How to manage negative comments on social media for clients

Anyone with something to say has a platform for publishing their thoughts, and that includes what they think about your social media clients. Positive and negative comments on social media are a natural outflow of this freedom, and the latter is often a challenge for brands online.

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More than 95 percent of people look specifically for negative reviews when they research businesses, products, or solutions online as they believe such content provides important context about a company or product. Consumers also expect businesses to respond to negative comments within 7 days (Search Engine Journal).

Keep reading to get actionable tips for managing social media comments and protecting your clients’ brands online.

Understanding negative comments on social media

Social media comments that negatively reflect on a brand, product, or content come in a variety of types. Some are malicious, some are simply unfortunate, and some provide a valid viewpoint the company should consider. Negative user-generated content on social media can include:

  • Complaints. Unhappy customers or potential customers might complain about products or services. Complaints often take the form of negative content that isn’t meant to be actionable — or isn’t actionable for practical purposes. If someone states they wish a store was open all night for their own convenience, for example, it’s not necessarily a wish the business can grant even if it wanted to.
  • Criticism. Criticism is complaint’s more actionable cousin. In many cases, criticism might be offered by people who want to see an improvement and have an idea about how it might happen. Obviously, all criticism isn’t helpful, but it’s important to consider this type of feedback carefully to determine if it offers any value.
  • Trolling. Online trolls are people who make unpleasant comments for entertainment purposes or because they have something against a brand or business. An old employee, a competing brand, or someone who is bored and has too much time on their hands might make such comments. These comments are typically of little value overall.
  • Spam. Spam comments have nothing to do with your client’s brand or content. They may result from copy-paste jobs meant to help another brand gain exposure. In the worst cases, spam comments are linked to scams.

Reasons for legitimate negative audience feedback

Some negative comments are without logical reason. But many customers have legitimate reasons for leaving negative feedback on social media pages. Some common reasons include:

  • Poor customer service experiences
  • Issues with a product or poor product quality
  • Lack of communication via other channels, such as customer support lines or email
  • Not receiving items that were ordered
  • Lack of information about a product or service on the customer’s part

What is the impact on your client’s business?

Agencies handling social media management for clients — and especially those using social media in reputation management — must be adept at responding to negative comments in a timely, appropriate manner. Ignoring those comments isn’t an option.

When asked about their main reasons for using certain social media platforms, consumers listed finding information about products or brands in the top three use cases for Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Twitter (Smart Insights). When negative comments are present, the first experience those types of searchers may have with a brand or product is negative.

The potential fallout of negative feedback on social media, especially when it’s not managed appropriately, can include:

  • Decreased brand reputation. Frequent or unanswered negative feedback can cause audiences to have a lower opinion of a brand. It may also decrease brand awareness, as people become increasingly less likely to share or engage with content from a brand that has a poor reputation.
  • Loss of customer loyalty. Customers may start to distance themselves from a brand with a lot of unanswered negative feedback. They may not want to risk buying from the business, and those that would have previously recommended the brand or product may reconsider doing so.
  • Decreased sales. As engagement and reach diminish, metrics such as sales and revenue are likely to follow. Potential customers looking for information about a brand or product on social media may be turned off by negative comments, causing them to search elsewhere for what they need.
  • Poor employee morale. When a brand has a poor reputation, employees may no longer be proud to work for the business. A lack of on-the-job pride can reduce employee morale, leading to issues such as increased error rates, reduced production and efficiency, high turnover, and lackluster customer service.

How to deal with negative comments on social media: some best practices

Whether legitimate or not, public negative feedback certainly has an impact on business—however, negative feedback isn’t automatically negative for a brand. When you know how to handle these comments on social media, you can leverage opportunities to drive the positive perception of client brands. Consider some of the negative comments examples and tips for dealing with them below.

How to deal with trolls and negative influencers

Trolls and negative influencers aren’t out to provide helpful critiques. They may be launching negative attacks on a brand just to gain traction on social media for themselves. Or they may want to cause as much trouble online for no reason other than to watch the drama unfold.

Deal with these types of comments and behaviors by:

  • Avoiding arguments. If the commenter isn’t looking for a resolution, they’re unlikely to ever engage in a positive manner. Don’t get pulled into the mud with them, and definitely avoid name-calling and other negative behaviors.
  • Find common ground. Turn the negative interaction around with a positive reaction — it’s the metaphorical turning of the other cheek. Even if the commenter doesn’t come around, other people can see you trying.
  • Offer a solution. When possible, offer a solution to the issue presented. Trolls and negative influencers may look silly if they continue to raise a fuss after you’ve offered a solution.
  • Block the user. Use the block feature sparingly to avoid appearing as if you censor your consumers. But do monitor potential trolls closely. If they continue to harass you, your clients, or your clients’ customers, remove their ability to engage with the content.

Why you should respond in a timely manner

Around 80 percent of customers say they expect brands to respond to social media comments and messages within 24 hours, and many want to see responses in as little as 6 hours. Not responding at all to negative commenters can lead to a loss of business, as around 50 percent of customers say they wouldn’t do business with a brand that ignored negative feedback (Social Stamina).

