Social media has become the largest communication platform work worldwide, boasting more than 3.8 billion aggregated users across platforms as of January 2020. With the rise of social media, marketers have shifted towards digital advertising and online viral or sponsored campaigns to help promote their business and brand. As more businesses become accustomed to using social media to communicate with customers and fans and to promote their products and services, it is important to respond to questions, criticisms, and even negative comments in a manner that will not trigger a flood of backlash.
Do Not Ignore Complaints and Negative Comments
One of the worst decisions a brand manager or a digital marketer can make when attempting to address backlash or negative comments is to delete the comment in question from their social media feed and brand page altogether. Most often, comments that have been deleted will be noticed by other users, promoting a potential wave of additional backlash-filled comments. Instead of ignoring or deleting negative comments or criticisms altogether, it is highly advisable to face and address them head-on.
Choose the Right Voice
Choosing a voice for your business and brand is one of the most important decisions you will make, especially if you are entering a highly competitive or saturated market. If you appear to sound too robotic and emotionally disconnected within your responses, you may give the impression that you are using automated software to respond to your followers and prospective customers. Selecting a voice for your business and brand highly depends on what demographics you intend to appeal to as well as the type of products, services, or content you provide. Take time to research and compare competition within your market and industry to discover what type of voice and messaging works best for your type of business or social media page.
In a digital world where communication is instant, timing matters when it comes to providing customer service and suitable responses on social media. Do not allow a negative comment or question to sit unanswered on your social media page or feed for an extended period of time. If you leave a negative comment or question unanswered, it may show to other followers and potential customers that you are either unreliable, not being transparent, or that you simply do not provide adequate customer service. The quicker you respond to negative comments on your social media feeds directly, the less likely you are to incur additional negative comments or backlash.
Provide Complete and Total Transparency
One of the most important aspects of a great business and brand in today’s technologically-driven world is transparency. With the rise of eCommerce shopping and global online trends, more people than ever before are now making purchases online each day. However, although eCommerce and the online economy has skyrocketed, so have online hacks, scams, and data breaches. Even with technology and eCommerce shopping being commonplace today, it is essential to provide complete and total transparency to users on your social media while cultivating your following and building your online reputation.
When you are upfront and honest about potential setbacks you have experienced or mistakes you have made, individuals may be more apt to entrust you with their business in the future. A company or brand that is aware of issues but refuses to address them or denies that they exist will likely suffer and ultimately go out of business due to their lack of transparency and integrity.
Assess the Individual Complaint
Before you respond to any negative comments, questions, or criticisms, it is always important to assess the complaint you have received individually. Identify potential pain points of the individuals who follow your business or brand on social media and why they may require your help, products, or even the services you provide. Once you understand the potential pain points of your followers and prospective customers or clients, you can then determine the best way to respond without triggering additional negative responses.
For instance, if you manage a social media feed for inpatient alcohol rehab centers, you will need to remain extremely sensitive, thoughtful, and tactful when responding to negative comments, as many individuals who may need a rehabilitation program or have loved ones in need may be experiencing high emotions due to their current situation. Gaining a better understanding of the audience you intend to reach is essential to create a good rapport between you and your followers and those who have a genuine interest in following and supporting you on social media.
Whenever possible, it is highly advisable to take complaints and negative comments private. Instead of deleting a comment, simply reply asking an individual to contact you directly via private messenger or through your direct messages, depending on the platform you are responding to at the time. Going private eliminates further potential backlash and can help you to provide a more personal and intimate customer service response for the individual in need.
Avoid Overpromising and Underdelivering
Whenever you address a comment or concern from a follower or customer on social media, it is important not to overpromise and underdeliver. Do not tell a customer that you will fix their issue or the trouble they are experiencing immediately if you are unable to address their concerns in that instant. Be sure to avoid offering discounts, deals, or even refunds if you are unable to afford to do so or if you do not have the authority. Overpromising discounts and solutions can and often does lead to extensive backlash and a dip in reputation, which can cause you to miss out on potential followers and customers in the future. Always assess and analyze each negative comment individually and in-depth to determine what response is best and most appropriate and what response you can deliver immediately.
Eliminate Emotion From Your Response
Diplomatically handling negative comments on your social media feeds often requires more than simply apologizing. If you want to make the situation right, you will need to remove any and all negative or angry emotions from your response, even if you believe the commenter is in the wrong or is spreading false information. To remain diplomatic, a bit of business class and tact is necessary, especially if you are still in the early stages of building your business and your brand’s online reputation.
Any time you receive a negative, hateful, or rude comment, avoid the urge to respond using name-calling or personal attacks. When you want to appear professional, trustworthy, and legitimate, it is essential to eliminate the emotion you feel from your response, even if you do believe your desired response is justified. Sending a rude message that contains insults or personal attacks can turn other followers away and can keep potential customers from making a purchase or using services from you. You are much more likely to lose followers if your replies to negative comments and criticisms come off as childish, immature, and unprofessional.
Provide a Positive Message and Solution
One of the most important elements to remember when managing social media feeds for a business, brand, or even for yourself as a professional is a positive message and tone. Providing a positive message and solution with the right tone when responding to negative comments and criticism can go a long way, especially as you continue to build your reputation. When you are responding to a negative comment, consider what may help the individual to feel better about your business and brand. Also, keep in mind which pain point may be driving them to leave the criticism or negative comment that you have received on your page. Consider the following before responding:
- Is this person currently a follower on my social media feeds?
- Is the negative comment or complaint that has been lodged legitimate and trackable (if the comment is reflective of a specific order or experience)?
- Is it possible that the negative comment I have received is not legitimate and has been left by a troll or by an individual who is simply interested in stirring up controversy? If so, how will I tackle and address spam comments or troll comments now and in the future?
- What are the pain points of the negative comment that has been left, and how can I address them personally?
- What is the best way to approach the negative comment I have received (publicly or within a private or direct message)?
- In what ways can I help to alleviate the pain points and stress that my business products or services have caused to the individual who has left a complaint or negative comment on my feed?
- How can I provide a succinct, yet professional and positive message to the individual who has left a negative comment without sparking additional backlash or complaints?
- Is there a way that I can utilize shortcomings or issues I am experiencing with my business and brand at the moment and turn them into a positive situation or learning experience?
- What messaging works best to speak to my audience based on their demographics and how I want my business and brand to be viewed?
When you know how to diplomatically handle negative comments on your social media feeds, it becomes much easier to manage and maintain your brand’s overall online image. With an accurate understanding of the audience of followers you have garnered and tact when responding to issues and offering solutions, you still have the power to turn a negative into a positive situation in nearly all customer service scenarios.
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.