In today’s social reality, not only do customers have a powerful voice, but they know exactly how to use that voice – and they expect to be able to use it however they see fit.

So what do you do when those voices turn negative and that negativity is veered towards your brand? Do you delete the comments and move on with your day, or do you allow the negativity to take place on your wall? And if you allow it to take place, when is too negative too negative?

No matter what, finding yourself faced with negative criticism is a hard thing to swallow. However, your best strategy is always to address the situation, and attempt to turn those unhappy customers back into happy, loyal fans. In order to do this swiftly and correctly, you’ll want to have a strategy and plan of action in place. The following are 5 steps you should take in order to turn those negative comments around, and regain control of your brand:

Step 1: Do not delete the negative comments
When you find yourself faced with negative criticism, you have to remember that it’s most likely not for nothing. It’s safe to say that something has happened to upset your customers, and they’re simply using their social right to express themselves to you. The first step in getting yourself out of this sticky situation is to allow them the right to do so.

This notion is sometimes hard for companies to reason with, so before you hit delete on those comments, take a look at the following pointers:

  • It’s in your favor: It’s in your favor to have your customers voice their discontent on your platform where you can easily monitor and keep tabs on it. The alternative is to have them post elsewhere where you have zero control over the content. If you delete their comments, that’s exactly what will end up happening.
  • It’s the quietest route: The simple act of deleting a customer’s negative comment tells them that you don’t care about their experience or feelings, and this will only anger them further. If you don’t like the comment they leave on your wall, you definitely won’t like the critiques and blog posts that will be written about your company after you delete them!

When is it OK to delete a comment? The only time deletion is the correct action to take, is if and when the comment is so profane that it may offend your other fans and customers. This type of verbal abuse goes against proper etiquette and social media policies, so is recommended that it be removed. However, a good practice at this point is to send the offending individual a private message telling them that their comment has been deleted, why, and that you encourage them to voice their opinions, but in a sociably acceptable manor.

Step 2: Respond to the angry customer
Customers appreciate effort, being noticed, heard and understood. Show your angry fans just how much you notice and care about them by taking the time to respond to each negative comment, as soon as possible.

Let’s not elude ourselves here though. These people have just said nasty things about your company, and you may at this time, be feeling less then thrilled to respond to them in a positive tone. At this point, it’s important that you remember that doing so is in the better interest of your company. So take a deep breath, count to ten and respond positively to their negative comments.

A couple rules to follow:

  • Write a unique and custom response to each comment
  • Be positive and understanding
  • If necessary, ask for a way to get in contact with them directly so that you may continue to resolve the problem

Step 3: Say you’re sorry and mean it
Remember that, whether it was intensional or not, something has happened to upset your customers. Show them that they’re still your first priority by taking the time to sincerely apologize. Show them humility and they will remember that you are only human, and human’s make mistakes. As long as you are sincerely sorry for your mistake, you will be forgiven.

Step 4: React in real-time
Social media happens in real-time, so that’s as fast as you need to respond. There’s no time to go through management, lawyers or craft the perfect response to be posted the next day. By that time, the problem will have escalated and it will be too late. Show your customers that you care and that you’re on top of the situation by responding to their attacks in real-time.

Step 5: Let your community stand up for you
When you have a strong, loyal community, someone or all of them, depending on the circumstance and the crisis, will come to your defense. Let them! Whether it be on your blog, your Facebook fan page, or anywhere else, you’ve worked hard at building your community. When given the opportunity, allow that strong, loyal team of people the chance to come to your defense and help you resolve the situation.

Although negative criticism can be hard to accept, it’s in your best interest to take it seriously, and see it as an opportunity to reconnect with your audience. By taking the time to respond and apologize, you’re showing your customers just how much you value them, and that can go an extremely long way for your brand.

Have you ever been hit with negative criticism? If so, how did you respond, and what were the results of that response strategy?

Or perhaps you’ve been on the giving end of negative criticism. If so, how did the brand respond, and how did their response strategy make you feel about them? I welcome you to share your experiences with me in the comments section below!