How to Respond to Negative Comments on Social Media

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Social media offers people a platform to share their ideas, which is great for brands because they can highlight positive and authentic customer reviews. However, when someone posts a negative comment or review about your brand, that grievance is now in a public space. It’s inevitable for anyone with an online presence, especially brands, to receive negative comments online. And brands without an online presence are not sheltered from online negativity. So, how can brands respond to negative online comments in a way that results in the customer having a positive experience?

We asked 15 experts to share their best tips for brands who want to turn negative online interactions into something positive.

Address negative comments as soon as possible

George Bradley, Circa Interactive, @CircaEdu The priority here is to ensure that the negative post is addressed as soon as possible. Do not ignore the post and do not delete it. There is the opportunity here to turn a negative into a positive. Show your clients and customers that you can successfully manage a problem, by doing so you are responding to more than just the one person who made the complaint. By ignoring the problem you leave yourself open to further negative attention and word of mouth.

Kill ‘em with kindness

Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE, @PUBLISIDE One of the best ways to react to negative social media posts is to meet them head-on. Respond with “We’re sorry to learn you feel this way. Please tell us what happened and we’ll see what we can do to make it right.”

Realize that in some cases, you’ll never make people happy — they just like to complain and have the public see their “beer muscles.” Others appreciate that you/your business took time to respond.

I work with public figures and if they respond with kindness to a hate tweet, for instance, the complainer, nine-times-out-of-10 will backtrack their complaint and apologize for their tone. Kill ‘em with kindness — it disarms many a critic.

Listen and engage

Ben Landers, Blue Corona How brands should respond to negative comments on social media sites depends on the context. For example, negative comments coming from a consumer within the brand's target audience should be acknowledged–at a minimum–and addressed (if applicable). This is particularly true if the brand screwed up. Today's consumer wants to choose how they communicate and interact with the brands they use. Brands that want to stay relevant need to listen and engage.

Create videos that address the concerns of the customer

Slisha Kankariya, Four Mine Addressing any customer concerns head-on with as much personalized help and detail is the best way to move forward. One out of the box solution is to create a small video that addresses the concerns of the customer. If the concern is about packaging, production or preparation of the product this can be a great way to show them a solution instead of just writing one out. Another way to gain trust is to have a senior team member personally reach out via a video alleviating their concerns personally. The more time and effort is taken to alleviate a concern or answer a question, the more likely it is to appease a customer.

Turn angry customers into advocates

Anthony Neal Macri, Anthony Neal Macri Digital Consulting A study by Convince and Convert found that 42% of complainers expect an answer within an hour. In my experience, speed is vital; by acknowledging the issue you are stopping the disgruntled customer from going on other social media channels to complain as well. When a customer complains on social media it’s not just about the customer and you, it quickly becomes all of your customers and you. Because it’s public.

Since it’s public, you can quickly address the situation, apologize, and fix it publicly. Unless it’s a delicate matter only take it offline after a solution has been found. Another flawed tactic is to try to encourage the customer to move the debate to a private forum. This negates the benefits of other customers seeing you dealing with a customer’s issue in the public domain. Remember, you can write the most beautiful and sincere private message to a customer but no one will see it. If you offer amazing customer service, why not show this off to casual observers? Once the situation is fixed I generally tell my clients to do one thing: don’t leave the complaint there. Post that the issue was solved and give something to the customer as a gesture. Turn an angry customer into an advocate.

Since speed is important, and many businesses do not have a dedicated social media team, I like to help them implement this amazing social media monitoring tool called mention. It can track mentions, URLs, hashtags and more across blogs, social media and news sources and can send alerts in real time. So you or your staff can focus on other business aspects while mention does the monitoring on your behalf.

Over deliver a positive response

Christina Nicholson, Media Maven, @ChristinaAllDay Brands should never delete negative posts. This will only make the situation worse. Instead, respond so everyone who sees the complaint acknowledges you are trying to remedy the situation. Offer something short and sweet that includes an invite to take it up privately via a DM or email, then offer as best an explanation as you can and over deliver a positive response.

The only time it's okay to delete a post is if there is profanity or over the top offensive insults. When that happens, it's not only okay to remove the post but to also post a reaction saying you love all kinds of feedback because it makes you better, but it needs to stay clean and respectful.

Admit mistakes and do your best to make those right

Dmitri Kara, Fantastic Cleaners As a brand, we do your best to make each customer happy. Have a dedicated team monitor engagement on all our social media accounts (even forums). Each negative reaction should be closely reviewed and investigated. There are many trolls that want to ruin your score, regardless if it's trust advisor, yelp, or any of the other big platforms for customer feedback.

Once your team confirms you have a legitimate complaint, make sure you understand the cause and if appropriate, always compensate for the inconvenience. Try everything from vouchers, to a free bonus service, discounts and etc. It is best to be open, admit mistakes and do your best to make those right.

Respond quickly and thoughtfully

Christy Brissette, 80 Twenty Nutrition, @80TwentyRule People are expecting to be ignored or to receive a generic response. Surprise them and do it differently. Respond quickly and thoughtfully. Vent offline to others in your industry or keep a journal where you can write some choice words. Then cool off and get to responding!

