Social media is risky. You are out of the safety of traditional marketing trenches and striding across no man’s land. Just as much as you can enjoy positive engagement with your customers, and bask in glorious feedback from your brand ambassadors, you can also receive constructive criticism and negative or angry comments. So how do you navigate the minefield when things turn a little bit nasty?

Here is my R.E.M.E.D.Y for responding to negative comments on social media:

  • Respond: Never ignore a negative comment. You need to get in there and start engaging as soon as possible. A negative commenter who is ignored, or (worse) has their comments deleted, is a potentially damaging force. They will be likely to post about their beef with renewed venom if they feel they aren’t being heard. Their grievance will gather momentum, so stop it in its tracks with a quick response.
  • Empathise: Sorry seems to be the hardest word? Don’t be a mug — say it, and quickly! Even if you feel the accusation levied at you is unfair or inaccurate, empathise: “I’m sorry you feel like that and want to do all I can to help you feel better about this situation”; “I understand your frustration, please let’s discuss this further”; “I am sorry you’ve experienced this and want to make this right”.
  • Message: If a conversation looks like it is going to get increasingly heated, get it offline. Suggest continuing the conversation by private message, DM, or email. Then you have more time to defuse the situation off the public stage. Emphasise that you are listening and want to give the customer one-on-one support until they feel that you have properly answered their question/problem/complaint.
  • Engage: If you promise to listen, make sure that you do. Hear your customer out, make sure that you unpick every one of their comments and give them a respectful and helpful answer. Be polite at every step of the way, use the right tone, be diplomatic and tactful and transparent at all times.
  • Dispel: Drive away the customer’s fears, give them a great customer service experience and make sure that their grievance is completely answered.
  • Yield: Enjoy the rewards of converting a criticism into a positive experience, creating an opportunity to provide excellent service! Satisfied that they have been heard and their comment taken on board, that person may become your brand ambassador — a positive and supportive mouthpiece spreading the word about how great you are at problem solving and customer engagement.