In the area of reputation management, we spend a lot of time talking about how to reply to negative reviews and complaints. But, what happens when someone posts a negative comments about your brand on a site like Twitter? Since Twitter’s structure and user experience is very different and more dynamic than a typical review site, there’s more potential for a negative comment to spread socially. But, due to the quick movement of content on the platform, responding quickly to a negative tweet and resolving the issue means you have more ability to address a complaint, minimizing its impact online.

Overall, Twitter negativity creates some unique challenges for a local business. It’s up to you to determine what types of negative tweets your business will respond to online. But there are best practices on how to respond to a negative Twitter reply. So, here are a few unique reputation management challenges for Twitter and tips for how to address them:

1. Twitter’s dynamic content stream offers an easy platform for complaints. Because of the unique nature of Twitter, it’s very easy for any user to include your brand’s @username in a negative tweet, whereas most review sites require a user to login to the site in order to leave a review. That means the barriers to complaining about a brand on Twitter are relatively easy compared to typical review sites. That’s why your brand should to have a formal presence on Twitter so that you can monitor the online conversation about your business instead of letting it go unanswered

Tip: Actively monitor Twitter for mentions of your @username as well as casual mentions of your company name and respond to the complaint in a timely manner.

2. Twitter’s limited character count makes meaningful conversation difficult. Some complaints on Twitter may be general in nature due to the character limit in Tweets, co complaints may look like this: “This @business Stinks!” Others will come in the form of a stream of negative posts so that the user can go into detail about their issue. Either way, it’s important to respond publicly and quickly to pertinent customer issues so that your brand isn’t seen as uncaring and unresponsive.

Tip: Address the negative tweet in one tweet and try to take the conversation off the Twitter platform so you can have a meaningful discussion. (See the next tip for more ideas on this.)

3. Twitter user names don’t require identity information, making follow up and issue resolution difficult. One of the cornerstones of properly replying to negative reviews online is to determine which customer or prospect left the complaint so you can address the customer service issue personally. But, since Twitter doesn’t require any identifying information, it can be tough to determine this at first glance. While you can click on links or look at the user’s feed for hints about their identity, this can be a time consuming process for a comment that needs to be responded to quickly. You can request for a complainer to follow your business so you can send a Direct Message to them in order to request details about their issue and get in touch with them off platform for more in-depth conversation. But, it’s also important to have a back-up plan in case the user is unresponsive to your requests.

Tip: Specify an email address or phone number you can share publicly on Twitter for customers to use to connect with you personally outside of Twitter to better address complaints.

At the very least, tweeting this information in response to a Twitter complaint will demonstrate your care and concern for customer service issues to other followers who may be watching the exchange.

4. Anonymous Twitter users may or may not have a legitimate complaint but they can still bash your brand. Because Twitter user names can be anonymous, people can abuse the platform to bash other brands. Luckily, this is an atypical occurrence. If it happens to you, you can reply publicly and try to resolve the issue with the user. If the complaints don’t stop and you suspect the comments may be from a fake account set up just to harass you online, or if you suspect the account has been set up for abusive purposesreport the user to Twitter.

Tip: If your attempts at resolution are ignored and harassment continues, escalate the issue to Twitter and stop responding to the user.

5. The nature of Twitter means that one complaint can spark more negativity and spread through retweets and hashtags. If one user sends a complaint about your brand and others chime in, the nature of the platform can create an avalanche of negativity. If this happens, respond to the issue at hand and deal with the facts of the situation with each unique complaint. Use discretion in whether to reply to users who have simply retweeted an original complaint. You don’t want to add fuel to the fire, but it’s also important to address any valid customer service issues. When it comes to hashtags, it’s typically best not to create a hashtag of your own to respond to individual complaints. But, if users generate a hashtag around an issue, including that hashtag in your replies can help spread your response to interested and watching parties. Above all, it’s critical to keep your calm and be professional.

Tip: Address the facts of the issue at hand and keep your cool. Defensive statements and argumentative conversation only add fuel to the fires of negativity.

Understanding how to respond to a negative tweet can help you address customer concerns and manage your online reputation. By demonstrating you’re an active, caring business, you can also foster customer loyalty and boost your brand online.

Has your business ever received a negative tweet online? How do you determine what types of Twitter replies to respond to? Any other tips, tricks or ideas? Share them in a comment!