Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Deal with Negative Comments

After helping dozens of small businesses take their first step into social media, I have a list of the most common questions and concerns business owners have about this critical venture. Two things almost always happen.

Won’t We Encourage Negative Comments?
If a business hasn’t yet established any social media presence, it’s is common for them to ask: “Isn’t it better not to solicit negative comments?” While nobody wants to solicit negative comments, giving an opportunity for feedback doesn’t mean all you will get are negative comments.

In reality, people are going to talk whether you’re online to find out or not. Social media is a way to connect with others and make a statement about your brand. 

How Do I Handle Negative Comments?
There are lots of things you can do to turn social media into a valuable asset for your business and avoid negative comment disasters.
  1. Plan: Before you jump into social media, plan for negative and positive comments. How will you use positive comments? Will you reward customers who love telling people about you? How will you respond to negative comments?
  2. Moderate: Part to moderate comments and discussions. Will you allow comments to post without approval? If so, how often (be realistic) will you be able to check on your various social media sites?
  3. Monitor: Use as many tools as possible to find out what is being said. Google Alerts, Email, WordPress, NutShell Mail, HootSuite, are some popular tools to be notified right away.
  4. Beat ‘Em To It: Address issues first and head-off potential negative comments. If there’s a known issue with a product, don’t wait for someone else to post about it. Take a pro-active approach.  People appreciate a business willing to “admit and move on."
  5. Accentuate the Positive: Good comments almost always outweigh the number of negative comments. If you have a happy customer who is stopping into your office to tell you about her experience, ask her to post her comments to Facebook. Negative comments will happen, but encouraging positive ones will bring balance.
  6. Beware of Spam: There are plenty of spam posts on social media sites, so be leery of rapid comments by someone who just started following you. If you aren’t sure, take the conversation offline (private message, email, phone call) and approach them to see what you can do to help. If you get no response, it’s likely not a customer with a legitimate concern. Delete spam comments.
  7. Patience: As hard as it is, having patience is key. Don’t post a “knee-jerk” response. I guarantee it won’t be the response you’d prefer later. Think about the comment, and formulate how you want to respond.  
  8. Allies: Allow others in your community to stick up for the brand they love. I’ve seen this happen many times. One unhappy customer actually generates responses from a plethora of other customers who are willing to help remedy the situation, defuse the comments, or completely negate the claims.
  9. Take Action: Explore the negative comment and see if it actually has merit. See if you can find a trend in similar comments. If so, discuss as a business what can be done. In some cases, you need to alert your customer service, IT staff, quality assurance team, or whoever can best look into matters

It’s never easy to hear negative criticism, but some businesses find ways of handling comments graciously and turning them into opportunity. If you have an example of how a negative comment was handled that you really can appreciate, please share it.

Beth Gasser is a Social Media Consultant for Vivid Image helping small businesses reach customers and achieve marketing goals using social media. Beth travels around rural Minnesota teaching and speaking on social media topics.  

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1 comment:

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