5 Rules of Responding to Negative Comments in Social Media

I’m sure you’re doing all it takes to bring a smile on your customer’s face. But each and everyone of us has to deal with negative feedback from time to time. When it happens in social media, the situation goes a little tense – all your words are scrutinised by the Internet community and you never know how fast the issue will spread. I want to give you a few useful steps to guide you through any social media communication trouble.

Before you start reading, should remember just one thing (seen from two angles): you are just a human and your customers are just humans. They don’t expect you to be perfect as a robot and you shouldn’t expect them to be silent like robots. When you take these factors into account, the rest seems pretty logical. Also the fact that if you deal with the problem wisely, you can only earn a reputation of a business that really cares for its customers – if this sounds good enough to you, check out the tips below.


1. Don’t delete negative comments just because they’re negative

I can imagine how tempted you feel to click Delete or Hide when you see some typical Internet hate on your brand’s Facebook timeline or Twitter profile. Answering these comments may seem a total nonsense to you and you wish it all disappeared, which is actually just a click away. But I’ve got to warn you – some tried before you and failed. Even the famous ones – do you wonder why Streisand effect carries this particular name?

Of course, it’s perfectly justifiable if you wish to delete comments including explicit lyrics or spam. This is your right as a profile admin – nobody wants trash in their own area.

Idea to try out: Draw up a short set of rules for your fanpage or profile and place them in a clearly visible place, e.g. in a separate Facebook tab/album or available in the About section. Such a document could include following provisions:

  • no spam,
  • no explicit lyrics,
  • no hate speech,
  • compliance with the portal’s terms and conditions.

As simple as that – now everybody has a clear idea of what can or can’t be posted on your profiles.

2. Time is ticking away

The key factor to success in terms of social media is response time. Believe me, you can’t afford answering your clients when you find suitable – the only suitable time is when they want answers.

Even if it’s not possible for you to deliver a direct answer to someone’s post immediately, make sure they get your attention on the spot, even if it’s just a peaceful “We’ll get back to you in an hour/15 minutes/(select the time you need to find the answer and post a reply)”. Thanks to this, your customers can be sure that you’re taking care of them. But remember to type the realistic time needed to solve the customer’s problem – you don’t want anybody to be disappointed with delays!

Idea to try out: After the problem is solved, you can follow up with the posting customer and check back if the customer is happy with the solution and the performance of your product/service. It surely works well for your reputation!

3. If necessary, go private

There are two main reasons why solving a client’s issue in a private channel is better than doing it directly on your timeline: when your communication conditions are far from convenient or the negative feedback sounds very strong.

By inconvenient conditions I mean e.g. character count limits, just like on Twitter – 140 characters may not be enough to post a proper reply. Or, when a request on your wall is posted in a long, long line of comments – moving your dialogue to private messages makes it easier to follow both for you and the customer.

Seriously negative comments are a completely different thing. Dealing with an angry user disappointed with your brand is like dancing with fire – you never know when it will spread and burn everything around to ashes. What makes the dialogue so flammable is the audience watching every new post. After you eliminate this factor, the user is more likely to cooperate with you on solving the problem and appreciate your help afterwards.

Important: Make sure your customer is aware of the fact that you’re trying to contact him privately. For example: “I sent a private message to you, please check your Others folder” (for Facebook). It happens very often that users don’t look into their inboxes carefully and miss incoming messages from fanpages. When the user’s settings don’t let you send a message as a fanpage, introduce yourself as the brand representative – talking to strangers sounds exciting only to a really small bunch of people.

4. Stay calm and friendly

You left this negative comment on your timeline – check.

You responded promptly – check.

You chose the right communication path – check.

Now, don’t spoil it all with getting defensive!

I know it may be hard to talk to an unhappy, disappointed or simply furious person, but… that’s why I started this post with a statement: your customers are just humans. They have emotions and flaws, and your sarcastic, rude or too official comments definitely won’t make anyone calm down. Imagine you are a therapist listening to a patient – stay calm and understanding. Maybe your angry patient will provide you with valuable feedback if you let him/her speak?

Above all this, apologising never hurt anyone. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your business is also run by humans that make mistakes. The only wrong thing is not trying to fix them.

5. Be prepared

I left this point for the end of the post, because people often don’t see the point in preparing a communication plan without knowing the other four. You can avoid so much stress, pressure and unexpected events by outlining a schedule of best communication practices in the case of customer complaints in social media.

Think of possible scenarios and sample answers to most frequently posted requests. These should work together with your customer service communication strategy, so that the customer doesn’t get confused contacting you both on social media and e.g. via email.

Also, make sure the rest of your employees know that they might be the ones to help. At GetResponse, we communicate constantly with Product Development, Customer Success, IT or Compliance teams to answer customers’ posts with accuracy and comprehension.

How do you feel about your brand’s customer service on social media? Tell us about your experiences in comments – we’re looking forward to read your stories!

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