Whether you’re managing your own brand or selling social media packages, you need a plan that lets you:

  • Respond to all comments, especially negative comments, as quickly as possible. If you’re not taking control of the narrative, you open the door for someone else to do so. If you don’t respond to comments for hours, others may create a biased or completely untrue story in the meantime.
  • Check social channels regularly for reviews and comments. Social media marketing is never a set-it-and-forget-it effort. Social media management goes beyond creating and publishing content; ensure someone is tasked with checking in on every client channel you manage to ensure comments are reviewed and answered in a timely manner.
  • Create efficiencies with automations. Use social media management software and set up alerts so the right people are notified when a negative review or comment is posted. This helps ensure nothing falls through the cracks and every comment receives the careful consideration and response it requires.

Tips for responding to customer complaints and criticisms

While some of the tips for dealing with negative influencers and trolls might also apply when dealing with customer complaints, these interactions aren’t the same thing. Train your staff and clients to treat the situations differently and to respond to legitimate customer complaints by following the steps below:

  1. Listen. Take time to really understand the customer’s complaint or criticism. Reach out via private message or ask for clarifications in the comments. Demonstrate that you care about what customers have to say.
  2. Apologize. Recognize any issue that may have caused inconvenience or concern for the customer. Apologize for that inconvenience. You can say that you’re sorry a customer experienced something even if it wasn’t your client’s fault.
  3. Solve. Whenever possible, offer a solution or help. It may be as simple as letting the person know you’ve reached out via direct message to provide more information or learn more about the issue so you can improve processes in the future.
  4. Follow up. If you offer a solution, follow up later to ensure the customer’s issues are resolved. For example, if you send a new product, follow up in a week or so to ensure it was received with no problem.

Strategies for preventing negative social media comments

By following some best practices and guidelines for social media management, you can reduce the risks of receiving negative comments on your social media profiles. A proactive social media content marketing and management approach is usually best.

Build a positive reputation on social media

Use social media ideas for businesses and your own knowledge about what your audience needs and wants to create positive interactions on a regular basis. When people already trust you due to your overall positive reputation, a few negative reviews or comments don’t have as much of an impact.

Some easy ways to build a positive rep on social media include:

  • Creating high-quality content. Relevant, educational content helps position your clients as reliable experts in their niches. Consistently showing up with this type of content builds goodwill that can help brands weather a little negative feedback better.
  • Providing exceptional customer service. When existing customers are satisfied with service and a business is known for being attentive and caring, negative comments carry less weight. In fact, customers who have experienced exceptional service may even step in to stand up for a brand.
  • Engaging followers. Taking time to engage with your followers on social media creates transparency that can help dispel inaccurate or unfair information that may show up in some negative comments.

Proactively manage social media comments

Social media management should never be passive. Staying ahead of the game with social media content and comments lets you set the stage rather than allowing others to decide which story consumers will pay attention to about a client’s brand. Some ways to do this include:

  • Implementing a clear social media policy. Ensure everyone on your team understands their responsibility and has a roadmap for success. That might include brand voice and messaging guidelines and social media scripts that help teams respond to comments on behalf of client businesses.
  • Monitoring social media channels regularly. Build processes that keep track of comments and messages across all client social media channels so you can allocate resources to manage them.
  • Addressing all concerns promptly. When you don’t respond promptly to lukewarm comments, you may leave the door open for comments to become more negative or for others to step in with a narrative that helps them — and not necessarily your business.

Create a community around the brand

When you build a community, you create a buffer between the brand and potential naysayers. If negative commenters do show up, the community is likely to stand against them, which can be a positive benefit if you do lose track of comments or don’t respond to one right away.

Here are a few ways to build a community around a brand on social media:

  • Encourage user-generated content. Demonstrate that you care about what your followers think or need. Ask open-ended questions, run hashtag promotions or contests, or ask people to share their stories and images.
  • Run social media marketing campaigns that inspire positive feedback. Think about ways you can encourage positive comments on social media profiles. It may be as simple as asking what people like about the brand or inviting them to share special moments involving a product.
  • Collaborate with the right influencers. Partner with brand ambassadors and other influencers willing to create positive content about a brand or product. You don’t need a celebrity with a million or more followers. A well-respected influencer with 10,000 followers in your niche can often drive more conversions than untargeted viral celebrity content might.

How Social Marketing can help with managing negative comments on social media

Vendasta’s Social Marketing tool provides the technology you need to keep up with comments and messages on social media. Here are a few ways the Social Marketing tool can help manage negative comments and protect client reputations:

  • Social media monitoring tools ensure you can easily track comments and mentions from across multiple profiles or platforms — all from a single dashboard.
  • You can respond to comments across multiple profiles without logging in and out of platforms constantly.
  • Reports and analytics let you understand trending opinions about a brand so you can create proactive social media messaging to protect brand reputation.
  • AI tools help automate responses to negative comments, providing a starting point that you can easily edit for more efficient workflows.

Frequently asked questions about negative comments and social media

Can deleting negative comments on social media harm my brand's reputation?

Delegating social media tasks to the wrong people can negatively impact your brand reputation. If you’re working with unskilled partners, they may ignore feedback on your social channels or post content that doesn’t align with your brand and audience values. However, when you opt for white-label social media management with the right partner, delegating can improve your brand reputation and business performance on social media.

How do I handle negative comments from influencers on social media?

Respond quickly to ensure your message is part of the narrative. Be honest and transparent. Apologize when something is legitimately an issue, and thank influencers for helpful feedback. Monitor trolling and don’t be afraid to block people when they aren’t contributing anything of value and are harassing clients or customers.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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