5 Ways Brands Should Handle Negative Feedback on Social Media

Editor's note: The truth is, your brand can't properly handle negative feedback on social media if it doesn't first see it, route it, and assign it to an agent who can assure a happy customer on the other side. The tips here will work for your brand regardless of how you handle social customer care, but we have software that can help, too.

The incredible speed and fluidity of social media is a marvel of our digital age. Social media is an unmatchable mode of directly connecting with your audience — just think, 95% of social media posts are 1:1 communications — but it also opens up a new world of crisis management where one complaint can quickly gain momentum, putting your brand’s reputation at risk. And that’s not all. According to Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at the PR firm Weber Shandwick, social media crises are also threats to a company’s profits: “One tweet, just one dangerous tweet, can really impact your share price.”

Luckily, the social customer care evolution is here. And with the AMA naming 2017 the year of customer experience, the value of social customer care has only become more self-evident. To build lasting trust among customers and prospects (and to set the stage for the creation of loyal brand advocates) it’s essential to have a framework for responding to negative feedback on social—before it snowballs into a larger fiasco. Here, five steps applicable to every enterprise social marketer, no matter your industry:

How to handle negative feedback

1. Listen carefully

Stopping a problem in its tracks (and building lasting relationships) starts with social listening. Unfortunately, an angry customer won’t always speak directly to you. To make sure you don’t miss important feedback, track all mentions of your brand, branded hashtags, and branded URLs shared on social whether they include an @ mention or not.

The first place you’ll hear about a problem is likely social media.


2. Remember that response time matters

Establish your response time, and know: speed matters. Common SLAs can vary from mere minutes to hours, depending on a variety of factors including your industry and your team, and are likely to fluctuate based on peak times, specific events or campaigns. But one thing is consistent across the board: rapid replies are expected. In fact, 42% of customers expect a response within 60 minutes. And with sensitive issues like an emotionally charged complaint, a slow response can leave a customer feeling ignored and stoke the flames of further discontent.

Negative sentiment can soar, and multiply — in some cases, circulating on social until it reaches media outlets — when a brand’s response is seen as too slow.

3. Be human, be transparent, and never go negative

Brands can take the control of the situation by responding in a helpful and genuine manner. Never respond negatively or defensively.

Avoid canned responses and strive to make a human connection. Ensure your customer feels listened to and don’t be afraid to apologize for inconvenience or a less-than-stellar experience to help diffuse a negative situation.

4. Respond publicly before moving to a private conversation

When responding to a complaint on social always reply publicly before moving the conversation into a private message.The days of purely 1:1 communication are behind us. On social, a brand may be replying to a comment directed solely at your brand, yet this exchange is still taking place in the public eye. Responding publicly is essential to showcasing your brand as transparent, attentive, and helpful. Only after this first step should you move the conversation into a private message in order to provide a solution with greater detail or ask for sensitive information, like an account number or identifying details, essential to solving the customer’s problem.

Negative feedback on social can also represent the chance to turn unhappy customers into brand advocates and provide unique opportunities to surprise and delight.

5. Know when to engage — and when not to

Responding to inbound posts, both compliments and complaints, strengthens a brand’s relationship with its customer base, but comments that veer into trolling territory (comments that are racist, sexist, or otherwise aggressively derogatory) are often better left untouched. Be transparent with your audience by including a statement of what violates your online community terms in your bio or about me section. For example, on our own Facebook page we note: We strive to create an engaging and constructive community through our Facebook Brand page. We welcome feedback, new ideas and lively interaction. We do, however, reserve the right to remove any postings of a vulgar, profane, discriminatory, promotional or inappropriate nature.

One caveat: be wary of deleting comments, as it can incite more anger and additional comments are likely to increase—both in number and in vitriol. If a comment is derogatory, you can report it and on some networks, like Facebook, you can hide the comment from the public, but let the comment remain visible to the user who posted it, as well as to the original poster’s friends. This lessens the potential for additional conflict when removing a comment from the public eye.

Investing in your customer experience begins with listening. And what better way is there to understand what your customers need and want than via their own feedback? A negative comment presents an opportunity to show your brand’s dedication to resolving any issues with transparency and empathy. With the five steps above you’ll deliver service necessary for a satisfied fanbase—and create a brand worthy of customer loyalty. Interested in learning about how Spredfast can make social customer care even simpler for you? Tour our social customer care solution.

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As a digital marketer, Jennifer Goff spends her days amplifying the Spredfast brand and building meaningful connections with our community.