When Words Hurt - How to Respond to Criticism on Social Media

Industry news

As we all know, social media is a very powerful tool. It helps us connect, engage and establish relationships with different audiences, no matter where they are, or who they are. While the majority of times we interact with our audiences in a positive manner, a single negative comment can spur the downfall of a brand’s hard-earned reputation and potentially lead to the decline of its overall success. As a result, it's important to know how to defuse an online situation before it gets ugly.

Here are some tips we believe that will not only help you turn such negative situations around, but will allow you to show your audience that you do listen and care.

  • Prepare yourself for the worst. Dealing with negative social media posts is never pleasant, especially if you don't have a written public policy for handling them. Prevent being caught off guard by formulating a game plan for handling complaints or criticisms on social media. This includes how to respond to different complaints, which person you should direct negative comments to and what steps should be taken if certain situations arise.
  • Respond quickly. Leaving negative comments or posts unanswered, and trying to hide or ignore the problem will only further damage your reputation and credibility. It signals that people are unhappy with the organisation, and suggests that its customers' opinions are not valued or prioritised. The longer comments are left unanswered, the greater the chance disgruntled customers will move to other forums to air out their frustrations. Prevent this further damage by responding to complaints sensibly and within 24 hours of the comment being posted. When a specific catalyst has prompted the complaint, apologise for the inconvenience, thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and then do whatever you can to resolve it.
  • Acknowledge the original comment and direct the complainant to a non-public channel. For more serious issues, you may need to take the matter offline (or at least away from the public sphere). After addressing negative feedback directly, discuss the matter further in an environment where thousands of eyes aren’t on the conversation. Inviting the complainant to chat on a private message, or to contact you through email correspondence or phone, will allow them to explain their situation in more detail, and will provide you with the specifics to help work on a resolution.
  • Follow through. Be true to your word and follow through with your resolutions. Whether this might be replacing a faulty product or offering additional services, there is no use promising something without acting on it. Once the complainant realises that you haven’t acted on your claims, any chances of retaining them as a customer will be tarnished.

Under social media's veil of anonymity, disgruntled customers can vent their anger quicker than ever before. But as they say, in crisis lies opportunity - an opportunity to prove just how great your organisation is – or isn’t.