How to Manage Negative Comments on Social Media

Responding to negative social media comments is never a fun task and, at times, not an easy one. Your company may receive negative comments on your social networks targeting the company directly around customer services or product / service quality.

Today’s post will outline strategies you can use to diffuse any negativity online before it turns into something bigger (and maybe even turn these commenters into happy customers).

Types of Negative Comments

To get an idea of how to handle negative social media comments you may be faced with, we’ve compiled a list of types of negative comments that you may see on your social networks.

Some negative comments you may come across may include:

  • Negative / Bad experiences
  • Product / Service quality complaints
  • Defective products
  • Profanity ridden comments
  • Racist comments
  • Hate speech

 Hiding / Deleting the Comment

Most social media networks allow page admins to manage incoming user comments. As a page admin, you have the ability to delete comments as well as ban the commenter from posting future comments. In some situations, deleting the comment is enough, while in others, you may want to ban the user from commenting again, especially if they tend to post negative comments on a regular basis.

In the following situations, you’ll want to hide the comment but not (necessarily) ban the person. Hiding the comment makes it visible only to the person who wrote the comment and their friends.

  • Negative responses from real fans – responses to existing comments. You don’t want to ban these people because they wouldn’t have commented negatively if they weren’t invited to do so by the original commenter. You’ll want to hide these comments because they don’t (usually) make sense on their own once the original offending comment has been removed/hidden.
  • Profanity – if someone uses profanity and it’s not against another individual, group or organization, just hide the comment.

Example:   “Great! It’s about ****ing time this law came through.”

Hiding / Deleting AND Ban the Commenter

There are times when deleting a comment is not enough. Under certain circumstances, the original user will simply post another negative comment if the first one is deleted. In the following situations, the commenter should be banned from the page:

  • If the content of the comment advocates against any individual, group, or organization
  • Content that incites hatred or promotes violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.

Responding to Legitimate Negative Comments

By legitimate here, we’re simply referring to the type of negative criticism that most businesses are faced with online – comments against the company, product / service, price, customer service etc.

These users are commenting on things that are within a company’s control and should therefore be handled quickly and appropriately.

10 Ways to Manage Negative Comments on Social Media

  1. Categorize the comment into one of the following categories. 
    1. Business Error – This includes comments against your company, its products / services or the way you do business.

      Example: “Your company has the absolute worst customer service!!

    2. Misunderstanding – This includes any situation where the customer expected a different outcome than they got. A misunderstanding here could be because one party thought something was implied, no clarification was given, something was misunderstood over the phone, a friend gave them old / outdated information etc.

      Example: “I expected free shipping but was charged $25!”

    3. Just Negative – This is where someone has decided to complain just for the sake of complaining and their comment doesn’t fall into one of the other categories.

      Example: “Every construction company is the same – they all try to rip you off!”

    4. Spam – These comments make no sense to anyone and more often appear on blogs than they do on other social media networks.

      Example: “The very don’t have, your lady declares, would likely produce a drop in the standard goods and services and so coerce sometimes firm organizations bankrupt.”

By categorizing the comment, you can more easily decide on the appropriate response. In each case –other than spam– the end result is the same: an apology.

  1. Document the Comment
    You’ll want to document everything when you’re handling negative comments on social media. Take a screenshot of the offending comment in case the commenter decides to edit their comment later on. Use this documentation to create a list of frequently used responses for future use.
  2. Don’t Delete Unless Absolutely Necessary
    You don’t want to delete all types of negative comments because it’ll look like your company is shirking its responsibilities by brushing customer complaints under the rug. You want to set an example and show other page visitors who see the comment that your company cares and takes complaints seriously.
  3. Keep Your Cool
    One of the great things about social media is that you have time to plan your response before posting it – this is not always an option in person. Take a breath, don’t take it personally (even though it may be) and respond with a level head. Ask a colleague to proof-read it, if necessary.
  4. Acknowledge the Comment and Respond Immediately
    Social media is a time-sensitive platform. That means that most people who post comments expect to receive a reply within 24 hours at the most. So when you receive a negative response, make sure you reply as quickly as possible. To ensure that you don’t miss a comment, make sure your social media notifications are turned on on your mobile device.Mobile Social Media
  5. Respond Publicly
    If the commenter has left a public message, you’ll want to make sure that you respond to that message in public as well. Do this so that everyone else can see that your company is addressing the issue.
  6. Take it Somewhere Else
    If a comment is particularly nasty or, based on the initial comment, you expect their follow-up to your response to be worse, leave a public message asking them to connect with you via message, email or by phone so that you can better help resolve their issue. Take things out of the public eye when you foresee more negativity coming. Responding in public first shows other users that your company cares. Secondly, if the conversation gets out of hand, the remainder of it will (hopefully) be behind closed doors (i.e. via private message / email).
  7. Don’t Get Defensive
    You want to own up to your mistakes and not get defensive when someone leaves a negative comment or review on your social media page. Listen to what’s being said. Many times the negative comment is one person’s way to be heard and they often have legitimate concerns that can point out inefficiencies in the way your company currently operates. If, for example, every second comment your company receives is about horrible customer service, then there’s a very good chance that you need to address customer service with your staff. No one’s perfect and nor is any business, but customers already know that. Be real, admit when you’re wrong and fix the situation.
  8. Be Real and Genuine
    People can tell when you’re being genuine and when you’re not. If someone has a legitimate complaint, the last thing they want in return is some canned response in the form of a non-apology apology. These non-apology apologies look similar to this:

Example: “We’ve been successfully serving clients in the catering business for over 25 years.  We’re sorry we were unable to meet your expectations.

This basically tells the customer that they were wrong in expecting more because this company has obviously been doing everything right to be able to stay in business for 25 years. The lack of sincerity of this response is very evident. Even if a comment hurt your feelings, do the right thing and APOLOGIZE. Apologize if they were right or if they were wrong; or whether the incident really happened or not.

  1. Offer an Incentive – If it’s a legitimate comment and someone really did have a bad experience, received a broken product or otherwise wasn’t happy with your company and / or its products or services, make it better. You can do this by offering the customer their money back, offering a replacement product or service, giving them a free product or service etc. Do whatever it takes to make things right online, for the way that you respond to your customers online will stay online – forever showing future customers how your company handles customer satisfaction issues.

As your business grows, your social media presence will grow with it. People like to share their experiences on social media – positive and negative. People will vent their negative experiences they’ve had with your product or service – some of them can be quite nasty – and you need to be prepared to manage those situations appropriately.

Every time you deal with an angry user on social media, you are not dealing with just that person, but also with thousands of people in their network who may be watching the interaction. It’s important to keep the above steps in mind when responding to these remarks. Acknowledge, respond publicly with sincerity and take the conversation offline as quickly as possible.

Do whatever it takes to make things right online, for the way that you respond to your customers online will stay online – forever showing future customers how your company handles customer satisfaction issues.

Do you have something to add? Tell us about your experience with negative comments on social media below.