Getting called out on social media is never fun, especially when you’re a business owner. Whether it’s a troll (someone online looking for a reaction) or a dissatisfied customer, facing a negative comment online can go from bad to worse if not handled properly.
A long time ago, I was speaking with a business owner about their social media sites. I mentioned that engagement online was key to beating out Facebook’s algorithm (I tell EVERYONE this – it’s so important!). The business owner said that they really didn’t encourage comments on their social media pages because negative voices could affect their brand and marketing goals.
This wasn’t the last time I had one of these conversations with a business owner. In fact, it’s all too common that companies fear the negative and therefore, hide on social media behind their screens or remove the negative comments completely.
When you work for the military, public relations training teaches that social media managers cannot remove negative responses or comments on social media.
From having both a public relations and social media background, I fully believe the military got this one right.
Here’s what social media is meant for and what users expect on it:
74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Social media platforms, like Facebook, encourage users to leave reviews on business pages. This outlet is similar to a vacationer researching a museum or park on Trip Advisor before going to the location.
Reviews are a way to build trust and brand engagement online. Facebook even encourages users to leave a review when they check-in to a business on the platform.
This is why it is so important to have excellent customer service at every step of a customer’s purchasing process.
Social media is an opportunity to be transparent – consumers expect it! Since the platforms run on live time, users expect honest and truthful updates on events, happenings, and information.
Social media is meant to be a two-way communication, which is why promotion on platforms like Facebook results in decreased reach. Social media is meant to be just that – social. The goal behind using the platform is to have meaningful conversations with users that increase brand relationships, loyalty, reputation, and customer service.
These conversations can come in the form of questions and responses through private messaging, on comment threads, or from useful content that solves a customer’s problems.
Finally, customer service is expected on social media. According to Buffer, 67% of customers use a company’s social media channel for customer service, with 42% expecting a response in 60 minutes or less.
It’s not uncommon to receive customer service complaints directly to a site’s wall, tweeted to them, private messaged, or commented underneath a thread.
The problem is the companies that are afraid of this happening. By deleting or hiding a negative comment, the following occurs:
- Consumers will find out (especially when they realize you never responded), destroying future brand loyalty.
- You will have officially lost the opportunity to solve their problem and provide them a better customer service experience than the one they are complaining about.
- You will have lost the ability to make them future purchasers.
- You have now risked and encouraged their “bad-mouthing” practice since their voice was not heard, furthering their negativity spreading to their network, which will eventually affect your brand’s reputation.
- You lose credibility, as your reviews will be very one-sided.
- You have lost transparency within your own organization.
- You have lost the ability to create meaningful conversations with your following that can lead to new ideas and better business practices.
- At the end of the day, engagement (of any kind) boosts your algorithm. Deleting engagement only continues to hurt the ability for your posts to be seen.
Not every client is going to be your ideal client. That’s just the truth. When a customer complains, this can become an opportunity for improvement. So, instead of fearing a negative engagement online, use it as an opportunity to make your organization look amazing and bring that customer on your side.
My personal approach to any negative review or comment on any social media page I am managing is honesty and openness to solve a user’s problem.
Consider following this general pattern to respond to a negative comment rather than hiding it:
- Providing a solution (if applicable)
- Interest in solving their issue
- Moving the conversation offline
Thank you for reaching out to us about your recent experience. We understand you have had some issues with your order and know how frustrating that must be. We apologize for the inconvenience. From your post, it sounds like the video isn’t loading properly. Have you tried refreshing the page or switching to another browser? We would like the opportunity to learn more about the issue so we can correct any of these connectivity issues. Please private message or email us at help@XYZ.com so we can take a look.
The rest of the client’s venting or frustration can now occur behind a private outlet where you and your team can address any issues. However, on the page, future clients will now have trust in the fact that if they have issues too, your organization is quick to address them.
In my personal experience, most unsatisfied users want to be heard, but very few take action once they receive a professional response.
Instead of losing your credibility by hiding or deleting a negative comment online, use it as an opportunity to bring these customers back on your side for future purchases and show other customers on your page that they will be taken care of too.
Take a lesson from the military and handle yourself professionally online at all times (customers can screenshot and re-post everything!) and use negative comments as a way to further positive reputations, learn what issues your company is facing, and gain truthful suggestions for future improvements.
To learn about social media platforms I recommend for marketing, get access to my free guide here.
Jenny Hale is a marketing and social media consultant, coach, and teacher for military spouse and veteran business owners. Nicknamed “The Military Social Media Guru,” she uses her background working with military non-profits, corporate companies, the military, and as an entrepreneur to help others struggling to meet their business dreams. With the goal of bridging the gap between the military community’s marketing efforts to civilians and vice versa, Jenny works to make an entrepreneur’s vision come to life. You can follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, Facebook, and Pinterest.