Sooner or later: Negative comments on social media
It will happen sooner or later – a post you posted on social media will draw negative comments or a client will post a negative comment about your business or your product/service. First of all – wonderful! People are using your products/services and people are reading your posts! Next – whether it is a personal or a professional attack – get over it! You put yourself and your business out there on social media and this will happen to most businesses sooner or later.
How should you handle the situation?
Follow these 7 steps BEFORE you act on any negative comments.
1. Assess the comment
Take the comment at face value. Is this is a post content complaint: Is it a spelling correction, a grammar correction or a criticism of the content? Or is this a product/service complaint: Did they not receive the product? Were they unhappy with the service?
Now find out who wrote the comment? A competitor? The spouse, child or friend of a competitor? A neighbor with a grudge? This is a small country – it’s pretty easy to find out who ‘diss-ed’ your post/product.
2. Why should I care about social media complaints?
While word-of-mouth is one of the strongest marketing tools in the small business owners’ tools box, a negative comment or complaint in the form of an online negative post can undo the work of a trusted recommendation or at least weaken the potential client’s resolve to contact your business. You need to take this seriously, but...
3. Avoid all knee-jerk reactions
Social media is full to the brim with knee-jerk reaction posts simply because it is way too easy to post at anytime and anywhere. So take a breath. Read over the comment more than once. Ask someone you trust to re-read the comment – perhaps you misread the intent. Now – if the comment is a correction – are they correct? If the comment is about a product - are the facts correct?
Remember you are under no obligation to answer online any comments or make any kind of statements to this person.
4. How to answer a negative comment
If the correction is valid – thank the writer for pointing out the error and for being an avid reader of your posts (may not be true – but heck, they opened themselves up to this….) and then say something along the lines of – "...I/we always try/strive to provide correct/up-to-date information and appreciate all comments. " Then let it go.
What if someone complains about bad service? Remember, the social media world will see this – take your time to note and then verify the particulars. A knee-jerk “we’re sorry for...” without checking the facts will not give you extra points or show your business in a more positive light.
No matter what the circumstance always be polite, calm and answer to the point.
Begin an online dialog
If the facts bear out – begin an on-line dialog apologizing for the issue (showing the public that you take customer service seriously) and then in the same post take control of the conversation and state that you want to discuss this issue in greater detail in a private off-line conversation and tell the person you will contact them according to the contact details the client provided originally. End with thanking them for bringing this issue to your attention. Do not allow this online conversation to go further – choose to not engage in an online battle.
Your tone and possible answers:
Remember you are dealing with a business issue on social media so try for a tone that is not too formal or too causal. Use phrases such as:
"Thanks for reaching out to us.
"Thanks for your comments.
"We’re sorry you had this inconvenience.
Keep away from emotional words such as suffer, hardship, terribly, problem and the like. Try not to repeat any strong, emotionally-charged words the writer used in her/his original post.
You can also add a: "...we are always happy to hear from our readers/clients/customers ..."– if the comment is not too negative or an outright complaint.
Don’t argue and don’t defend. Keep in mind Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous line from the old Dragnet series: “Just the facts, ma’am.” Stick to the topic at hand.
Who should reply:
If your business has several employees – make sure that a senior person deals with this issue and that this is stated in the online post. Follow up offline and try to bring this client back into the fold, this means, turn him/her back into a customer.
5. How quickly should you respond?
If you can, try to respond within one to two hours. I know others recommend you respond to comments within 15 minutes – this is a very short time period and I feel 15 minutes is not enough time to examine the comment and the situation and compose a professional reply. While many people and I am one of them, expect short response-times to complaints posted online to large businesses/corporations, it is unrealistic to attach these kinds of response times to small businesses.
6. What if the negative comments don’t stop?
If the writer posts a follow-up comment – whether positive or negative – I recommend no further communications. Allow the original post and your reply to stand as is. Do not continue this thread. It will disappear into the miasma that is social media in a short period of time. Choose to not engage further.
What happens if the writer continues to complain and post, I recommend blocking the writer. You are under no obligation to engage online with anyone. You are a small business owner, not a social worker – someone will always be unhappy.
Just look at it this way – if you had a brick and mortar store and a customer came in and complained about a product, you would try to deal with the complaint and either turn them back into a customer or have them leave quietly and hopefully reasonably satisfied. However, if the person then decided to stand outside, in front of your store, with a sign stating how bad you were – you would call the police to get him away from your store and stop him from becoming a nuisance to your paying customers. Blocking is social media self-policing - do it and get on with your business.
7. Should you remove negative comments from your social media page?
I am of two minds regarding this issue: on one-hand you should leave the comment, but on the other-hand, you are under no obligation to keep negative comments on your business page. The idea that the existence of negative comments on your page will paint a 'more realistic, nearly-positive image' of your business is not a persuasive argument. Competition and choice are so out of control online, that all it takes is for a potential client to view one small negative comment about your business on a social media page for them to chose to work with your competitor.
Being "real", by keeping negative comments on your social media page, doesn’t give you extra brownie points with potential clients. For the most part, potential clients will compare small businesses by a very shallow list of criteria, beginning with price. Honesty is one thing but helping out your competitors by allowing poor reviews on your business page, is quite another.
Yes, online negative comments are forever, but you need to brush yourself off, learn from your mistakes (no 'shoulda - woulda - couldas') and get on with the business of building your business! Create positive results, post positive posts, get positive client recommendations and move on!
Do you want to open yourself to a more successful business? Are you lost in the social media jungle? Let me help you re-energize your business and rediscover your passion in your profession. We’ll work together to improve your marketing strategy and online exposure and find the perfect target markets for your business. Contact me today to schedule a free introductory meeting.