Always thank the person for using your service/product and for taking the time to provide feedback. Avoid canned responses and show them there's a human who cares about giving them a great experience. Offer real solutions and avoid being defensive. Try to understand their point of view.

Try to provide the facts without getting emotional or talking down to people. You can't educate unless you acknowledge and value each individual's experience. Agreeing to disagree if it's a matter of opinion is fine. It's often a great way to diffuse arguments.

There is no cookie cutter formula response to negativity on social media

Eljay Feuerman, reDEFINE Brands must be cautious when dealing with negative social media posts, so before acting it is important to determine all in-play factors.

  1. Is there a problem you can solve by responding publicly?
  2. Are the commenter's motives genuine or are they just trying to rock the boat?
  3. What is their following/engagement like?
  4. Is there a positive opportunity/ how will your message be received?

Basically, when it comes down to it there is no cookie cutter formula response, nor should there be. Remember you are dealing with people, so be as human as possible.

Make a social FAQ sheet

Kelsey Nelson, FerebeeLane, @KelseyJoyNelson Have a plan. Anticipating the complaints your customers might have with your product or service will better equip your community managers to respond quickly and accurately. Create a social FAQ sheet in a shareable location – like as a Google Doc – and give key personnel access to edit so information is always up-to-date.

Like with any conversation between brand and consumer, transparency is key. But where that transparency takes place is just as important. If the negative commentary takes place on your brand page or within the comments section, try to direct the user to private message. This will show your willingness to solve the problem while also eliminating the risk of additional negativity bring public.

Offer a solution

Steve Pritchard, Ben Sherman More or less every brand in the world will receive its share of negative social media posts/comments from customers. Sometimes it is a legitimate grievance, sometimes it is somebody just looking for a fight. Whatever the nature of the negative post, it's absolutely crucial that the brand remains professional and retains a moral high ground.

It's not enough to just offer an apology, you should also offer a solution: how can you resolve the customer’s issue? This isn't just great for solving this customer's problem, it's also a great way to show other visitors/followers on social media that you really do care about the people who shop with you. Following up on the complaint is also a great step to ensure complete satisfaction, as well as proving to the person who wrote the post that you do care about their experience with you. Drop them an email a week or so later to make sure they are happy with how things were handled.

You should also ensure they know that you have taken on board what they've said and that you will take steps to ensure that nobody will ever have this kind of problem again.

The only time you should ever delete a negative post is if it is blatantly malicious and unwarranted. All this will do is anger the person who wrote the post in the first place, and will give them more reason to repost, maybe something even more malicious.

Similarly, if you delete complaints about your products or service, it will merely give the disgruntled customer the green light to bad mouth you to all their friends, coworkers, relatives – all people who may have, at some point, made a purchase with you. Not a chance now they've heard such bad things about your brand.

Explain how the issue will be resolved

Spela Grasic, Cheeky Monkey Media Brands need to respond to negative social media posts immediately. The best approach is to acknowledge the concern, apologize, and explain how the situation will be resolved. I would then fix the situation and send a thank-you note and small gift to the individual thanking them for letting us know about the situation and allowing us to resolve it.

The only time I wouldn't respond to a negative social media post is if it didn't have anything to do with my brand, product, or service.

Get clarification on what happened

Nick Leffler, Exprance, @Nick_Leffler There's a simple 4 step process a business can go through to approach a negative customer experience online. The first step is to wait so emotion doesn't take over and create a poorly formulated response. Second is to get clarification on what happened and why the experience was negative. Third is to take the conversation offline on direct message or email. The last step is to reconcile in public either with a new review on a review site or happy things got resolved message on social media.

Showcase your world class customer service

Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco Social media plays a huge part on the credibility of a business especially in this modern age. A negative social media post should never be deleted or ignored. Unless they are using expletives, racial or cultural slurs. In order to maintain your business integrity and credibility you must respond to the negative reaction. View the negative comment as an opportunity to showcase your world class customer service. Address the negative reaction straight on and try to resolve their issue in a polite and professional manner. If the issue is resolved you can kindly ask the customer to edit or delete their comment. Your audience will see your business is dedicated to fixing the negative situation which will maintain or even improve your business reputation.

If your business has a lot of social media activity it's best to sign up for a third party app that lets you manage all of your accounts on one platform. Most of these services have a triggered word that will alert you when someone makes a negative comment about your brand. You can't address a negative social media post if you don't know it exist. Being more transparent and engaging with your audience will help prevent negative comments on social media. Remember the main objective of social media is to build a relationship with your audience, use that to your advantage.

Proactively prepare

Kent Lewis, Anvil, @KentjLewis Build a crisis plan and proactively build your reputation to mitigate the impact of future negative comments / reviews / blog posts or even articles. The first step in managing your reputation via social is to claim and optimize profiles on popular and high-ranking platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and SlideShare. The second step is to create, optimize and syndicate timely, useful content that people will want to share, further building awareness, credibility and rankings in relevant searches. The next step is to connect with industry influences and engage with followers to extend reach and build credibility.