managing negative comments in social mediaOne of the first questions we’re often asked by new clients is, “What happens if someone complains or says something bad about us on Facebook?” It’s a valid concern. Not only is it human nature to want to be liked, but as marketers and PR professionals, it’s our job to maintain a positive public image of the brands we manage. We can’t help but think that negative opinions are toxic, spread to other customers like a virus and taint our image in the marketplace. In an attempt to maintain control, we think these comments should be eliminated, or if not eliminated, hidden. Downplayed. Kept quiet, made to go away, swept under the rug. Hence, the knee-jerk reaction when it comes to building a presence on social media to actively delete negative comments, or not allow comments at all. The problem is, if you’re not going to let people talk to you, then why are you on social media? One-way communication isn’t very social.

Face the Music

Several of us at Kuno have PR experience and have been down this road many times with brands we’ve managed. It’s come up again recently and we want to help brands struggling with this to understand how to handle complaints. Here are several recommendations:

  • Don’t be afraid. Consumers are smart! They can easily differentiate between between commenters who are trying to stir the pot and get a reaction and legitimate complaints. Ignore the trolls, don’t be afraid of them, and they will go away.
  • Complaints are opportunities. While we don’t want people to be unhappy with our product or service, don’t we want to know when they are? Complaints are a great way to get feedback and ideas for improvement. Additionally, a complaint is an excellent opportunity to solve a problem with others watching. The way your community manager handles a complaint will resonate much more with your audience than the complaint itself. Show off those amazing customer service skills, turn an unhappy customer into an advocate, and let everyone watch you do it.
  • Have a plan. Part of your social media strategy should include contingency planning. Know in advance how possible scenarios will be handled so that you’re not caught off-guard and prone to hasty or emotional responses. Also, while your interns might be excellent contributors to your social media pages, don’t leave crisis management in their hands. It takes an experienced community and brand manager to handle sticky situations gracefully.
  • There has to be some governance. Decide what is unacceptable community behavior and post Rules of Engagement on your page that detail what content is OK to post and what isn’t. Many social brands are very clear that profanity, spam or content that is offensive or abusive to the brand or other community members is not permitted and will be removed. Community managers have a responsibility to protect their members as well as the brand they represent. If someone violates these rules, let them know why before you delete their post.
  • Take it offline. If you experience negativity on your page, most likely it will be a legitimate complaint. Acknowledge the complaint as soon as possible and immediately take the conversation offline by putting the customer in touch with a company representative who can resolve the issue. Sometimes the person who posted the complaint will come back to your page and share that their issue was resolved and they’re now happy. How great for others to see that!
  • Let your Superfans save the day. One great feature about social media is that Superfans might come to your defense against those pot-stirring commenters. Let them fight for you while you focus your attention on positive conversations and solving legitimate issues.
  • Censoring does more harm than good. Deleting user comments (or not allowing them at all) makes you appear as if you are hiding something or stifling criticism. Brands have found themselves in hot water for doing this. On the flipside, being upfront, honest, open to criticism and caring enough to quickly respond to complaints will do you a great deal of good.

How have you handled criticism or negativity in social spaces?

Kuno faced a situation last week where a Facebook fan complained that our sponsored content was appearing too frequently in her Facebook News Feed. Dan responded to the complaint, researched the issue and wrote a blog post sharing what we learned. I’d like to hear from other community managers. Have you had to resolve an issue on social media, and how did you approach it? Comment below!

photo credit: the|G|™

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