I had the privilege of working with a group of young leaders recently on strategies for using social media for business. During our lively discussion they expressed a common concern they hear from new clients: the fear of negative posts on their pages.

In my work I’ve seen these fears keep businesses from entering the spaces altogether, which is a shame. I’ll be honest here. You can’t control what people post. Negativity happens. My experience is that these posts are rare, but it is still a good idea to arm yourself with a strategy for dealing with them in advance. Develop a policy for your pages and post it publicly. If you’re looking for ideas, the U.S. Army has a great example.

Courtesy of authoritydomains.com

If a negative comment doesn’t break the rules of engagement treat it as an opportunity. Yes, you’re going to feel hurt and angry. Focus. Here’s how to turn your unhappy customer into an advocate.


Listening for online conversations involves monitoring the keywords surrounding your brand name as well as your @mentions and your Facebook wall posts. Are you using keywords to search out conversations that mention your brand across the social spaces? If not, you might be missing out on some valuable feedback that’s occurring outside your social media walls. Remember people are more likely to complain among friends than reach out to the brand. Look for those conversations and then develop a strategy for reaching out and offering assistance.

Respond Quickly and Publicly

Negative posts require an immediate public response. Show how much you value the feedback by responding with a comment that says you hear what they’re saying and you plan to take action. A good rule of thumb is to offer to take the conversation offline if the situation requires customer service action. Tell them to check their inbox for a message from you and then send that message immediately.


When you do connect, act like you care and mean it. Whether publicly or privately, introduce yourself as the person behind the brand and let them know you are concerned about their experiences and want to help. You’ll find most people respond positively to this. It’s easy to be angry at a faceless brand, but when confronted by an actual person with a name and a face my experience is they become very reasonable and willing to cooperate.

Take Action

Now that you’ve reached out to offer help follow up and take action. Involve customer service if necessary and do everything you can to exceed their expectations. If their comments revealed something you need to change, change it. If you made a mistake, fix it. If you can offer a discount or reward for their feedback, offer it. Then thank them for their help in improving your business. Leave them feeling cared for.

Don’t let fear keep you from opportunities to improve your business! Instead, use the social nature of these spaces to develop real relationships with your customers. Careful though – you might just have a brand advocate on your hands now!

Do you have a complaint turned brand advocate story? Share it here with me.