7 Tips to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media
Online success, be it in the form of a blog or a business, brings with it the challenging task of managing your online reputation. As soon as you find some success, you will likely also find yourself the target of criticism or negative comments somewhere on the social web. And since everything that’s published online is long-lived and searchable, it becomes important to deal with these problems in a timely and constructive way. The following are some tips to help you manage this tricky task:
Don’t assume that negative commentary can only be posted on your site or social media profiles. In fact, unless your critic is looking for a fight, they’re more likely to vent in their own network (Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc) than to confront you on yours. It’s important to identify potential criticisms as quickly as possible so that you can get a handle on the situation before it turns into a pile-on. So: if you haven’t already, create a Google alert for your name, your site’s name, your brand’s name and any other trademark or identification commonly used to refer to your online identity and assets.
Identify the issue.
All negative comments are not equal. While it’s possible to find yourself at the receiving end of ad hominem or personal attacks, it’s much more likely that your critic has an issue with your product or message. He or she might offer it in the form of a detailed review, an angry tweet or a comment on your blog. As soon as it comes to your attention, identify the problem behind the negativity. Is it meant to be constructive or destructive? Is it a legitimate problem, a vague critique or a personal tirade?
Decide whether and how to react.
Not all criticism deserves or requires a reaction from you. For instance, if your critic is just trying to capitalize on your success by creating a stir, or is not a credible source, or does not have a network online, not responding might be better. But if you feel that an objective reader is likely to find and be influenced by the negative remarks, then you should respond. Having identified the issue (as mentioned above), decide what would be the best way to respond to the criticism, keeping future readers in mind. Proceed accordingly.
Be specific and direct.
Responding to criticism is one situation in which you should not focus on the person but rather on the issues. In most situations, it will be your reputation at stake, while your critic will have little or nothing to lose by a prolonged argument. So it is in your interest to address concerns not only swiftly but directly and specifically, without getting personal even if you are provoked. If your critic is vague, try to pin them down to specifics. The quicker you can know what needs fixing, the sooner you can resolve it.
Online interaction and social media have recalibrated the expectations of consumers. Online brands are dynamic, interactive entities that exude both professionalism and personality. Bureaucratic delays, form responses and detached, robot-like answers to people’s problems just don’t cut it anymore. Being real means engaging with the issue, and this is especially called for in situations where your critic’s complaints are legitimate. This also means that if you’ve made a mistake that has directly impacted your customer, you should apologize and fix the situation to the extent that you are able. And remember: don’t try to use it as an opportunity to market!
Create a dialogue.
It is quite likely that your response will in turn generate its own response(s) – from your critic or from others. This is a good opportunity to turn criticism into conversation and get a better handle on the situation. In certain online interactions, even your ability to keep your cool, stay on topic and treat your critic respectfully will earn you the respect of your readers, and possibly even your critic. Conversation will take the edge off the negative comments and enable you to end the matter on a positive note.
Know when to quit.
It’s good policy to respond to every critic in good faith, addressing their issues promptly and turning the criticism into conversation when possible. But part of managing your reputation online is knowing when to disengage from a conversation, particularly if it’s becoming personal or fruitless. But don’t leave in the middle of a dialogue either – summarize your response firmly and leave the option of direct, private communication open, especially if the issue requires more back-and-forth.
About the Author:
Shelby Parson serves as the Executive VP of internet marketing for Premiere Tree Services of St. Louis where she actively represents the tree service in all forms of social media marketing.