I remember when I first started to use Twitter I had a man reach out to me and completely slam my writing and basically who I am as a person. I was in between flights at the Charlotte airport and quickly skimming Twitter for any new mentions, and was completely caught off guard by his remarks. Here was a person who knew barely a thing about me and he was completely attacking me in front of everyone on Twitter. I had seen negative comments come through many brands’ social channels by this time in my life, but there was something a little more disturbing about seeing something in black and white that was personally attacking me. I would usually tell a brand in that situation to stay back and let it go, but it took everything in me to not start furiously typing away at this man. I took a deep breath, reported him for abuse (verbal), and got on my flight. A few weeks later, another person on Twitter attacked me for having ‘fake’ followers that I bought. Now this was something I was not going to let go. I quickly took a screenshot of how many ‘fake followers’ I had on Twitter (1% which is the usual for an organic, NON-bought account), and corrected him. This actually opened up an educational dialogue between the both of us, which ended with him taking back his original statement.
It’s hard to know when to respond to negative comments online, isn’t it? Especially when emotion is evolved, we want to quickly send out the most clever, defensive response. So many brands have found themselves in hot water over getting caught up in emotional, trolling conversations, that it seems like most brands now steer clear of responding to any hate at all online. While it’s important to know the difference between a troll and an engaged user, it’s also important to step in and continue the two-way dialogue on social media, regardless of the positive or negative undertone of the conversation.
Here are five times brands should be responding to negative comments online, and why:
To Correct The Facts
If someone is sharing misinformation about your brand, you absolutely have to respond. This is a great opportunity for you to use facts to squash rumors and protect your reputation. You do not have to be snarky and defensive in your response, you simply have to share a link, or a short quote, stating the facts that disprove what the hater shared about your brand.
Why: When you don’t correct misinformation about your brand online, you are giving off the perception that you either just don’t care enough to correct them, or there might be some truth to the misinformation that you do not want to address. Neither of those situations are good for your reputation, or your brand.
To Show You Understand
Sometimes haters online just want to know that you understand where they are coming from and you are validating their feelings. A simple, “We’re sorry to hear this and are doing all we can to make sure this does not happen in the future” goes a long way. I’ve seen many a “sorry” on social media stop a conversation from blowing up into a full-on hate-fest.
Why: Leaving alone a hateful comment from someone that feels wronged can lead to even more hateful messages from the same person. It also can make your brand look cold and uncaring to others on social media when they see that you do not respond to any of the negative customer service issues coming through. In fact, a lot of brands make the mistake of responding quickly and kindly to all of their positive comments and then leave the negative ones completely untouched. This can be the absolute worst thing to do because it shows that not only are you not responding to people who feel wronged, but you are a very responsive brand making sure to respond to anything good immediately.
To Take Responsibility
This is the hardest, but the most important, reason to respond to negative comments online. The most incredible example I’ve seen of this was when DiGiorno’s social media expert accidentally tapped into the #WhyIStayed (re: domestic abuse) hashtag, thinking it was about a way less serious matter. Instead of letting the hate hit them, DiGiorno responded to nearly every single tweet with an apology that took ownership of the mistake. It was beautiful to see how owning up and taking responsibility completely turned around a social media crisis, and turned haters into sympathizers with the social media expert (more on that here: How To Survive A Social Media Crisis ).
Why: A lot of negativity towards brands online stems from the feeling of the consumer being ‘jipped’ or wronged in some way, and a lot of the time they were. Whether it’s a faucet that broke, or a food that was rotten, or a shirt that showed up with threads coming out of it, negativity online can be justified because the brand made a mistake. When a brand owns up to their mistakes, it makes them more human to the consumer and it can do wonders for their reputation and the consumer’s view on the brand.
The fact is, we all have haters, whether personally or around our brand, and they are not going away. Sometimes, all we can do is ignore it and go on with our day, but, other times, haters provide us with great opportunities to share factual information and set things right. Let’s stop hiding behind the ‘do not respond’ motto, and start encouraging two-way conversations on social media again, regardless of the tone.
- Marji J. Sherman