Although there is no way to fully prevent negative comments from being posted on your brand’s social media page, you can control how you respond to those negative comments.
If your business is present on social media, there’s a chance you’ll receive negative comments at some point. And because social media is widely accessible to your current and potential customers, the way you choose to respond is crucial. These do's and don’ts should help you feel more prepared to handle negative comments and turn them into positive experiences where possible.
DON’T take it personally or respond out of emotion.
While negative comments can be surprising or upsetting, take a moment to assess the situation before you respond in an emotional or negative way. That could be what the unhappy customer wants, and it could damage your reputation. Instead, avoid taking the comments about your business personally and talk with your team to determine a more effective response.
DO document the negative comment.
Make sure you have a record of the comment in an easy-to-reference format, such as a screenshot taken from your web browser or even a photo of the screen showing the interaction taken from your mobile phone. It’s good to have proof of the incident/comment in case the issue escalates, especially since some social media content can be deleted or modified easily.
DON’T be too quick to delete it.
Rather than responding to a negative comment, sometimes it may seem quicker and easier to simply delete it. That’s not always a wise decision. In general, it’s better to let negative comments remain on your page because deleting them may only upset the commenter more. Plus, keeping the comment posted ultimately positions your brand as a safe space for customer feedback and allows other customers to observe how you respond to conflict.
However, if a user is actually abusing your channel with inappropriate, offensive comments, you can use your discretion to block the user or remove those excessive comments. See more on the types of negative comments below.
DON’T respond to every negative comment the same way.
Different negative comments on your business’s social media page will require different responses. Review the following to determine which negative comment you may be dealing with, and see suggestions on how to respond.
Types of Negative Comments
1. Legitimate Complaints:
Your business may have actually messed up, and your customer is letting you know about it.
How to respond:
Acknowledge the problem, apologize for the experience, and offer a solution whenever possible.
2. Hateful Comments/Spam:
Someone says something about your business or employees that is untrue, hurtful, and excessive.
How to respond:
Remove the comment and consider reaching out to the commenter via direct message. Or, ultimately report the content as spam.
Someone intentionally says something controversial in order to get a reaction or rise out of your business or other users.
How to Respond:
Don’t engage, but don’t delete. Ignoring a troll as much as possible is the best first strategy, because it deprives them of the emotional attention and response they seek.
4. Comments with Legal Implications:
Someone says something that breaks the law.
How to Respond:
Document the comment and report it to the appropriate authorities or law enforcement.
DON’T wait too long to respond.
After you’ve evaluated the type of negative comment, like the examples above, address the issue/comment with the appropriate response as soon as possible. Negative words can travel fast on social media, which could mean more damage to your business’s reputation. Having an overall social media policy/plan in place prior to an incident will allow you to act swiftly and confidently, positioning your company as one that is responsive and intentional about maintaining good customer relationships.
DO be kind and empathetic in your response.
Make every effort to uphold your business’s reputation with kindness and professionalism, even when the negative commenter may seem hateful or aggressive. For example, if a customer is letting you know about a mistake or error your business made, be empathetic to their situation and let them know you’ll do your best to make it right. Remember, as mentioned earlier in this blog, other customers—and potential customers—see how you respond on social media, and it’s a chance to leave a positive impression.
DO respond to the negative comment directly on the platform where it was posted.
Even if your response is a public request to continue the conversation in private or offline, responding publicly lets the commenter feel acknowledged and shows your social media community that your business is aware and engaged with customer concerns.
DO set and maintain the tone.
Consistently cultivate an overall environment within your social media community that encourages positive interactions and rich engagement. Clearly communicate in your company bio or “About Us” section regarding the type of content that is accepted on your brand’s page. This type of energy could help mitigate a disgruntled person’s desire to post an inappropriate or negative comment, and potentially encourage your satisfied social media community to participate in the conversation/defend your business, voluntarily adding a more positive perspective or response to a negative comment.
DO consider using complaint management software or monitoring tools to receive and field future customer feedback or complaints.
If your business would like assistance in managing negative comments or complaints, consider investing in complaint management software like Zendesk, Zoho desk, or LiveAgent. Tools like these allow customers to share feedback in a more streamlined way and let you track and solve complaints more efficiently with your team.
If your brand has established a specific digital initiative through tools like HubSpot, make sure you explore the capabilities of their Service Hub. This tool can centralize all of your customer conversations, automate your customer service workflow, and provide rich analytical reports that will help you improve the customer service experience.
DO monitor your digital presence and interactions.
Use Google alerts and other social media monitoring tools to track comments and conversations. Popular social media management tools like Hootsuite, HubSpot, Sprout Social, and Buffer have built-in social listening tools as well to help you monitor mentions, keywords, and other aspects related to your business. This will help you stay aware and involved in relevant conversations, whether they’re positive or negative.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to create or maintain a positive relationship between your business and your customers whenever possible. You may not be able to avoid receiving negative comments, but you can control your response to them. Not only can an effective response turn a negative comment into a positive experience, it can also leave a lasting impact on your customers and position your business for future success. If you want to learn more about communicating effectively during challenging times, check out our crisis communication e-book for businesses.