A Small Business Primer on Handling Social Media Criticism

With the rise of social media as a marketing tool and venue for business reviews, many small companies are facing the challenge of how to handle negative comments. Having to deal with disgruntled former-employees, unhappy customers and internet trolls is a hazard of the modern business landscape. Large companies can, and do, hire vast legions of marketing and public relations warriors to fight these battles; but what is the smaller businesses to do?

Rather than worrying about if you’ll receive these types of comments and reviews, first, accept that you will. Opinions are subjective and out of your control. Instead of wasting time worrying, spend your time on preparation. Assuming that these negative situations will indeed happen and planning for them will ensure you don’t get caught flat-footed. If a company must scramble for a solution in the heat of the moment the fixes will often be less effective, and possibly even damaging. With the proper planning, you will have a plan in place for any issue that arises, and you’ll be able to respond as quickly as today’s consumers expect. Below is an easy list that will put you ahead of the game when these negative situations occur.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan: For each scenario, put together a plan listing who needs to be involved in composing a response, what escalation procedure will be used if needed and who is responsible for monitoring and replying.
  • Respond Rather than Delete: If (when) someone posts something negative about your product, service or company in general, both the commenter and any followers who happen to see it will undoubtedly notice if the negative comment suddenly disappears. Whenever possible, respond to the negative feedback and offer to take the conversation offline (more on that later). By addressing the situation, you’re showing the rest of the observers (and your followers) that you care about all feedback and that you strive to make right what went wrong. That all being said, some posts are simply and purposely offensive. Do not hesitate to remove offensive posts. It’s a good idea to develop and publish rules of what you and your company deem offensive. Should you need to remove comments for one or more of your published reasons, let the poster and all your followers know why the content was removed.
  • Stay Classy: People often post extreme opinions or things that simply are not true. These types of posts should offend you, after all, it’s your hard-fought brand they’re attacking. But rather than replying in offense, take a breath, count to 10, or watch a funny YouTube video, whatever it takes to calm yourself, and then reply. Again, planning is important here. Try to prepare actual verbiage in advance that can be adapted to various situations. This way, when a troll is looking for a fight, you can defuse the situation with a calm and calculated response.
  • Take it offline: Trolls tend to multiply when one rears its ugly head, so have a plan in place for when and how to take a conversation offline. By contacting an unhappy commentator directly via a social media’s private message function, or offering ways for the poster to reach you via the phone or private emails, you can often de-escalate the situation.

The fact is, less-than-positive conversations about your company will likely occur with or without your social media presence. Like we’ve all heard over and over, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. By having a social media presence and closely monitoring these channels, you can become aware of these conversations and have a better chance of turning the negative into a positive. As Erik Qualman stated in his book Socialnomics, “The beauty of social media is that it will point out your company’s flaws. The key question is how quickly you will address these flaws.”

Disclaimer: If you are a healthcare provider please be sure to follow HIPPA regulations to ensure you are not violating HIPPA regulations when responding to reviews online.

Jon Christofferson

Digital Communications Specialist

Jon Christoffersen is a Digital Communications Specialist and has been with Global Payments Integrated since 2013. Jon has been in marketing and communications since 1998 working for various companies within the hospitality and tourism industry. Jon is a journalist by trade and served numerous years in the U.S. Army where he developed and managed public relations campaigns.

Jon Christoffersen author bio