How many times have you thought about speaking to a manager to complain about the bad customer service you received? And how many times did you actually go through with it? For most of us, the answer is “only a few times” or even “never”. No matter how upset we are, expressing our frustrations in real life can be dreading.

Enter Social Media. How many times have you left negative reviews? I bet a whole lot more! That’s because we feel a lot safer to speak our mind from behind a screen. Anonymity enables us to talk about anything and everything without thinking about the consequences. And oh, boy! The Internet is full of individuals whose sole purpose is to put other people and businesses down! They are the so-called “trolls”.

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Every brand that has a social media presence has encountered at least one of these individuals. So, since it’s impossible to escape them, you might as well learn how to deal with them so the situation won’t escalate and turn into a PR crisis.

In this article you will find out:

  • Four types of negative comments users leave on social media
  • How to respond to each of them
  • How to set “house rules”
  • How to turn a bad situation in your favor.

Let’s dive in!

Four types of negative comments on Social Media

    1. Complaints

Most negative comments left on Social Media are complaints left by unhappy customers. So the best way to go is to acknowledge the problem, apologize, and offer a solution. It’s never enough to just apologize as you will come across as insincere; you have to resolve the issue and follow up with the customer to make sure everything has worked out.

Although it may not seem like it, complaints are actually a great opportunity for growth. “Badvocates”, a term coined by David Meerman Scott, are customers who have had a bad experience with you but, through great customer service, have become advocates for your business. So make sure you don’t ignore your customers’ complaints! Also, it’s good practice to always screenshot negative comments and keep a record.

Tip: On Facebook, use the message button under the comment. Of course, any interaction with users should be done privately. Even though other users won’t be able to see your response, they will be able to see that you have responded to that particular comment, and that goes a long way into showing them that you care about their feedback.

    2. Trolling

An example of a troll comment could be “People who eat chocolate are stupid”. The rule of thumb here is to “don’t feed the trolls”. The only thing trolls want is attention, so ignoring them is the best way to go. Do not delete their comments. Like ever! They will be expecting you to do so and it will only make the situation worse. Plus, they can always come back and leave comments using other accounts, so constantly deleting them is just a waste of time.

    3. Malicious comments or spam

An example of an offensive comment could be “The CEO is an a**hole!”. For this kind of situation, it’s best to have some “house rules” in place (more on that in the section below) and enforce them whenever necessary. Offensive comments should be removed (don’t forget to screenshot them first!) and offenders should be warned (or even blocked if necessary!).

Enforcing rules will not only help you keep your page cleaner (offenders will think twice before posting again), but it will also help other users feel safer (especially in situations where the target is another user).

    4. Comments that have legal or criminal implications

“I am going to kill X”. This one’s a very serious situation, so the best approach is to screenshot the comment and contact the police and/or your legal team. Although situations like this are very rare, it’s best to think ahead and have your legal advisors come up with strategy to deal with this kind of comments so you don’t cave in under pressure.

via GIPHY

How to set “house rules”

Now that we have detailed the four types of negative comments you can expect to receive on social media, it’s time to talk about how you can (try to) prevent them. Having a social media commenting policy in place not only comes in handy when dealing with negative comments, but it will also help you set expectations for community members.

If you’re not sure what to include in your social media commenting policy, here’s an example from Coca-Cola:

“This is your Fan Page and we encourage you to leave comments, photos, and videos here. However, we will review all comments and will remove any that are inappropriate, offensive, or contain external links. We will leave what you share that relates to the subjects covered on this Page. Please understand that comments posted to this Page do not represent the opinions of The Coca-Cola Company”.

More examples of commenting policies for different kinds of business you can find on Hootsuite’s blog.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Be friendly: don’t forget why you’re on Social Media – to create a relationship with your customers. Therefore, replying to all of your comments, good and bad, is important. And just as important is how you respond to your comments. Don’t be afraid to use emojis, GIFs, stickers, or any other things like that. Also, make sure you address your customers by their name and personalize each answer – you don’t want to go around posting a “default” message to all of your comments!
  • But don’t be too friendly: you should still maintain a professional front. Also, make sure your tone of voice is consistent across all communication channels.
  • Quick replies: 42% of consumers expect 60 minute response time. A short response time is not a “nice to have”, is a necessity! It makes your customers feel valued. If, for any reason, you are not able to give a thorough response right away, simply acknowledge the comment and let your customer know you are working on it. Quick replies are especially important when dealing with negative comments – most of the time, timely replies keep situations from escalating.
  • Don’t forget about positive comments: replying to negative comments is a must, but don’t ignore your positive reviews. These customers are your biggest fans so it’s important to also acknowledge their feedback.
  • Be careful who you choose to manage your social media account: ideally, the person in charge with responding to comments should be a native. However, this isn’t always possible, so you should at least make sure that they have excellent communication skills in the preferred language.
  • Use response templates: on pages with a high engagement rate, some comments may appear repeatedly; that’s why having a response template can help cut down response time. However, make sure you personalize your answer each time (for example, you can address users by their name, thank them for their feedback, etc.) and not just copy and paste the same exact message 100 times.
  • Think of possible scenarios: PR crisis can occur unexpectedly, so you should think of a strategy to cope with every single thing that can go wrong. Establish processes and make sure someone is in charge with following them. When dealing with negative comments, even if you are responding in private, never respond in kind! This will only make matters worse. It’s ok to be ironic or sarcastic sometimes (depending on the community, some users might jump to your defense, which will increase your brand awareness), but there are certain lines that a brand should not cross.

There you have it: four ways to deal with negative comments on social media. As you can see, replying to negative comments is quite easy once you have the basics down. Now go on and take control of your social interactions!

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