How to Respond to Negative Comments on Social Media
Updated on August 16th, 2016
Do you know how to respond to negative comments on social media?
If you’re running a business with an online presence, it’s important to be on social media in some capacity. A majority of your customers are, after all, regularly active on these platforms. It’s reported that over 60% of adults, for instance, use social media sites.
If your customers are on social media, you should be too. That means sharing interesting content with them, informing them about any offers or deals that you might be running, and engaging in conversations with them.
But what if they have a less-than-positive experience with your company? Have you developed a strategy for handling negativity online?
Managing, handling and responding to crisis and negative comments on social media needs to be planned and documented. Which is why we created the Negative Comments Response Template to help you get started.
This template has been downloaded tens of thousands of times as a part of our 33 Web Marketing Templates – but if you don’t have a copy you can download it below.
The rest of this article will take a closer look at each section of the template and guide you on how to use it.
You’ll notice that we include instructions on how to handle a variety of different comments that you might get on your social media pages, because it’s not always about dealing with negativity that requires planning.
The Positive Comment
Maybe a customer visited your website or store and had a wonderful time there, and felt motivated to comment on your FB page about that experience.
“You want to make sure to answer your customers, connect with them, and show your entire audience on social media that you really care about what they have to say,” said Ryan Pinkham in a recent interview with Inc.
Think about your FB page, Twitter profile, or Instagram account as a platform for conversation with your customers. If someone is talking to you in person, you’re inclined to respond to them and get a dialogue going.
Just because there’s not a problem to solve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to your customers – acknowledge that you received their comment and thank them!
The Neutral Comment
Sometimes people just want to tell their online friends what they’re up to (or what’s on their plate).
Responding to them is optional – it’s appropriate in this case to like their comment, as opposed to typing out a comment back to them.
However, you might consider a quick follow-up comment to them. It can go a long way in keeping a customer happy and returning.
“The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “It’s crucial that organisations implement approaches to handling social media now.”
If you set aside time each day to respond to your audience, in any way you can, a quick “Thanks, hope you enjoyed your experience!” certainly isn’t going to hurt.
Here’s a great example of a company handling a more neutral comment with an engaging and positive tweet.
JetBlue could have just liked the tweet and moved on – instead they replied, and in an incredibly timely fashion.
To find out more about managing social media on a daily basis you may like this article: The Ultimate 5-Minute Daily Social Media Plan
There are a few ways to categorise negative comments on social media. For example there may be complaints about customer service, or some people might just have too much time to kill and decide to spend it trolling your page. This means there are different ways to handle negative comments, depending on the context.
Genuine Negative Comment
If your customer has a genuine complaint – their burger was cold, for instance, and the service was poor – it’s crucial to respond quickly and follow up with them.
“If your company has made a mistake, always be courteous and make it up to them,” says Brian Carter. “You are onstage, and the customers that complain are often good customers who want you to make it right so they can remain a customer.”
Take a screenshot of their comment and let them know that you heard them.
Apologise – and make it a genuine apology. The “I’m sorry you felt like this happened” type of apology is one of the worst ways to acknowledge an issue and provide a solution.
According to social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson the most important thing is to remember that the apology is not about you. Resorting to phrases like “I didn’t mean to…”, “I was trying to…”, or “I didn’t realise…” isn’t helpful. If you’ve messed up, you need to admit it.
The next step is to act – offer them a free burger the next time they’re in your restaurant. This is a great opportunity to impress them, and when they come back to you, you’ve got the chance to win back even more of their loyalty.
In the above example, a customer received their order in a package that was damaged. The company responds to the customer here in a friendly and helpful way, and takes action immediately. Remember that some resolutions should take place off line or in a separate email, because confidential or personal information is being exchanged.
Negative Comment by a “Troll”
It might not come as much of a surprise, but there are people out there that have lots of time to kill and nothing better to do than stir up trouble online.
If the commenter brings up an issue that doesn’t actually need to be resolved, it’s sometimes best to just ignore them. “Don’t feed the trolls,” as they say.
In the example shown in this section of the template, the person’s comment doesn’t have anything to do with your level of service or company standards.
You can give the troll a warning – something along the lines of “Please remove your comment from our page,” but oftentimes this only fuels their troll fire. Many times it is best to just block the commenter, as they’re not adding anything of consequence to your online conversation.
Offensive or Malicious Comments
Sometimes people use the internet as an opportunity for cruelty or offensiveness.
If the comments are malicious – calling their waitress a crude name, for instance – it’s appropriate to remove their comment and let them know they’ve broken your “house rules”. Bad manners shouldn’t be tolerated, and your FB page falls into this category.
Legal or Criminal Ramifications
And occasionally you’ll encounter a more serious issue – threats or confidentiality breaches fall into this category, and should be taken seriously.
Escalate the issue immediately – in this example, someone is threatening violence and property damage. Take a screenshot of their comment and report the issue to the appropriate authority. You can’t be sure if the person is unstable or violent, and this isn’t a situation to brush off lightly.
We can’t always predict when things will go wrong, but having a good negative comments policy in place will help to prevent future disasters.
Take the time to look at your social media marketing plan and strategy, and flesh out your policy for social media comments. Define the kinds of comments that you normally get (or expect), and determine how you’ll handle each of those situations.
Your website and social media profiles are an extension of your company, and additional platforms to engage with customers and build loyalty.
“We are customers too, and we always try to put ourselves in [our customers’] shoes,” says Zappos social media manager, Jessica Oberst.
“Being open and honest, truly listening with an open heart, and always having the intent of delivering happiness is the best way to help others.”
How have you handled social media disasters? Have you ever turned a negative comment into a positive experience for your customers?
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