5 Tips for Responding Positively to Negative Online Comments

In business, you can't get ahead by ignoring what's being said about you online. Use these 5 tips to successfully navigate the treacherous path of social media commentary.
OPEN Forum Contributor
September 11, 2014

The Internet is a free-for-all of consumer commentary and reviews—and some of these comments, inevitably, can be negative. As a business owner, however, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to respond to these comments, and when to just let them go.

If you’re at a loss for how to go about jumping into the fray of social media commenting, here are five tips to help you respond in a way that reflects favorably on you and your business:

1. Respond Appropriately

Reading a negative comment about your business, your employees, or your products or services can make you want to justify yourself and claim that the commenter is just plain wrong, misinformed or simply off-the-mark. While these are natural reactions, they won’t help your brand or your social media presence.

Whatever you do, don’t say that the problem is a result of something the commenter has done, even if you think that’s true. Also don’t blame the commenter for a false or misleading comment. Never take a comment personally and write something emotional or accusatory in return. Instead, pay attention to what’s been said, then respond in a balanced, appropriate and professional way.

2. Be Brief

You don’t want to reveal too much in your response to a negative comment. Social media is a public space, and airing dirty laundry isn’t going to help your business or your customers. Try a simple “We’re sorry you’ve had this experience. Please call our customer service line if you'd like to talk about the specifics of your situation.” In some cases, revealing too much can have serious consequences, particularly with personal or medical information. Keeping it brief will help avoid problems down the line, and it will also encourage the customer to contact you directly to resolve the problem.

3. Consider Comments as Free Research

The comments you receive on social media are a kind of consumer research, and it can help both you and your business to look at them this way. Keep a record of comments as you respond to them, and make a note of any suggestions, tips, questions or problems people mention. After all, your customers might be giving you some valuable information that you’d normally have to dig to receive.

Yes, it’s hard to look at negative comments in this light when you’re in the midst of trying to think up judicious responses to them, but this perspective will help you to see the value in what can otherwise be a maddening part of maintaining a social media presence.

4. Remember That Everyone’s Reading Your Responses

Probably the most important reason to respond to comments—both negative and positive—is that everyone else is reading them. Although many people won’t comment themselves, they’ll read the comments of others, and they’ll pay close attention to how your business responds.

Responding to negative comments is a chance for you to demonstrate how caring, thoughtful and engaged your business is, and how it solves potential problems. If you show that your business listens to and responds to feedback in an appropriate manner, you’re creating a sense of trust that will go far beyond the particular commenter you’re dealing with at any given moment.

5. Hire Someone to Do Your Responding

To really get the most out of social media, you might consider hiring a social media manager to stay on top of interacting with the public. If you do go this route, make sure to set a clear, consistent policy about commenting and responding to comments, so your social media person is on the same page as you.

Having someone to manage your social media presence is perhaps one of the best ways to keep negative comments from ruining your day. Just make sure to check in now and then to see what comments are being made and what helpful information they’re revealing.

If you're not chiming in, when relevant, to customer feedback online, you could be hurting your business's image. It's time to get involved and speak up.

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Photo: Getty Images

OPEN Forum Contributor