It’s a social media manager’s worst nightmare: dozens of negative comments, coming thick and fast, from online community members. The first reaction is knee-jerk: get those very embarrassing – and very public – comments out of your page! Block those followers! Hide! Delete! No congratulations are in order, because the situation could have been handled in a much better way.
Firstly, the “auto-delete” and “auto-hide trigger most social media managers resort to pulling is an amateur’s mistake. It’s hasty, and doesn’t take into consideration three important factors (we’ll get to those in a few).
Secondly, it’s not right to think that negative comments are, in fact, negative in nature. Just like with pretty much anything in real life, honest but helpful feedback come in different forms, and they sometimes seem “bad”.
Third and finally, mismanagement of negative feedback costs your brand or business much more in terms of credibility, trustworthiness, and will never be forgotten by your consumers.
The First Four Steps in Managing Negative Feedback
A simple acknowledgement that you’ve noticed a comment, a complaint, or feedback goes a long way. Gone are the days when brands and businesses can sit back and think that there’s no need to address “minor comments”. Social media has made the consumer – any one and every one – more powerful than ever, and just one compelling tweet or comment that gets picked up because it was ignored has the potential to damage a brand’s reputation faster than you can mobilise your PR department.
As often as possible, always ask for more details or information. Consumers generally focus on the effect from a complaint, i.e. expired food, delayed flights, a death they read about. As a social media manager, you want to gather as much information as possible to the things leading up to a complaint, from date of purchase to location of the service issue. This often gives the feedback-giver a better experience with your managed brand, so long as your interest is genuine and sincere. Oh, and take this conversation privately whether by private message or email.
Plan of Action
After acknowledging the issue and engaging in a personal conversation to learn more about the negative feedback, it is important to have a plan of action which you can share with the consumer. This means you need to be able to outline what exactly you’re going to do to help out, or the next date of follow-up when available. This show of transparency is very rarely met with anger or frustration, and lets the consumer know that something is being done about the issue. There is also a good chance that the complaint is let go at this point.
You might have bought yourself some time to escalate the complaint and await feedback, but the job isn’t done yet. The final step is to observe the accounts or profiles that sent out the original negative feedback. Have they “moved on”? Are they still complaining about your brand or business? Are the accounts mysteriously silent and inactive? Asking plenty of questions will allow you to create possible strategies to manage future complaints on social media, and will help you filter which “serial complainers” are worthy of either your attention and patience, or the block-hammer.
So why can’t you just hide/delete negative comments? There are three things social media marketers must keep in mind always. One: the consumer that brings out an issue publicly is often a consumer who cares. Two: Those we like are those who do not ignore us. Finally, three: sweeping issues under the rug creates a hill you’ll only trip on, smashing your face in