It seems like nearly everyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection is Simon Cowell. Negativity abounds, and it can certainly show up on your social media accounts. How you respond to that negative criticism is going to determine if you end with a good experience for you brand, or a bad one.
This article will give you a few good options to start considering before anything mean is said. Have a plan that is put in place, don't have a knee jerk reaction that just, well, ends up with you looking like a jerk!
7 ways to respond to negative online comments
Talk to the person publicly, urge them to speak with you privately
Whether the comment is on your blog, a social media account, or a review website, you need to get in there and address the person who made the comment. Other people will see the comment, and they need to see you right there taking care of the situation.
Never make the mistake of jumping directly to talking with them via email, direct messages, or any other private communication. If people don't publicly seeing you addressing the problem it could lead to more attention being drawn to it.
Check out how this account handles its business when someone calls them out on a completely bogus accusation:
Turn that negative into a positive
People can come onto your blog and leave a comment like "this sux, your company is awful and I hear it contributes to global warming." You can then address their comment by showcasing all of the good that your company actually does for the environment. This is assuming that your company isn't destroying the environment. If it is, you totally sux.
The goal is to directly address a negative comment with a flood of true comments that are positive. You may come out at a stalemate here unless you can provide proof and provide links that backup your claims.
Give them information that they may be lacking
"Hey, your stupid product doesn't work. I did this and it didn't work!" Comments like this can be dealt with better with information rather than an apology. There are going to be customers out there who:
Don't know how to use your product
Don't know how to do an online search
Help them out with the right information at the right time and that frustration can quickly turn into big smiles and thanks.
Email the webmaster and see what the beef is
We constantly monitor review websites at Devumi. Sometimes we get positive reviews, some times we get beat up. These review website can have a big impact on how your company is perceived.
Rather than leaving comments on a blog post that the webmaste may never see, first see if you can email the webmaster and talk about changing the post. No one wants to see you complaining publicly about a bad review. Your ability to influence the webmaster, and help them with their issues with your product or service, could see that review change for the better.
Ignore those trolls
Over on another post here on Social Media Today I talked about trolls on Twitter specifically. The key point in the article is differentiating between trollish behaviour and someone with a complaint voiced angrily.
This guy here is angry about a customer service issue, but lacked calm nerves at the time of tweeting:
Someone who is trolling is more like this person here who both hates the company, and asks for a job in less than 140 characters:
I know that I hate your company most of the time but how do I get a job in your company @SMTOWNGLOBAL- acee (@sica_forehead) August 25, 2014
There are companies that can get in on conversations like this and turn them into a positive. It takes a skilled social media manager, and not everyone has one. Take a look at how @USAirways handled this random and pointless hate:
@jameslyfe Don't hate us, James. How can we help?- US Airways (@USAirways) January 13, 2014
Confront lies, the customer is not always right
Your online customers may not actually be customers at all. They could be bots, they could be poorly paid workers in another country, they could be the competition! If you find someone spreading blatant lies about your company it isn't time to break out the apologies and free coupons.
It is time to bring the truth and show people what your company is really made of. Have links for proof. Bring customer testimonials, and see if your community gets on your side as well.
In the worst instances it may be time to get a lawyer or hire an investigator.
Lies were spread online about Spur restaurant through Facebook. They responded by immediately launching an investigation, and moved to sue the person who brought the claims against them. Here's the quote from the end of their post:
"We will be taking legal action against the originator of the post for the malicious, slanderous and false statements which were made."
Be careful when you remove a comment
Do you know what command+shift+4 means? It means I can take a screenshot of anything I want. I, and everyone else, can use it if a company deletes all negative comments on their page by taking a screenshot of it first. If you delete a comment without addressing it you face the possibility of making things worse!
One of the only times you'd ever want to delete a comment is when it blatantly violates your establish rules. Swearing, threats, inciting people to break the law, and those types of things are game for a delete.
Be aware that people will scream "Freedom of Speech" at you if you do this. You're free to remind them that freedom of speech is a guarantee in regards to government control, not over your Facebook page!