Responding to Negative Social Media Feedback

Not all feedback on your social media platforms will be engaging or positive. In some instances, the community management team will be required to handle negative posts, unreasonable comments, and/or complaints from followers or users. The progressive six steps below outline recommended best practices for addressing and handling negative feedback and users.

1. Respond No Matter What

Companies NEED to respond. The Social Media Examiner website states that, “Inactivity on your part will look as though you’re trying to ignore the issue.” This sentiment and basic underlying principle is 100% accurate. Responding to negative comments and feedback illustrates a pride and responsibility in customer support to the online community.

When responding, keep a few main points at the forefront of your mind:

  • Act Fast:  According to NM Incite (now Nielsen Social), Facebook users expect to be responded to within 24 hours and Twitter users within 2 hours.
  • Ensure accuracy: Users leaving negative feedback and comments will often jump on the opportunity to find flaws in arguments and poke holes in inaccurate data or responses. Double-check responses to negative feedback or, if need be, buy more time by stating that you are looking into the issue.
  • Be flexible: Obviously, companies want to respond and resolve the situation quickly, but in some cases that is not possible. The key is to be responsive and follow-up once you have all the necessary facts and possible solutions.
  • Show awareness: Know who your top social influencers are in each social community. Negative feedback from top influencers should be prioritized and addressed quickly as the repercussions of their comments have much broader and more impactful reach. Don’t ignore other users! Just be aware of your most influential community members.
  • Handle the situation: Ultimately, remember that this is your community. The goal is to resolve and respond to negative feedback, making sure you do so in accordance with your predefined community guidelines and policies. Take control of your channel while refuting untrue or inaccurate negative comments.
  • Avoid fights: Be proactive, authentic, helpful, and accurate with your responses. Do not, under any circumstances, engage in online quarrels or altercations!

Fast, helpful, and accurate responses to negative feedback will demonstrate to your community that you value their opinion and take pride in providing high-level of customer support.

2. Be Patient and Understanding

Take a moment before responding to negative feedback and try to understand that company, industry, and product information known by you may not be common knowledge to your followers.

Negative feedback much more difficult to manage than positive and satisfied comments, but warrants the same appreciation and response. When addressing negative feedback, be sure that your messages and responses are positive and friendly. In order to achieve this goal, you need to keep certain concepts in mind prior to responding:

  • Be transparent: Companies and brands sometimes make mistakes. If you made a mistake, admit it, address it, find a solution, and work with the customer/follower until they are satisfied.
  • Be human: You want to remain professional within your community, but automated or standardized responses often come off as impersonal. Objective and professional human interaction should be your ultimate goal.
  • Be sincere: Disingenuous responses to genuine complaints will damage your reputation within your community. Be sincere in both your responses and efforts to resolve the situation.
  • Follow-up: Resolving the issue is important, but also follow-up to ensure users are aware that a solution has been implemented. By continuing the conversation with the user, you are reestablishing trust and building a more loyal follower. The value of following-up and continuing conversations goes a long way in the eyes of reasonable users.

All social media feedback, good and bad, can help you better understand your products or services. If followers continually compliment or complain about a particular product, service or employee, use what they say to help guide your business strategy.

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3. Contact the User Privately

While it is critical to address public complaints and issues left on your social media, the fact remains that not all the details should be shared in the same manner. Sometimes, responding to negative public feedback with “I’m sorry to hear about this issue. I think it is best that we discuss this problem further in an offline setting. I will private message you to continue this conversation and find a possible solution” is a necessary step to efficiently managing an online community.

Your followers love personal attention and personally tailored responses. An offline conversation gives you the opportunity to discuss a problem in more detail and to provide the follower with more individualized attention. You may choose to offer free merchandise and/or discounts as a solution. In order to discourage illegitimate or unwarranted complaints/issues attempting to secure the same solution, it is best to keep those conversations off of your public page.

Once you have adequately resolved the issue, you may want to consider asking the fan/follower to remove the negative comment or feedback. By no means should this tactic be used for all negative feedback. However, in extenuating circumstances where you believe the comment is hurting your company’s reputation, it is not an unreasonable request. In some instances, if the follower feels as though they were treated as a priority, they will be happy to remove the post because you have helped them to build trust and loyalty to the company.

4. Respond Back to the Original Post

As mentioned earlier, the list of best practices outlined here is progressive in nature. The assumption is that you fully implement the previous step before you move on to the next. In this particular scenario, you have resolved a serious escalation or issue stemming from a user’s public negative feedback. Perhaps you are uncomfortable with asking the user to remove the comment/post or they have elected not to oblige. Either way, the issue/comment is extremely damaging or negative in nature, and the rest of the community is unaware that the problem has been addressed and a solution has been reached.

There is a general rule among community managers that you should not remove or delete negative comments. Hence, it is imperative in situations like this, you respond back to the original post and inform your community of the solution. A helpful and positive demeanor in the final comment of a negative thread can achieve greater success than removing or deleting the comment.  By responding back to the original post, you are showing your community that you value their feedback. With any luck, the person that originally posted the issue will chime in with positive feedback on how a solution was reached.

5. Let Your Community Respond

In addition to the steps you take to mitigate negative feedback, the one your followers take is probably the most influential. The strongest and most powerful voice for your company is your loyal online community. By fostering relationships, trust, and loyalty within your community you are able to create a contingent of helpful followers eager to assist or rebut negative feedback on your behalf.

Again, it takes time to build a loyal community, but your active participation and management of acknowledging, responding to, and resolving issues and problems will go much further than simply ignoring or deleting negative feedback. There is no source more credible to the public than actual customers and community participants. Once you have built a strong foundation with your community, you will see them begin to more actively support, refute, and answer negative feedback on your behalf.

It still remains a best practice to respond to the negativity yourself, but if your community is fast enough, often times they will have already resolved or adequately responded to the person responsible for the negative comment.  At that point, simply thank both the user and the community for their question(s) and support.

6. Ban the User

As the progressive list of best practices concludes, we are left with one final option or choice. In this instance, you have exhausted all cooperative and sincere attempts to resolve the user’s issue or complaint, and they have remained completely unresponsive or hostile. Some people simply choose to be unruly, hostile, confrontational, and argumentative on any social media platform that will allow it.

However, you as a company have the right to not allow unwarranted negativity. Banning a user should only be a last resort, and you should have strict company guidelines and policies in place for dealing with hostile users/followers.  At no point should you subject your staff or community managers/members to harassment, vulgarity, offensive language, threats or excessively hostile followers or users.  If and when your team encounters abusive users, they should be both reported and banned from your page(s).

The Bottom Line

While the above steps may seem basic in nature, they are an important part of showing your community that you are proactive, responsive, and dedicated to addressing not only positive feedback, but negative feedback as well. The commitment to these practices will help you in building your reach, trust, and brand loyalty on your social media platforms.

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