The rulebook for crafting a response to negative comments on social media

Take a deep breath

For any small business, a negative comment on social media is a very big deal. A business’s online reputation is almost defined entirely on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These not only shape your online reputation, they also act as a primary connection between your business and its customers. The entire point of social media marketing, after all, is to grow and sustain your business. Your response to negative comments on social media can dramatically affect this goal.

While these interactions can be very productive for business, they’re also highly visible. When someone posts less-than-ideal feedback, all your current and potential customers see it — and your subsequent reaction. Gone are the days when a company could brush off an angry customer.

That individual now has a microphone. And everyone can hear their cry.

 

The level of visibility afforded to social media also presents business owners with a unique opportunity when they encounter a disgruntled customer. Your response to negative comments on social media, if handled with the proper care and technique, can actually leave your business’s reputation shinier than before. Here’s how.

Be prepared to sacrifice

When it comes to social media, that old adage rings true: the customer is always right. Perhaps even more so when you have countless onlookers waiting to see how you’ll handle a situation. Assuaging an unhappy and vocal customer will ultimately save money in the form of better press and new customers prevented from being deterred by a negative review.

When engaging an unhappy customer, prepare yourself to give something up — discounts, free shipping, free products — in order to turn things around. It will be well worth it in the long haul.

Say a customer tweets a complaint about their order taking too long to ship. You can direct message them with a code for free overnight delivery on their next order, or even refund them for the cost of shipping on their previous one. Not only will you have encouraged a second purchase, but your immediate and satisfying management of the situation might encourage them to tweet again, this time about their positive experience

Deletion doesn’t work

Response To Negative Comments Delete
Photo: Ervins Strauhmanis via Visualhunt / CC BY

Deleting the complaint as a response to negative comments can create bad blood very quickly. It makes a user more likely to follow up if they feel they have been unfairly silenced. Additionally, these negative comments can humanize your profiles. Constantly glowing reviews might not seem totally genuine to the discerning user.

Say someone posts a bad review of your business on its Facebook profile. Deleting this comment is likely to make the person come back and post a second, more scathing review. If you delete that, you might aggravate the customer into blasting your brand on their personal profile and other platforms, tagging your company in posts and reducing your control over the situation.

What started as a single negative review has transformed into a social media nightmare.

 

Instead, address the problem head on. Reply publicly to the person on the review and apologize sincerely:

We are so sorry you have had a bad experience with our company. We’d like to know what we can do to make it better. We have sent a direct message to your inbox.

Which brings us to the next important part of your response to negative comments: taking the conversation somewhere private.

Interact directly

While deleting comments doesn’t work, it’s also not ideal to hash out this negativity in public view. Not only does it reduce your control of the situation, watching a Twitter battle unfold might also annoy your followers, even if you’re being kind and accommodating. And if you’re dealing with negative feedback on Yelp? Get some specific advice for these tricky situations.

Almost every popular social media platform has a direct message feature. Use it.

 

Take your response to negative comments off your public profile and into a safer space where you can explore the customer’s unhappiness and try to make it right. Even in direct messages, conduct yourself as though everyone is watching, because … screenshots.

Be consistent

Response To Negative Comments Consistent

Consistency is key with any business process. This applies to your company’s response to negative comments on social media, too.

No one wants to have to deal with a rogue employee tweeting rude things on the company account. You can avoid this by taking your social accounts seriously and putting conscious effort into training staff who will manage them.

Have a clear, written outline of your company strategy for responding to negative comments on social media.

 

Go over this document with all existing staff and make it a part of the onboarding process. There is no way to plan for every scenario, so your staff will always be expected to use their own creativity and customer service skills. They should all be prepared to do so at any time and with any customer.

Try to limit the disgruntled customer’s interactions to a single employee when possible, rather than having several company representatives handling the same case. Everyone should be on the same page about what has been done to attend to the negative comment.

Your response to negative comments can help or hurt business

The way your company manages negative social media comments is ultimately a matter of customer service. You want that service to be stellar. When responding to a negative comment on social media, be prepared to make a sacrifice, interact with the customer directly, and remain consistent in your strategy.

With the right management tools and plan in place, these situations don’t have to be detrimental to business. It’s possible to walk away with increased customer loyalty, both from the person who complained and from the customers — new and old — who witnessed the interaction on your social media profiles.