Imagine this: after weeks of planning then pouring time and resources into your social media efforts, you are starting to see results. You are gaining new followers and engaging with potential customers. Your efforts are clearly working and just when everything seems like sunshine and rainbows, there it is, loud and proud—hate mail plastered on your front page and quickly gaining likes, shares and similarly-frustrated commenters. What do you do?
Take a deep breath.
Let’s face it, no one is lining up for their chance to deal with negative comments on social media. But, with the right plan of action in hand, dealing with these problems doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a great opportunity to learn more about your customers and engage with them at a critical point in the buyer’s journey.
When something negative about your company starts gaining traction you need to determine if it is a crisis that needs attention from more people or if it is a small problem that can be solved. If there is something negative about your company that is well-known and commonly addressed, it’s probably not a crisis. There is likely already a protocol for how to deal with this type of regular negativity within your PR or sales department. However, if there is something new about your product or company stirring up serious attention on social media, it might be time to dive in and handle the crisis!
Phone a friend
If you are managing the social account or if you are personally invested in the subject of the negativity it’s a good idea to ask a colleague or your agency for some advice. Being removed from the situation helps when looking for the right approach to take.
Not everyone has the same sense of humor. It’s good to run your response by someone else to make sure your response won’t be taken the wrong way. While sometimes taking the low road may work in your favor, such as the social media sass-master at Wendy’s, it’s usually best to take the high road and be polite.
Avoid sounding defensive
Whenever something negative happens on social media it is easy to take it personally. Your first reaction will be to react in a defensive manner. Let’s say someone commented on your company site saying that you never provide xyz, when in fact you do. Well, of course you want to tell the commenter they are wrong! However, that’s not going to get you many brownie points from your audience. What goes online stays online and can spiral quickly.
It’s like sending a snarky email to a coworker and then seeing they forwarded the email to a large group. *Insert big gulp* Remember that whatever you put out there can be interpreted and then shared in a way you didn’t originally intend.
Never reply to online reviews defensively and two years later like the screenshots above. As cringe-worthy as these comments are, it’s easy to go into defensive mode without a plan in place.
Let’s say one customer leaves a nasty review about your company or product. Then customer 2 comes along and reads the review. If you respond to customer 1 with compassion and show a willingness to listen to their feedback or fix the problem, you can turn that review into something positive for customer 2 to see. Instead of winding up on a blog post about what not to do when responding to negative reviews.
Take swift action
Negative comments and mentions on social media need to be handled in a timely manner and with care, just like a positive comment. Whenever possible, get ahead of the problem and address it before there is a chance for the comment to gain momentum.
When possible be proactive in avoiding potentially offensive or misinterpreted posts. When a national crisis or traumatic event happens hit pause on your social queue. Review posts before unfortunate timing can make your company seem obtuse.
Fix the problem
Do your best to fix the problem at hand when you have the opportunity. Don’t make any promises unless you know you can follow through. Show everyone that you are a company that listens to customers’ needs. After all they are the ones using your product or service. Most angry comments and reviews online stem from a need to be heard.
Fix the problem without escalating the frustration of the user when possible. Asking for more information and show a willingness to work through the problem if necessary. Offer to take the conversation to private message or offline.
Admit when you’re wrong
Mistakes will happen. Own up to them and diffuse the situation quickly. It’s better to admit you are wrong compared to letting someone else point out your flaws. Addressing the problem immediately shows your company is actively searching for a solution and aware when things go wrong. You may even be rewarded for your honesty.
Has a social media crisis ever happened to you? Comment with your story or questions!
This article originally appeared on the Amendola Communications blog; reprinted with permission.