How can brands manage negative comments on social media
Getting a negative comment on your brand’s business page can be an absolutely soul-crushing experience. How dare they not like your baby?!
So, it’s natural that your first instinct could be to take the hateful comment down before anyone else sees it, or even worse, — agrees with it.
What if people hate what your brand stands for and the negative comment goes viral?
“Delete! Delete! Delete!” — chant the voices in your head. And as you almost give in and send the nasty little comment into the abyss, you come across this article.
We know that receiving negative comments can be daunting. But trust us, at the end of the day, it might not be so bad.
If you manage to handle the negative comments well, they even might have a positive impact on your business. Even Bill Gates (yes, the Bill Gates) agrees:
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft Corporation
We reached out to Mariia Petrova, VistaCreate’s Head of Social Media Marketing, and asked her to share her secrets to dealing with negative comments on social media effectively.
Read this article to:
- find out about the five types of negative comments on social media,
- figure out which ones you should respond to and why
- understand how to respond to social media criticism
- learn how to generate positive comments
How to handle negative comments on social media positively: Best practices, tips, and examples for brands
Below, together with Mariia Petrova, we’ve put together a list of best practices that will help you turn the tables and use negative comments to your brand’s benefit.
Make sure you read through them carefully, so that you can mix and match
different approaches and techniques until you find the right methodology for your business.
Avoid brand damage when reacting to negative comments
The first thing you need to remember is that any negative comment left on your social media page is reputational damage, and the way you handle it can either help your brand image or cause more damage.
So, before you react to any criticism on social media, it’s best to contact your PR department and ask for a brief consultation. Usually, they’d have suggestions regarding the best way to handle a particular situation.
After a while, you’ll start noticing patterns in the negative comments your business receives on social media and will be able to categorize them. Then, you can just reapply the old solutions to new cases.
Until then, each new comment calls for a team-wide discussion! Or — if you don’t have a PR manager yet — at least involvement from the CEO or founder.
Oh, and if multiple people manage your brand’s social media page, ensure everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, you risk ending up in a pitiful situation: a business that can’t properly manage its internal processes and coordinate its responses comes off as unprofessional. This will further exacerbate the situation and anger the unsatisfied commentator.
For instance, Vodafone UK could’ve easily dodged the bullet with a disgruntled customer had the two managers agreed on their response and not answered with different instructions:
Don’t ignore negative comments
The first rule of the social media marketing club is you do not… No, you definitely can talk about it!
In fact, we have plenty of articles talking about social media marketing, check them out:
- How to use social media marketing for your business
- The top social media websites for every small business owner
- When outsourcing social media marketing is the best solution
The real first rule of growing your brand on social media is that you don’t ignore comments.
It’s essential that you pay attention to every interaction your page gets, good or bad — it’s social media marketing 101.
And while there isn’t a set-in-stone way to react to negative comments, you can apologize profusely, you can try to defend yourself, you can laugh it off, or you can even swipe it under the rug (yes, we did lie when we said deleting comments is an unbreakable taboo,but more about it later!) — ignoring comments though is a rookie mistake.
Mariia Petrova explains why it’s so important to attend to every comment you get on social media, especially the negative ones.
First of all, comments mean engagement.
Every time you get a comment on social media, the platform notices it and assumes your content is interesting and relevant to your audience.
And that’s just one comment. Now, imagine what impact a full-blown conversation could have.
At the end of the day, social media algorithms don’t (yet) pick up the sentiment of the conversation, they merely register an active exchange of messages in the comment section.
So, having comments multiply is in your best interest.
Another reason why you shouldn’t ignore negative comments is publicity, duh! As an online brand, you constantly have many eyes on you. If the audience realizes your business doesn’town up to its mistakes, there’s a chance they’ll lose trust in it.
At the same time, handling difficult situations well can show your customers (and potential customers) that you’re a serious brand that cares about its reputation. This, in turn, can result in more conversions.
In fact, according to research…
Nearly half of social media users (45%) would view a brand more positively if it responded to negative comments on social media.Clutch
Besides, every time you think about ignoring a negative comment, you need to remember that even the angriest customers can turn into brand advocates if their complaint gets properly resolved.
