Responding to negative feedback online: 7 tips

We are all familiar with the P.T. Barnum adage, ‘no such thing as bad publicity’. However, PT Barnum never had to contend with today’s social media pitfalls. No doubt he would have utilised it to the extreme to attract people to his ‘unique’ shows, and no doubt his posts would have garnered impressive engagement, but there are some things that just don’t land well for businesses on social media, and their impact can be catastrophic if not handled correctly. So, what is the best way of responding to negative feedback online?

Everyone is susceptible to negative feedback online

Whether you’re a food outlet having your premises’ hygiene levels quizzed, or a children’s nursery being questioned over it’s safety policies and practices, most businesses will have found themselves in the unenviable position of being subjected to negative comments on social media platforms, after all, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, right? 

There is also the propensity for mischief makers to leave malicious comments, perhaps initiated by competitors, or people who may hold a personal grudge. This is much more common for those businesses who depend on publishing regular posts to maintain their audience’s attention.

Your response to negative feedback is everything

The key to responding to negative feedback online as it arises is pivotal in reducing the impact. Take a look below at what you can do:

  1. Awareness – the quicker you become aware of any on one of your social media posts, or on a public platform, the quicker you can start formulating an effective response and close it down. The longer it rumbles on, the more people engage, and the situation spirals accordingly. Check your notifications and social media pages regularly. Frequent relevant, associated groups and pages and keep abreast of the public mood.
  2. Don’t get embroiled in an argument, for all the reasons stated above. Your aim is to reduce the exposure of negativity, not feed it, as tempting as it may be. Remember, the more comments made, by you or anyone else, the more views it will gain.
  3. Similarly to point 2, don’t lash out in anger, no matter how unfounded or untrue comments are. Stop, breathe and then start to construct a professional, structured response. 
  4. Validate and defuse, be polite. ‘I’m sorry to hear that your experience was….’ ‘We take your complaint very seriously and are looking into it, thank you for bringing it to our attention.’  
  5. Take it offline ASAP, “Please could you contact us at/on and we would be happy to discuss it further….”
  6. Recognise when you are not going to win and be prepared to delete comments and block users when you feel there is a malicious agenda. 
  7. Be prepared to let it go if it hasn’t already accrued much interest or gone viral. Sometimes, by commenting, it can instigate further responses and attract much more attention. If it has already disappeared down the rankings then it can be best to let it continue doing so. In short, responding to negative feedback online requires discretion and forethought.

Important point to remember!

Always remember that if you do block someone from commenting on a post you have created, or on your social media page, that it doesn’t prevent them from creating their own post on their own personal profile, or an alternative site, and even sharing it from there. Be prepared to spend some time monitoring other pages, groups and platforms to ensure that the reputation of your business isn’t being denigrated in some way. Sometimes a quick word to the platform provider or site admin can help, but be polite, they don’t owe you anything and if you want them to help you, you want to keep them on side. 

If you’d like any more in depth advice on how to get the best from your social media platforms, whilst dodging the potential proverbial bullets, do contact us at Bishop Communications and we’d be more than happy to help design an appropriate, effective social media plan and project your business positively into the consciousness of your prospective clients. Also, don’t forget to read some of our other resources which have been expertly designed to help you market your business.