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Elevate Perspective

How to Handle Negative Social Media Comments

By Rachel Smith, Communications Specialist          

If you work for or own a business with a social media presence – whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or Instagram – chances are you have encountered negative posts on one or more of your accounts. This isn’t a shock. According to the 2020 National Customer Rage Study, the number of customers who prefer to vent their grievances online has more than tripled in the last three years. There are several factors that play into this, but some common ones include the lack of face-to-face confrontation, eye contact, ease of communication and/or immediate response from the other party.

Not all negative comments will ruin your business. As a startup, complaints or negative comments may be extremely helpful as you develop a product or service. Some give you the opportunity to hone in on your customer service experience as well. That said, sometimes a negative comment can grow to be much more. Today, things can go viral within hours, and if your social media team isn’t prepared for how to handle this, you may be in trouble.

Below are a few tips on how to handle negative social media comments and complaints about your company.

  1. Have a plan that works for your company. It’s very important to be proactive in these situations. If you’re reactive, you or your team may be tempted to respond to the situation in an inappropriate manner. To avoid this, it’s not only important to build a plan but to build one that works for your company. You can accomplish this by simply creating a process flow to make it clear to everyone in the organization what to do in certain situations and who should respond to such messages (e.g. if someone had a negative experience with customer service, it may prompt you to escalate their complaint to a manager or send them a private message to obtain more details). It’s key to build a plan that takes the situation(s) to a firm resolution not just to a non-public communication system.
  2. Always listen. Having a social media presence comes with a certain amount of responsibility, and that responsibility grows the larger your company gets. As your online presence becomes more prominent, it’s important to have someone in your company “listening” to your social channels regularly. Whether you handle your social communications in-house or have it outsourced to a marketing vendor, it’s important to always be aware of the interactions and mentions you receive, even at night and on weekends. Taking too long to respond to a negative comment may escalate the matter further and ultimately could affect your brand.
  3. Do not ignore negative comments; embrace them. Not unlike you when you purchase something, consumers want to feel heard and that they matter to a company’s bottom line. With this in mind, make sure you respond and acknowledge the situation as soon as possible. You will want to recognize the customer or client and let them know you plan to resolve the situation or issue in a timely manner. By no means should you verbally attack them, even if their comments come off as offensive and rude. Using the same platform they used to file a complaint, construct a response that is both respectful and diplomatic. Remember, no matter the cause of the negative comment, you can always learn from it.
  4. Respond appropriately and be sincere. When responding to a comment, you should not only respond with respect and courtesy but also with sincerity. If your company made a mistake, own up to it. Companies can make mistakes and that is OK. Be genuine in your apology and work to find a resolution that works for everyone involved. In the long run, consumers will appreciate your honesty. According to a study by SproutSocial, 86% of Americans believe transparency from companies is more important than ever, and 89% say that businesses can regain their trust if they are transparent about an issue and admit it.

It’s often said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but that’s not 100% true. In the age of social media, a crisis can go viral in no time. While it’s possible the crisis could inadvertently turn into a brilliant marketing move for your company, it can also make you look unprofessional if you and your team are not prepared.

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