When you react to a customer complaint, you invest in a chance to keep the customer. Ignoring complaints will inevitably set your business up for customer churn. And not always do customers leave quietly. Sometimes, they can go out with a bang.
Finally, complaints and negative comments are a priceless source of customer insights. When you react to negative comments and converse with the disgruntled customer directly, you can get their opinion first-hand and understand precisely what causes their pain..
Granted you manage to analyze and systemize such instances, negative feedback can help improve your business.
Be prompt with your responses
Another thing to remember when working with negative comments is that you’re — basically — trying to deflect a ticking bomb, and you need to neutralize it before it blows everything up.
Tick-tock, tick-tock — you have minutes to calm the angry customer down and offer them a solution to their problem. Otherwise, you risk getting your business in a middle of an online scandal.
According to a survey by Clutch, over 83% of respondents say they expect a brand to respond to their request within a day, and 38% expect a response within an hour. Only 15% of respondents are okay with brands reacting to their outreach within a couple of days, and a faint 2% — in more than a couple of days.
But here’s the catch: the report talks about neutral consumers who simply want to connect with a brand on social media.
When it comes to angry, dissatisfied customers, you only have minutes before the escalation of the conflict.
So, it’s essential that you keep a close eye on new comments and react to them swiftly. To ensure that, keep your notifications on at all times (notifications for new comments specifically).
🔥 VistaCreate Pro Tip: Add work hours to your social media to specify when you’re online. Otherwise, you risk getting a lot of hate for taking too long to respond.
If you’re running an international business that operates in different countries (and different time zones), consider hiring one more social media manager, so that your SMM specialists could take shifts and keep an eye on your social media account 24/7.
Otherwise, leaving comments unattended for too long is to your business’ detriment:
But that’s not all.
Let’s take a look at a few more reasons why you should respond to criticism online swiftly:
- The faster you respond to a comment (even if it’s negative), the higher your page and content will rank. Both Facebook and Instagram reward accounts that react to new interactions promptly by showing the content to more users organically.
- A fast reaction to a complaint sent via DMs might avert public outrage. Some people love to make things public when they don’t get a quick solution in a private conversation.
Speaking of direct messages…
This is one of the strategies your brand can use to provide a timely response without actually offering a solution.
Even if you don’t have a solution for the commentator at the moment, you can still let them know that you’re “on it” and will deliver several options soon (make sure to mention a specific time frame). Alternatively, you can direct them to private messages.
Take issues out of the spotlight
Unless you want things to get messy, you should adopt the habit of taking things out of the spotlight as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you risk turning one negative comment into a full-blown scandal around your brand. Negative comments tend to build up, doing irreversible damage to your brand.
This is particularly true for criticism based on genuinely negative experiences, service or product-related issues, and other situations where your business was in the wrong.
It is better to try and shift the conversation with a person that’s angry for a reason (e.g., poor service or bad product experience) to DM, email, or a phone call.Mariia Petrova
For instance, Facebook allows business pages to automatically take comment-based conversations some place more private. Use the “Message” button to respond to negative comments via direct messages — the platform will let everyone know you reacted to the comment:
➡️ Learn more about Facebook’s functionality in our guide to Facebook Marketing.
But, unfortunately, not every social media does it like Facebook.Often, people will have no idea how the story unfolded if you take the conversation to DMs. So, for everyone following the “feud”, you need to drop a public comment outlining that you’re dealing with the situation privately.
When dealing with negative comments online, it’s best to take the “customer is always right” approach.
You need to show that you’re genuinely sorry about the bad experience they had with your brand before you say anything else. Once you’ve acknowledged the problem and expressed your genuine remorse, you can defend or explain yourself.
And if you do choose to go down that path, ensure you come up with a valid explanation. Even then, don’t copy and paste it.
Personalization is king
While it’s important to plan ahead and try to foresee all the various reactions your brand’s actions can drive, using ready-made templates for handling negative comments on social media isn’t a way out.
It’s important that you personalize your responses and make every single commentator — especially those who weren’t satisfied with your business and are vocal about it — feel seen and heard.
Some ideas on how to make your responses more personalized:
- Use the name of the commentator
- Repeat back their problem
- Sympathize with them
- Add a few details that humanize you and show the commentator you’re a real person that understands their struggles, not a faceless bot
Here are perfect examples of brands — Starbucks and Royal Dutch Airlines — successfully handling negative comments with the help of next-level personalization.
