For those who live and breathe social media for their business, there are few things that bring as much joy as positive interaction with customers and clients online. Whether it is a 5-star review from a satisfied client, a growing number of likes (or loves) on your latest Facebook post, or a collection of positive mentions, it is always nice to see these virtual pats on the back from your followers. But with every hearty handshake comes the potential for just the opposite, as many people are quick to take their negative comments online as well.
All you have to do is look at the recent United Airlines backlash to see how far and how fast negative publicity travels on social media. And even if your business isn’t a victim to quite this extent, it is not uncommon to encounter some negative press on your online channels. The real question, therefore, becomes how can you manage these instances in a way that doesn’t involve simple ignorance or petty jabs back and forth? There is a right way to handle these negative comments or criticisms, and some of the best steps you can take are listed below!
1. Acknowledge the negativity, don’t ignore it
When it comes to social media, the “sweep it under the rug” approach should never be your first choice. Action and reaction will happen fast and furious across your online channels, so even if you think you can just ignore something or delete a comment before it gains traction, you’re likely sadly mistaken. And the further fallout that can come from this type of action will only make things much worse. So it is quite simple – if you encounter some type of negative press on your channels, don’t ignore it. Deal with it!
2. Try to be more proactive, not reactive
We understand that sometimes, things come out of the blue and there is little you can do to be proactive. But if you know a storm is brewing, don’t wait for it to hit before you bunker down; look to get ahead of it! There are countless examples of brands that went on the offensive to get ahead of potential negative backlash, and while it is by no means an easy thing for a business to do, it does help to show the type of business you want to be. And what’s more, there are plenty of ways to be proactive on social media – generate follow-up conversations with customers to ask about their experience/purchase; publish content that addresses any potential concerns or prevalent issues; provide contact information and other means for followers to provide feedback – so there is no excuse for you not to get ahead of the game!
3. Don’t let the comment sit and stew, respond quickly
If there is one thing that an angry or upset customer doesn’t want to do, it’s wait. If someone is taking the time to post on your timeline, they believe there is good reason to do so, and will be expecting a response. If you leave your customers hanging and longing for an answer, your business is simply digging a deeper hole to climb out of. The quicker the response, however, the more the customer will feel as though they are being heard and valued, as opposed to being pushed aside. So try to get to them as soon as you can, within hours or even minutes, because the longer the issue stews, the bigger the issue will become. Timeliness and responsiveness, however, will help to get things on the right track before the conversation even really gets going.
4. Proceed with a calmness, not resentment
It is never easy to hear criticism, especially if it comes via a public platform, but you must remember that these platforms are an extension of your customer service and you cannot provide service that is laced with anger and resentment. Whether you agree with the issue or not, you must proceed cautiously to address it the right way. Getting angry, defensive, or dismissive will put a significant dent in your customer service efforts, and will more than likely get your business in even more hot water. On the other hand, being courteous, polite, and apologetic will get the conversation off on the right foot, showing this (and other) followers that you are respectful of their needs and are willing to approach them in a rational and helpful manner.
5. Offer a tangible solution or steps to resolve the issue
The bottom line when handling negative press on social media is that customers are looking to feel heard and have their issue resolved. If you fluff it off as nothing, you will quickly find that it is anything but because word spreads quickly online. So when responding to a complaint, a negative review, or some bad press, make sure you do so with a solution or two lined up. Your ultimate goal should be to resolve the situation – whether that just means outlining the proper steps to solve it, offering a free product/service, or taking some other means of corrective action – but regardless of the approach, priority number one must remain the customer and their concern at hand.
If your business has an online presence, you must take the good with the bad. There will be times of triumph, but also times of tribulation, and it is how you handle the latter that can make or break your business. So taking the right steps to manage and address such negativity on social media is a must, and it can be done with the ability to acknowledge the issue, respond quickly, remain calm, and offer solutions, all the while trying to remain proactive in your grander social media strategy. With these steps in mind, you will no longer have to run and hide from negative press, but can manage it like a pro!