communities can be a major challenge to overcome. But by taking the right steps, positive change is possible.

In this blog, we’ll explore negative sentiment, how to recognise it in your community and strategies to address it. We’ll also discuss the importance of fostering positive change in your community, tips for building a positive community and examples of successful initiatives.

Plus, we’ll cover how to measure the impact of positive change and how to respond to negative comments and posts. So, let’s get started!

What is Negative Sentiment?

Negative sentiment is an attitude or view that is critical or disapproving of a particular thing, individual or situation.

A study by Mention reported that online negative sentiment had risen an alarming 153% in four years from 2013 to 2017 (2.71% to 6.86%). Whilst at the same time, there was a sharp decrease in positive sentiment by 58% (13.4% to 5.57%). These figures highlight the rapid speed at which negativity can spread and the importance of taking steps to prevent this.

In-person it can be expressed in words, facial expressions, body language or other non-verbal ways. Online, however, negative sentiment can manifest in the form of cyberbullying, hate speech and negative comments or posts. It can also be directed at a group or community as a whole.

Simply put, negative sentiment can cause a community to become hostile and divided.

Negative Sentiment

How to Recognise Negative Sentiment in Your Community

Negative sentiment can be difficult to recognise and even harder to address, especially in an online setting. However, some signs can help you identify it in your community.

When meeting in person, look out for people who are openly hostile, aggressive or disrespectful. Listen to conversations and look for words that show prejudice or discrimination. Pay attention to people’s body language and facial expressions.

When it comes to online mediums, like white-label online membership platforms, for example, monitor community members’ behaviour and actions for negative comments and posts.

If you see any of these signs in your community, it’s a good indication that negative sentiment is present.

What Causes Negative Sentiment in Communities?

Negative sentiment in communities can be caused by a variety of factors. It can be caused by a lack of understanding, mistrust or even fear. It can also be caused by economic inequality, racial or religious tensions, or political disagreements.

It’s important to identify the root cause of negative sentiment to effectively address it. When community managers don't take action to remove offensive content or reprimand people who are acting up, it can create a hostile environment and increase negativity, severely impacting other community members.

Strategies to Handle Negative Sentiment in Online Communities

Once the root cause of negative sentiment has been identified, it’s time to start taking action. There are a few strategies that can help tackle any negative issues in your community.

The first thing to do is to create a safe space. Invite people to come together and discuss any problems and encourage them to listen to each other and be open to hearing different points of view. This can help build trust and understanding amongst community members.

Another strategy to use is to spread messages of positivity and encouragement. Share stories of progress and success to create a more uplifting atmosphere. With these strategies, you can help turn negative sentiment into something more positive.

How to Foster Positive Change in Communities

Positive change starts with each individual in the community. Encourage people to be open-minded and understanding, and remind them to be accepting and respectful of others. Create meaningful connections by engaging with people and building relationships.

You can also create positive initiatives such as community team-building days, volunteer programs and educational workshops. These initiatives can help foster a sense of community and create a more positive atmosphere.

Tips for Building a Positive Community

Building a positive community takes time, energy and dedication. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Get to know your members and build relationships
  • Encourage people to be respectful and tolerant of others
  • Create events or initiatives that bring people together
  • Monitor online activity for negative behaviours and take action
  • Celebrate diversity and promote inclusion
  • Encourage people to help one another and support each other
  • Take steps to address the root causes of negative sentiment

By taking these steps, you can help create a more positive environment in your community.

Examples of Successful Online Community Initiatives

Online communities are capable of creating positive social change in a variety of ways. For example, online activists recently organised a virtual march to raise awareness of racial injustice in the United States.

The march, held entirely online, drew millions of participants, who shared stories and advocated for change.

Additionally, online crowdfunding initiatives have been used to raise money for charities, while social media campaigns have successfully raised awareness for a
variety of causes, such as mental health and the environment.

Online communities can also create inclusive spaces and support networks, facilitating the sharing of resources and information between members. This can be especially beneficial for minority communities, which often have difficulty accessing resources in the physical world.

Finally, online communities can be used to host virtual events and workshops, allowing members to come together and learn from each other. By harnessing the power of technology, online communities can create meaningful and lasting positive change.

Initiatives like these galvanise group members, uniting for a shared purpose that is much bigger than anything that might be driving negative sentiment in your community.

These are just a few examples of how successful initiatives can have a positive impact on their respective communities.

How to Measure the Impact of Positive Change in Online Communities

It’s important to measure the impact of positive change to understand what’s working and what’s not. Here are some ways to measure the impact of positive change:

  • Track changes in attitudes and behaviours
  • Monitor online activity for positive comments and posts
  • Gather feedback from community members - this could be from surveys, reviews or check-in conversations with members

By monitoring these indicators, you can get an idea of how effective your initiatives are and how much progress you’ve made.

Some online community apps have features built in to help you track data and learn more about your community members’ behaviour. When looking for an online community platform, make sure you have access to tools like a community analytics dashboard and a member directory.


Negative comments and posts can be difficult to address, but community managers need to remain calm and professional. If you can, reach out to the person privately and have a respectful dialogue.

Don't retaliate negatively if the comment or post is in a public space. Instead, be the bigger person and respond with kindness and understanding. This will help to foster a more positive atmosphere and encourage others to do the same.

Although negative sentiment in communities can be a challenge to overcome, by taking the right steps, positive change is possible. Recognising negative sentiment, identifying the root cause and taking action are all essential steps in addressing negative sentiment in your online community.

Additionally, building a positive community and measuring the impact of positive change are all important steps to take.

Finally, responding to negative comments and posts with respect and understanding can help to create a more positive atmosphere. By following these steps, you can help create a more unified and welcoming online community that can stand the test of time.

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