Mastering the Art of Handling Negative Comments On Social Media

by Jennifer Marsnik and Amy Juers, MBA

This article originally appeared in Marketing the Law Firm, Nov. 2023. © ALM Global LLC. Reprinted with permission.

In the dynamic world of social media, businesses must navigate a double-edged sword. While it offers unparalleled opportunities for engagement and brand promotion, it also exposes them to the risk of negative comments and backlash. These comments can originate from dissatisfied clients, disgruntled employees, or even anonymous trolls; however, just as organizations prepare for disaster recovery and data breaches, having a well-thought-out social media response plan is equally critical. In this article, we delve deeper into dealing with negative comments on social media and shedding light on the intricacies of managing your online reputation.

The Multifaceted Landscape of Negative Comments

Negative comments on social media come in various forms, each with its own set of challenges. Understanding the nuances of these comment types is essential for a comprehensive response strategy:

  • Client/Customer Complaints: These comments can range from mild dissatisfaction to outright anger regarding your products, services, or staff.
  • Trolling: Trolls are a common sight on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They deliberately post provocative and inflammatory comments to incite reactions.
  • Malicious Comments: These go beyond trolling, often containing profanity or offensive language that can be deeply hurtful or damaging to your brand’s image.
  • Threatening Comments: In some instances, comments may take a more sinister turn, becoming physically, emotionally, or otherwise violent in nature.
  • Offensive and Hate Comments: These comments target individuals or groups based on their race, gender, religion, or other personal attributes, spreading negativity and hatred.
  • Spammy Links: Comments that contain suspicious or irrelevant links are an attempt to divert traffic or spread malware.

The Difference Between B2C Responses and B2B Responses

The differences in brand responses to negative comments on social media between business-to-consumer and business-to-business brands are rooted in audience expectations, tone, problem-solving approaches, speed of response, confidentiality, relationship building, and the potential impact on reputation. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for both types of brands to maintain a positive online presence and effectively address customer concerns in their respective markets.

For example, a consumer brand’s response to a negative comment on social media might look like this:

User Comment

“Your product is terrible! It broke after just a week of use. You need to step up your quality control!”

Consumer Brand Response:

“Hi [User’s Name]. We are sorry to hear about your experience with our product and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. Quality is one of our top priorities and we take issues like this very seriously. We would like to learn more about your specific situation so we can address it promptly. Please send us a direct message with your order number and any additional details so that we can assist you further. Your feedback is invaluable in helping us improve, and we’re committed to making this right for you. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

A consumer brand is selling to the masses, whereas legal marketing or B2B businesses are often approaching a niche audience; therefore, a response cannot be as generic or templated.

A B2B response to a negative comment on social media might look like this:

User Comment

“Your client support is abysmal! I’ve been waiting for a response to my query for days. Unacceptable!”

B2B Brand Response:

“Hi [User’s Name]. We are genuinely sorry to hear about the delay in our client support response and we understand your frustration. Providing timely and efficient support is paramount for us and we apologize for falling short in this instance. We take your feedback seriously and are committed to resolving this issue. To expedite the process, could you please DM us with your request or additional details about your query? This will help us investigate the matter and ensure a swift resolution. Thank you for bringing this to our attention; we appreciate your patience as we work to improve our service.”

By responding in this manner, a B2B brand not only acknowledges the user’s concern but also highlights its commitment to addressing issues and improving its services. Maintaining a professional tone and offering a solution or a clear path to resolution are essential for upholding a positive brand image in the B2B sphere where efficiency, reliability and trust are of the utmost importance.

Regardless of whether a brand is B2C or B2B, its responses can demonstrate commitment to client or customer satisfaction, resolve issues efficiently and maintain a positive image in the eyes of its audience. It is essential to maintain professionalism, empathy and transparency in all interactions on social media. An effective response can also open the door to turning negative experiences into opportunities for brand improvement and building trust.

Not Every Negative Comment Should Be Treated the Same

Negative comments vary in nature and responses should not be generalized. It could be something as benign as a conference attendee saying they disagreed with or didn’t like a speaker’s comment on a panel/presentation, or maybe it flares into something more substantive. A client comment likely needs to be brought to one source (sales, client service, etc.) whereas an employee comment needs to be brought to others (their former manager/HR/ legal). It all depends on the comment’s substance and context.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all auto-response to dealing with negative social posts, the approach to managing them when they do arise should follow a standard process as outlined in your social media strategy.

The Watchful Eye of Your Audience

It’s essential to remember that your response to negative comments on social media is not just about addressing the immediate concern: Current and potential clients, employees and business partners are watching closely. Your reactions to criticism can significantly impact their perception of your brand and how they choose to engage with you. A thoughtful and timely response sends a powerful message of professionalism and commitment to client satisfaction.

About the Authors

Jennifer Marsnik consults with Edge Marketing clients to develop and implement strategic communication plans that support their overall business goals.

Amy Juers, MBA, CEO of Edge Marketing, Inc. enjoys sharing her 25+ years of strategic marketing and public relations experience with her team and clients from all over the world. Amy recently became a published author of the book, “The Marketing Edge: A Sharper Way to Approach Building a Brand.”

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