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February 9, 2015

How To Handle Negative Feedback On Social Media

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Published: 9 February 2015 

No matter how you feel about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there’s no denying that they have become an integral part of most business’s marketing and customer relations operations. Whether you have many interactions with customers on social media every day, or only a few each month, you can’t afford to be mishandling them, especially the negative ones. It might seem counterintuitive but you can actually turn negative feedback on social media into a positive for your business!

Even the senior management at Twitter admit, in a leaked memo, that they “suck at dealing with abuse” they know these Trolls are driving users, and worst of all, some of the most engaging users away!

We’ve put together a list of the best ways your company can handle less-than-glowing comments on social media, and some of them might surprise you!

Have a company wide policy.

Take some time as a team to sit down and discuss the proper procedure for handling a social media comment issue. As many companies share access to all of their accounts between staff members, this will ensure consistency in your approach, no matter who is at the helm of the social media that day. Complaints should be taken seriously and escalated to the right person to handle the issue as soon as possible, especially if it has something to do with your site not working or poor customer service. The clearer those escalation pathways are, the smoother the whole process of dealing with the complaint will be.

What kind of complaint are you dealing with?

When you see a negative comment or complaint notification pop up (and I shouldn’t need to tell you –  you should be checking regularly) take some time to think about where they’re coming from. Is this a troll who’s just being nasty? Or is this a legitimate complaint from a customer? If it is a legitimate complaint, are they disgruntled, or trying to point out a flaw with your product or service that they have identified? By taking a little time to try and unpack the intention of the customer, you will do a much better job of responding properly to the feedback.


In most cases, the best course of action with a complaint is to respond. Failure to do so will make it look like you’re choosing to ignore the feedback and that you don’t care about your customers opinions. The exception to this rule is for bigger companies like an airline or a phone provider who get a lot of flack on a daily basis. If you’re getting huge volumes of disgruntled feedback that isn’t constructive, maybe you don’t have the capacity to respond to everything. You should still do your best to make it look like you’re paying attention and that you have done what you can to apologise and rectify if possible. If you’re only a small business and you’re getting more negative feedback than you can possibly handle on a daily basis… you might have bigger problems!

Keep your responses positive and sympathetic. Some people just want to be heard. Many customers will be so used to having bad experiences with companies handling online feedback poorly. If you are able to surprise the customer with a great response, they will be very impressed! If a customer receives a good response after they provide feedback, they could turn into one of your biggest fans. People are more impressed with seeing that there is a genuine human behind a company’s online presence than they would be if everything worked perfectly without a hitch.

If possible you might want to offer them a discount on their next purchase or a refund. This isn’t always appropriate, but it’s great to be able to offer a personalised result that provides a genuine solution or apology for their problem.

People might notice if you start deleting negative comments.

If your customers are generally highly engaged on social media, or if they are emotionally invested in the issue they are complaining about, they will be watching your online activity like hawks. If you delete their comment without responding their anger might escalate, which could turn into nasty reviews on third party websites or even attacking you in the media. These complaints are obviously a lot harder to control and respond to, so it’s best to keep it in your court if possible.

Once you’ve dealt well with negative feedback, it’s not always wise to delete it right away. If a potential customer is scrolling through your feed, it can be very humanising to see your interactions with customers. If all someone sees when they look at your online activity is 100% glowing feedback, that might not appear genuine. If you’re really concerned about the post and the issue has been properly resolved, you could ask the customer if they can remove it. This is a good course of action for any tagged tweets or posts on their own pages or third party review sites.

Be patient and kind.

Your customers might not understand your products or industry as well as you do –  be patient (but not patronising) with them.Remember you’re trying to improve their experience of your brand. There is a saying that there are no stupid customers (gasp!), just stupid products or services. If people are having trouble interacting with your brand, you should take it as an opportunity to improve it. Just because you know how to navigate your purchasing process, or find your products easy to assemble, if the customers do not, then you’re not meeting their needs.

Another perspective on this point is that your customers might actually be experts in the field of your business, and could really have something valuable to contribute with their feedback. This is why we say don’t patronise –  you never know exactly who is on the other end of that tweet or facebook post!

Fix the problem.

It sounds obvious, but if you can, fix the problem or take action to put in place procedures that ensure it won’t happen again. Your customers are the lifeblood of your company. If what you’re doing doesn’t suit them it’s your responsibility to change. If it’s appropriate, let the customer who complained know that you are taking specific steps to fix the problem. They’ll love feeling heard and knowing that their input made an important contribution.

Reach out to contact the customer privately.

If the complaint is serious, or you feel like it has the potential to escalate, ask them to email your customer service address or direct message you. This takes the damage off line, and has a personal touch. Make sure you comment publicly that you’d like to address their concern privately via email or DM, so that anyone else reading the thread knows that you’re taking appropriate action.

Remember: some people are just nasty trolls!

If the customer is unreceptive to your helpful responses or start posting anything offensive or inappropriate, you are within your rights to block them, but this should be a last resort in most cases. If you can, verify that they actually were a customer of your business. A vigilante who just has random opinions about your business might require some different treatment. Finally, always take the high road –  there’s nothing to be gained from sinking to the level of the nasty troll, and you’ll only feed their fire!

Hopefully now you feel a more confident that a little bit of negative feedback on your businesses social media pages isn't the worst thing in the world. If you handle it with a cool head and have a smart response plan, you can actually turn it into an opportunity to offer great customer service.

Ben Maden

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