Earlier this week, I read an article about a reporter being refused a flight with EasyJet because he criticised the airline on Twitter. This is an example of how not to respond to social media criticism, but this is going to become more and more of an issue as organisations take to social media from a marketing perspective and consumers take to social media as a customer service line. So, what are your options in responding to criticism on social media?

First things first, if you are on social media, you should have a monitoring process. If you don’t know that the posts are being made, you will not be able to respond, and not responding can be as bad as responding poorly! The average response time between a consumer post and the organisation response is 7 hours – unforgiveable!

To effectively operate on social media, you’re going to need a thick skin. It is very simple to write a social media post in the heat of the moment, and be aware that consumers will do this. However, if the post is offensive then you are perfectly within your rights to ignore it, sometimes a reaction is what the poster is looking for. If the user is persistently offensive, you can block the user too, but to big brands, this can be perceived as arrogant.

If you are in the wrong (and everyone makes mistakes), then just admit it. Publicly admitting responsibility and apologising shows that there is a human being behind the brand and can do far more good than trying to continue to defend the indefensible, which there are lots of cringe examples of! Equally, if someone has got their facts wrong, you should (subtly) try to correct them.

Sometimes, it is necessary to take the conversation off the social medium – after all, how can a consumer explain their issue in 140 characters if they are using Twitter?! So, publicly offer to take the conversation off-line to show that you are keen to resolve it and ask them to call / email someone direct. Posting these messages may mean that people will post more complaints as they see that you respond, but see it as a means to creating satisfied customers!

In order to promptly respond, you will need to do some internal work too – the people who have the answers will need to be accessible with short lead times in case a question comes in. That person being on holiday is not a good excuse for your social media criticiser.

Responding to criticism is not easy, and every case is different, but hopefully this should get you thinking about some of the issues you need to address before you have a completely interactive social media strategy.

WordCloud via Kiss Metrics

Read more: Steakhouse Check-in Showdown: Ruth’s Chris vs Morton’s