5 Important Tips for Handling Negativity on Social Media

Not so long ago, customer complaints were rarely made public. Back when the only methods of mass communication were print, television, and radio, only the most severe complaints and claims made it into the public eye. But thanks to the internet the way you communicate to customers, and vice-versa, has changed completely.
Every company makes mistakes. Sometimes it’s a defective produce, a service disruption, or even a mishandled customer – these things happen – but the customer still gets angry. When these things do happen, not only do angry consumers have a voice, but it can open up businesses to a world of very public criticism.

Reacting appropriately to negativity on social media is critical to ensuring brand loyalty and trust.

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1. Monitor social media mentions.

The internet is a big place, and there is more to social media than just Facebook and Twitter. There are the well known sites, like Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and then there are countless other blogs, forums, and other social networks. For every site you have heard of, there are dozens of others that you haven’t.
Because of the overwhelming number of social media sites that could give a voice to any number of your detractors, you have to be aware of what is being said. There are services that offer assistance monitoring your social mentions, i.e. Google Alerts. This will help you be vigilant for all mentions of your company, employees, products, services, and brands.

It’s impossible to appease every unhappy customer, but being aware of potential negativity on the internet means you are prepared to deal with problems when they arise

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2. Do not delete negative comments.

A big mistake that many businesses have made is deleting negative comments. This only aggravates the commenter which only makes the problem worse. It can also potentially move the conversation elsewhere, at which time you may lose any chance of addressing the situation.
Also, most internet users intrinsically hate censorship. While you might occasionally be able to delete a post on your social media pages, many viewers will notice that something is missing. This brings into question your integrity to any viewers witnessing the exchange because they know you are trying to bury bad feedback. To them, you are just another bad company.

You have a much better opportunity to control and resolve the situation by responding to complaints, and not trying to avoid them.

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3. Acknowledge the situation.

One reason that many customers will post negative comments online is because they don’t feel they are being listened to, whether its in a store, on the phone with customer service, or through email to a representative. The most common response from customers in this situation is to lash out.
When you see negativity on social media, speed is of the essence. Word travels quickly online. Acknowledging the issue as quickly as possible helps stop it from snowballing or going viral. You don’t have to present an immediate solution, companies should first apologize for the situation and then ask for the angry commenter to explain what happened. It is important that you are able to start a process of constructive engagement that eventually leads to a concrete solution.

By responding quickly, you can often prevent a situation from spiraling out of control.

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4. Respond publicly to complaints.

When responding to complaints it is important to first address the issue publicly. This gives you the opportunity to show that you care about fixing the problem. You also get to publicly set a calm and professional tone to the conversation. This creates an atmosphere where an aggressive attack or negativity seems out of place. If you come across as authoritative or superior you will damage your brand’s reputation.
However, not everything should be discussed publicly. Most of the time complaints should not be addressed in detail on social networks, but it is still a good idea to contact whoever is complaining publicly with a statement like “I’m sorry that happened, please email me more info” or “can you directly message me so I can get more detail?” This allows you to both publicly address the problem and come to a resolution in private. Once there is a resolution respond in the original stream, with something like: “Thanks so much for letting us know. I’m glad we could get the issue resolved.”

By controlling the tone and responding publicly, you can actually turn negativity into positive publicity.

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5. Keep your cool.

Unfortunately for businesses, internet trolls and many offended customers have a public forum to try and solicit an emotional response from their post. Emotional responses provide ammunition to your detractors and hurt your reputation. It is important that you never take social media posts personally. Remember, this is public and you are being judged.
Even if you are sure that an angry commenter’s claims are entirely without merit, the best long-term strategy is not to ignore them. Remember that social media is highly visible, and other people can see what is being said. You should explain the comment is inaccurate, and provide the facts to support your claim. This will give other viewers an accurate understanding of your position. Your followers may even rise up in your defense.

Act responsibly, and understand that you are a representative of your company’s reputation.

Social networks come with an inherent danger: aggravated customers have an open forum to post negative feedback. You have to be aware of the way your brand is being mentioned and appropriately respond to any negative comments that you may receive. By knowing how respond to negativity, people know that by expressing their frustrations you will handle things professionally and resolve the problem.