Remain professional and tactful — but show your brand’s personality
No matter how nasty the negative comment is, you need to remember that you talk on behalf of an entire company — dozens and hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people that work with you. And you shouldn’t do them wrong by being mean to a dissatisfied customer,
Instead, you should remain composed, polite, and tactful, just like Firefox did here:
Make sure your response to negative comments isn’t led by emotions, because being emotional often equates to being irrational.
Another thing to remember is not to be condescending. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and remember to treat them with respect.
Finally, don’t be overly positive and cheerful. While you do want to turn the commentator neutral and then positive, don’t act like you’re best pals straightaway. It’s likely to anger the customer.
At the same time, however, you don’t have to give up your brand voice. Responses to negative comments are a great place to build on your brand identity and do something creative:
You might even spice things up by starting a “fight” with another brand:
Besides, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one format. You can handle negative comments using props — videos, memes, audio, and images. Here’s a funny example from a fashion brand Allen Solly that misspelled the word “coming” in their ad:
If you want all your online communications to be on-brand and memorable, turn to VistaCreate for help.
We offer thousands of ready-made design templates for you to customize and fit your exact business needs.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
It can be tempting to bribe your dissatisfied customer with a discount code or any other materialistic gift that would melt their ice-cold heart.
But the thing is, you can’t resolve a conflict by promising something you can’t deliver on. It’s a short-term remedy that might only worsen the situation in the long run.
However, if you do have the budget to spoil your dissatisfied customers with freebies, give it a go — those can work wonders and turn you from a villain into a hero!
Deconstruct the negative comment and get down to the root of the problem
Earlier in the article, we mentioned that you shouldn’t feel obliged to respond to every single negative comment. In fact, there are certain types of negative comments that are better off deleted.
To differentiate between those, you first need to learn what types of negative comments there are.
- Genuine complaints. These are actual people talking about real negative experiences they’ve had with your brand. It’s important to respond to these and handle the situation ASAP.
- Queries. These comments refer to customers clarifying details about your business or the products you offer. While these aren’t the canonical “negative comments”, failing to react to them promptly can position your brand as one with weak and unresponsive customer support.
- Malicious comments. These are comments called to do harm to anyone who encounters them. This type of comments includes spam and fraudulent information. Make sure to educate your followers about these comments and feel free to delete them as soon as they appear on your page.
- Trolls. Sooner or later, any successful business will attract trolls. Depending on the nature of your business, your reputation, and the kind of trolling, the nature of the comments will vary. You can either laugh them off or delete them — it’s up to you.
- Hate speech. The worst of all negative comments is hate speech. Usually, social media platforms block these types of comments themselves, but if you do receive a comment filled with slurs and hate, delete it!
Facilitate positive commenting
According to research, customers are more likely to leave a review when they’re unhappy with the service they received than when they’re satisfied with their experience with the brand.
Because of this, it’s likely that your page (especially when it’s still small) will receive more negative comments than positive ones. This can be damaging to your brand reputation.
To balance things out and fix the situation, you need to actively encourage customers to leave positive reviews:
- Attract brand ambassadors that would present your brand in a positive light.
- Continuously work on making your brand and the products you offer truly outstanding — when you exceed your customers’ expectations and wow the audience, they’re more likely to praise you for it online.
- Make your product more Instagrammable.
- Encourage your audience to leave positive feedback by giving out freebies and discounts.
And don’t forget to react to each and every single positive comment — cherish them and show them off.
For instance, you can start a content rubric where you share positive reviews from your customers.
Don’t take criticism too close to heart
Finally, when dealing with negative comments, remember that they don’t define you as a brand or as a person.
Here’s what helps Mariia Petrova stay positive when she encounters negativity on social media:
“Probably, the most difficult thing is to catch the moment when you get emotional and become fully aware of it. When you learn this, everything else is easy. We all know these simple actions that help us to calm down.
When we get emotional, there are special hormones that circulate in our bodies, make us sweat, shake, and cause unpleasant feelings in the chest or stomach. It takes some time to make it go away. A glass of water or a short walk helps the best.
After you are ok and rational, you can deal with an issue and help your customer. It’s like they say in an airplane: first, wear a mask yourself, then help another passenger.”