Can You Turn Negative Social Media Exposure into a Positive Experience?

Gary Victory
Gary Victory Director, Elite Group Marketing

Posted on May 8th 2014

Can You Turn Negative Social Media Exposure into a Positive Experience?

turn a bad social media event into some good PRIf you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of watching your business flounder after a scathing review on Yelp or Facebook, you know how uncomfortable it can be.  On one hand, a few bad experiences in the midst of otherwise good service can just be chalked up to circumstances out of your control, or even competitors trying to take you down a notch.

So what can you do?  If you manage your company’s social media accounts, you already know that responding to negative comments can feel like walking on eggshells.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, you simply can’t placate upset customers – and more often than not, those are the people who will ultimately be commenting on your social media pages.

Fortunately, there are ways to handle social media criticism without appearing to wring your hands and apologize over and over.  Here are a few methods that both large and small companies can learn from when it comes to turning a negative into a positive.

Show You Truly Care

Postmates, an online food delivery service, received an email from a customer complaining about a service issue.  The CEO responded to a customer service inquiry about how to handle the problem, and his response was less than stellar. The response got forwarded to the customer and posted on Twitter, to which the CEO then blogged an apologetic response.

You can only say “sorry” so many times…and when it comes from a CEO, they have to try that much harder to win back broad appeal for their brand. Unlike the Postmates CEO, you can’t excuse yourself by saying you “had a bad day” (however true that might be!).  A half-baked attempt at a blog post apology usually won’t cut it either, as it will draw more venomous responses from fellow customers who tend to side with their own group.

Instead, approach the matter with a calm and rational head. Put yourself in their shoes. Was it something within your control that angered them? Poor service? Rude sales staff? Faulty product? Apologize and let them know that you’re taking steps to have the situation remedied. By demonstrating that you truly care, and even going so far as to outline the steps you’re taking to rectify the issue, you’ll help provide peace of mind and extend an “olive branch” to your customer that promises to do better next time.

Look at the Bigger Picture

Although it might be tempting to start getting on the defensive and deleting comments that reflect your company poorly, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. A two-star Michelin award-winning chef and a food blogger had a war of words when the blogger gave him 3 out of 5 stars in a review. 

By giving in to the criticism and turning it into a personal issue, the chef stirred up a firestorm of controversy on Twitter which caused other chefs and food bloggers to pick sides…not exactly the kind of battle lines you want drawn up!

In reality, the blogger only had an issue with a small part of the meal… the appetizer. In this case, the chef failed to separate himself from the comments about his food, and turned what was an otherwise pleasant meal into a barrage of personal attacks.

Remember that Everything Happens in Real-Time

Given the inter-connectedness of social media, the sooner you respond to and ameliorate distasteful or otherwise poor complaints, the more you’ll show customers that you’re on top of issues and refuse to let bad service leave a permanent stain on your brand.  It’s one thing to hijack a complaint train and veer it back on track, but it’s another thing entirely to hijack opportunity too soon.

When the story of Ariel Castro holding women hostage for years in his home surfaced, local hero Charles Ramsey stepped in when he heard screams coming from the home.  Mentioned in the news report was the fact that he had been eating a Big Mac at the time of the rescue.  McDonalds quickly jumped on this news by offering Ramsey free burgers for life.  It received a great deal of criticism for trying to turn a tragedy into an advertising opportunity, but when details suddenly emerged that Ramsey had a history of domestic violence himself, McDonalds was suspiciously quiet.

The moral of the story here is that, while it’s good to keep a finger on the pulse of social media, including comments and discussions, don’t be too hasty to jump into the fray until you know the whole story, or a gesture of goodwill could backfire on you.

Fixing and Following Up

Finally, it’s important that even if the issue is not directly your fault, that you take actionable steps to not only fix the problem, but prevent it from happening again.  Companies who truly champion customer service will then go the extra mile to follow up with customers on how they can make their experience better. It may seem like an extraordinary effort for “just one person”, but companies who go the extra mile often reap the rewards of positive PR, not to mention having a customer for life!

How Do You Handle Negative Social Media?

Although it might sting at first, dealing with some negative aspects is all part of business for many people. How do you handle the social media sting?  Share your thoughts below in the comments!


Today’s post was created by Gary Victory

Gary Victory

Gary Victory

Director, Elite Group Marketing

Gary Victory is a Business Analyst at Elite Group Marketing, an award winning digital marketing company specialising in search marketing. Connect with Gary on Linkedin, Twitter or Google+!

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