Dealing with negative social media comments – dos and don’ts

The subject of dealing with negative social media comments crops up in almost every communications training session I run, so I thought I’d share my simple dos and don’ts to make things easier.

So, this is how to handle unfavourable posts people might tweet your organisation, leave on their Facebook page, or any social media.

It’s an extension of the flow chart I shared a few years ago, and I hope it serves as useful encouragement for comms teams fearful or reluctant to get involved with negative social media posts.

You can also read this good example of an organisation’s approach to dealing with negative posts.

Don’t stick your head in the sand

It’s surprising how many organisations might have corporate values like ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, ‘listening’, ‘learning’ and ‘innovation’, but don’t act these out on social media.  None of those positive values are displayed on a page that simply broadcasts positive information and metaphorically puts it’s fingers in its ears to comments it doesn’t like.

Don’t ignore people. In most circumstances, I advise at least one attempt to have a productive conversation.

Don’t talk like a corporate robot

Make sure you write your response how you’d say it to someone face-to-face. The person you’re replying to will not be persuaded, or charmed by a corporate press statement. If someone’s angry or upset, your tone will either calm or exacerbate the situation.

Sign off with your name.  Nobody wants to talk to a logo.  It makes you look more accountable and reminds the person you’re speaking to that you’re a human.

Do empathise

You often don’t know any of the circumstances that led to the person posting their comment. Perhaps the person is going through a rough time in their life. They might have health issues to deal with. Maybe they’ve tried to contact your organisation many other times and got brushed off.  Perhaps they had a bad experience with a similar organisation, or read something that made them skeptical about you.

Or, maybe they’re right and, this time, your organisation has messed up.

Plus everyone is entitled to their views!

When you consider this, it helps you find a tone that is generous and useful to build trust.

Do prepare

Predict what negative comments you might get.  No organisation can please everyone, and no organisation is perfect, so things will go wrong.

It seems obvious, but prepare some answers to common problems, so that dealing with negative comments will be much quicker and easier.

Don’t be negative yourself

See it as an opportunity.  On social media, it’s not just the person who commented you’re communicating with – it’s everyone else who can see it.  Your brand will benefit from consistently answering people in a way that is friendly and helpful.

Caveats for dealing with negative social media comments

Yes, sometimes people want to just vent.  But make sure that is the case by responding, and giving the person the opportunity to tell you why or how you should fix it.

No, this doesn’t mean you should tolerate abuse. If anyone in your organisation (or anywhere) is being insulted or threatened online, make a judgement about how serious it is, and always use sensible means to protect their dignity and safety. Warn the people who have crossed a line and inform them when they have compromised your standards for engagement. But don’t be heavy-handed, or you’ll have the Streisand Effect to deal with.

The main thing to remember is that you’re not alone in dealing with negative social media comments – take a deep breath, talk to your team if you need to, and deal with it.

If you found that useful, you can download the chart below – or book one of my social media communications courses to build on your team’s skills and confidence.

Dealing with negative social media comments

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