Social media can be a great way to communicate with both customers and prospects. But what happens when the conversation turns negative? More importantly, how will you handle yourself in that situation?

Customers expect a high level of transparency on social media and with that might come some irritating customers that could get under your skin. We wont go over how you as an individual should respond to negative comments because we hope you will be polite, understanding, and under control. If you need help with that though, check out our last article where we covered the 5 don’ts when responding to negative comments.

We want to talk about what happens to those who get negative feedback and how to handle it in the best way. Here are five simple dos to help you deal with negative comments as they come.

1. Respond Quickly and Respectfully

I’ve heard people talk about how angry they were because a business took over an hour (yes seriously an hour) to respond to their comment. Social media moves tremendously fast and customers expect nearly instant answers not realizing how busy you are. I’d say a good rule of thumb is to try responding within that hour, earlier if possible. If you are unable, apologize that it took awhile to reply and thank them for their comment.

If you have a team of responders that can help with the delegating on who responds, that can relieve you of a lot of stress and worry. This team should be well-versed in social media etiquette and company guidelines for responding to these negative comments.

Even if you don’t have a resolution to the problem, most customers will appreciate a swift response and it could prevent the issue from escalating further. This could come in the form of multiple posts on all social media platforms, and possibly phone calls to management over an issue that could most likely have been resolved with one quick response to the original comment.

Another way to respond to negative comments on social media networks is to respond in a respectful way. Thank the person for taking time to comment and do your best to resolve the issue. Here’s an example from Sainsbury’s News:

We don’t know if they responded within the hour but we can see they were understanding and respectful towards the commenter. Also you can lighten up the situation with a little humor, like the example above, when appropriate. But remember, misunderstood humor can backfire tenfold on the situation so use it with caution.

2. Privately v.s. Publicly

Replying privately doesn’t mean completely ‘privately,’ it just means carrying out most of the conversation through direct messages rather than on public posts. It’s an ideal tool to keep further negative comments from the commenter off your social platforms.

When a customer leaves a negative comment or review you cant resolve with just one reply, its best to reach out and give them contact information to resolve the issue further (i.e. a phone number, email address, or direct message). This takes the conversation offline and allows you to go over specifics. Many businesses have contact numbers and email addresses solely for this purpose.

If you take this route, reply publicly that you’re sorry for their experience and that you’ve sent them or they should send you a private message so you can resolve the situation. Here’s a good example from Icelandair:

For smaller issues, replying publicly is a great way to show how helpful you are. If a situation seems like it can be resolved easily and it doesn’t look like it will escalate, replying in public can also be a good way to show your customer service skills.

For major issues, in which you should reply publicly is if the person has made unfounded allegations against your company. You don’t want to leave those kinds of comments on your social media accounts without a rebuttal.

It doesn’t matter if the comments inaccurate, if you don’t reply then other users will see your unwillingness to rebuttal the allegation as the comment being true. Converse entirely in public, or ask if they’d like to speak privately to resolve the matter.

Judge these comments as they come whether you should resolve them publicly or privately.

3. Monitor All Comments

There will be times where negative comments lead to additional negative comments. For example, if a customer had an unpleasant encounter with an employee and they decide to take it to Facebook to rant about it, there’s one initial comment that you will have to address that may cause additional comments from other customers.

While you may have already addressed the issue in your response to the original comment, those other customers still expect a personal response or they wouldn’t have posted in the first place. You may also find that you have some loyal brand champions who will defend the brand in times of criticism. That’s something no amount of money can buy.

4. Keep Producing Great Content

An overwhelming amount of positivity will always beat some negativity. Don’t underestimate how consistent educational, informative, inspirational posts, and efficiently good press can outweigh anything bad.

Although a customer may be complaining about you on social, if you keep your social accounts updated with all the positive things your up to. Things like, “Best Place to Work” award, or your excellent HR department, or your client success stories. It really shows the overall picture as well as outweighs those negative comments.

Now, you might be asking, “What if a comment comes from an employee?” And that’s a great question! Whether it’s a negative comment towards your company or a personal tweet, post, or video on their accounts, one thing to remember is you can do your best managing your reputation, but you cannot control other people’s behavior. We are human. We make mistakes. Sometimes employees make bad choices, even the “seasoned” ones.

This PR executive tweeted back in 2013 an offensive comment about race and AIDS:

Needless to say the company she represented immediately fired her. To avoid these kinds of mistakes, encourage your employees to make responsible use of social media. One of the many ways to encourage involvement and minimize risk is to develop guidelines.

5. Blocking

Let’s say you resolved the issue as best you can but the user is still causing nothing but trouble. What do you do? Block them. Yep, nothing to do but block them.

Blocking is an appropriate course of action. Keep in mind, friends of the “blocked commenter” may still be able to see their posts, but new page followers usually won’t (unless they are already connected to the comment maker).

You may also want to get further information from the commenter. For example, why did this person have this particular reaction? Don’t jump to conclusions until you have all viewpoints. A good strategy to go about this is to gain the information privately by messaging (see point #2).

Tip: Be cautious of Internet trolls, who will entice you into stooping to less respectful remarks. They are like those bullies egging you on to hit them so they can embarrass you in front of the crowd. Stay professional, keep control of the situation, and whatever you do don’t lose your cool.

Extra Tip

You are alerted of all mentions of your company on social media. If people are mentioning you on social it is likely that they will want to get your attention. They will tag your company in their posts and you will get notifications about it. But there will be instances where people are talking about you without tagging you which means that you won’t see the comment and you won’t be able to respond to it.

Fortunately there are several apps and websites which can track mentions of your business on social networks, news sites, forums, blogs or any web page. Google Alerts is one of those sites that can help you with this.

Are you satisfied?

When you deal with complaints effectively, disgruntled customers will tell their friends how awesome your company is and what great customer service you offer. And they’ll encourage their friends to buy from you. They have now become an evangelist for your brand. Talk about powerful (and don’t forget, free) marketing! You’ve established brand loyalty to a greater degree than you would’ve had if there had never been a complaint.

Just remember that no matter how perfect you try making your brand look, mistakes happen, customers get upset and complain. With the growth of social nowadays your customers now expect to be able to lodge these complaints and get resolutions via social media. Think of it as an opportunity to prove how great your company is – or not. The choice is yours.

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