How to Handle Negative Social Attacks

Handling negative social media isn’t so frightening once you know what to do. Social media nightmares don’t come from bad comments. They come from bad responses.  So when I ran across a post titled “How To Deal With Individuals Who Threaten a Social Media Attack On Your Brand,” I was excited to see what advice the blogger would give. To my disappointment, she didn’t really give any good advice — just “look on the bright side” happy talk. I decided to pick up where she left off and give some pointers on handling social attacks.

When all is well …

Even when you’re getting nothing but praise, you should proactively monitor your brand.

  1. Stay present. Assign tasks of reading and responding on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, the website, and other sites to various employees and emphasize that it is the most important 20 minutes of their day.
  2. Monitor your brand. Set up google alerts, twilert notifications, and any other free/paid brand monitoring tools you decide work best for you. Know what others are saying about your company, your brands, and your competition even when they won’t speaking directly to you.
  3. Have a process in place. Make sure everyone is on the same page about how to respond to both negative AND positive comments. People who praise appreciate a response. And those who like to stir the pot tend to stir harder when they aren’t given the attention they think they deserve.

Handling customer complaints …

This is a case where time truly is of the essence.

  1. Respond immediately. Don’t let any time go by once a complaint is posted.
  2. Say you’re sorry. You don’t have to apologize for your service or your product, but you can always apologize for bad feelings.
  3. Take it offline. If you can’t resolve it with a simple offer to refund or replace, try to take the discussion offline. Ask the person to privately provide contact information so you can resolve the issue more effectively, and then contact them immediately. If they refuse to connect offline, don’t panic.
  4. Assess expectations. Before you offer any solution you should ask, “How would you suggest we make this right?” This puts your customer in the position of offering a solution. In many cases, the solution they expect is less than you might be prepared to offer and provides a chance for you to go above and beyond.
  5. Validate the person. You may or may not be able to meet their expectation of a refund or product remodel, but validating the value of the complaint can go a long way. Let the customer know that their feedback is appreciated and will be forwarded to the right people.
  6. Offer a solution. Propose the best solution for the situation and address with compassion any expectations you cannot meet (such as a refund or replacement). Sometimes bending the rules for a happy customer is more valuable than making an enemy for life, so weigh your options.
  7. Encourage positive feedback. Whenever a customer expresses gratefulness in how a situation is handled, take the opportunity to ask them to tell a friend, post a review or positive comment. Let them know people often only take the time to post when they are unhappy and forget that positive comments make your day. If they already left a negative comment online, don’t be shy about asking them to follow-up with an update (or even deleting the negative comment if it is in your best interest).
  8. Confirm resolution publicly  Don’t leave any complaint appearing unresolved. Go back to the original post and respond with something like, “We hope you enjoy your replacement bike. Thank you for contacting with us.” This shows the rest of the world that you attempt to be fix the problem. Even if the person responds negatively, you have shown that your company tried to be fair. In some cases, you may even post a response to the bad publicity like, “We’re sorry you aren’t happy with our offer to replace your bike. We try to keep our customers happy.”

Responding to negative reviews …

You can handle most negative reviews in the same way you handle a negative post, with a few modifications.

  1. Claim your business. You can’t respond to reviews if you haven’t claimed your site. When you claim your site, provide your website url and contact information to make it easy for people to reach you privately.
  2. Respond to the review. Many review sites only allow you to post one response. When response is limited, craft a response that proposes a reasonable solution to the complaint and point them to a way to get in touch with you.
  3. Ask for a better review. If you are able to connect with the poster and resolve the issue, ask that they update the negative review or delete it. If neither is possible, they may be able to add a follow-up comment letting people know you responded fairly.

Whether you are a restaurant owner, independent consultant, or health care professional, you should view social media as an opportunity to showcase your likable qualities. People are going to talk about you whether or not you respond. Responding effectively, though, can make all the difference in the impression you leave.

Related articles on handling bad PR:
SearsKilledMyDog.com: The Anatomy of a Social Media Nightmare Averted – A Case Study
“What NOT to do”: Learning from epic social media failures