Personal and business attacks online happen more than ever this day and age, and with the traditional concept of a playground bully reincarnating into a digital troll, these attackers hurl vitriol from behind a computer screen.

Should you discover either you or your business have been attacked online by a troll or hater of some kind, there are various strategies to handle different scenarios. For example, procedures depend on whether the offending post shows up on a search result or someone’s social media account.

Curb Responses Until Emotions Have Settled

If someone is attacking you online, it’s a natural reaction to form strong feelings about it. However, sometimes those emotions – notably anger and frustration – can lead to very rash reactions, which could turn out terrible for your business, you personally – or both.

If there is some harmful content online, do not panic. Chances are you can turn this into a positive thing if you handle it appropriately.

Try to understand the attack before responding or otherwise reaching out to the author concerning his or her online assertations.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by pulling the trigger on a brash response. A hasty response could do more harm to your reputation than the initial attack ever did. Remember, everyone can see what you’re writing on the Internet, and future clients, employers or friends may consider how you handle disputes online. Check yourself, collect yourself, then take action once the emotional dust has settled.

Make a Plan to Address the Attack

Handling online haters is a modern day art form. Anyone can respond to online attacks, but the most beneficial responses are crafted with positivity and flip the situation entirely.

Is it a person writing a nasty comment on a blog? Or is it ruthless social media post? A biased or unfair product or service review? Or is this something more serious?

Identify possible responses for the particular platform when considering a plan of action.

You can delete controversial comments off Facebook and other social media accounts, but be aware of how removing your commentary may be perceived. Sites like Facebook also have well-documented terms of service; they will remove posts which violated these terms.

If this is an attack on your business, try to get to the root of the problem before responding. Try to understand why your company was attacked and address the concern promptly and politely. It’s important to acknowledge complaints, but you can answer in a way that highlights all the beneficial aspects of your company.

Especially if this is a business concern, you should try to establish contact with the unhappy customer, and take it from there. There are different ways of recovering a reputation when attacked online.

Prepare for negative reviews to happen and set company policies in place. There are tons of different ways to respond to negative reviews in a positive, beneficial way.

Take it Offline

The best way to deal with unhappy customers, if possible, is in privacy. If there’s a negative comment or review about a mistake on the company’s end, address the concern promptly and direct it to a private platform, like a direct message or email, where it can be resolved offline between just the company and unhappy party.

Accept responsibility, be professional and polite, and offer to fix the mistake by either correcting it, providing a refund – or both.

Even though a customer may have a bad experience and complain, if the company reaches out and attempts to make things right, there is a much higher chance the client’s conflict can be resolved. If this is the case, the author may be willing to revise or remove the original negative content.

If the person has incorrect information, which is very possible, professionally present the correct info to them without coming across as defensive.

Consult a Professional

If it’s a case of online defamation or there is info published that puts you at risk, you can probably contact either the search engine or website to have the content removed.

You should also consider consulting an Internet Attorney or Professional Online Reputation Management firm.

Should you discover either your business or you personally have been attacked online, there are different ways to go about handling the situation based on the type of attack and the platform where it’s published.

There are different tools you can use to monitor your presence online – from search engine results to social media comments, reviews on various websites and news articles mentioning either your name or business name. Social Mention is a free resource to use for that.

Others like Google Alerts will send email alerts anytime Google finds new mentions of your business, and there are other tools for monitoring social media mentions and activity.

The most efficient damage control to protecting your presence online is having a proactive approach to online reputation management.