How to Respond to Negative Comments on Social Media [Examples Included]

Building Relationships / December 11, 2019 / Emily

Using social media is a low-cost and simple way to not only engage with your current customers but to also reach new potential leads. It can be an easy way to help your small business, but it can also come with negative comments, complaints, and angry customers.

Four people stand casually side by side, each person has a different emoji with varying expressions in front of their face.

Large companies have an advantage when it comes to followers and social media ads, but a small business can have a larger impact when it comes to the engagement with your audience – especially when they’re not happy.

While you can encounter varying interactions and engagements across your company’s social media platforms like questions about your product or service or happy reviews(yay!), how you respond to the negative comments you get will make a difference in how existing clients will feel about your brand. Moreover, potential clients may be reading your responses and taking note of your customer service – how you react can make or break their decision to choose you.

A negative comment that everyone can see will instill some frustration and embarrassment, but your reaction is ultimately what your audience is going to remember. Keep in mind that you’re at an advantage – you have some time to plan out your response and temper your emotions, you can give everyone a preview of your fantastic customer relationship management, and no one can see that panicked look on your face!

How to respond

Respond publicly

Whether the comment is positive or negative, responding publicly helps build accountability, transparency, and trust. If you need to discuss something more private with the customer, like something account-related, for example, you can still respond publicly and let them know you’ve reached out via a direct or private message. This sends the signal to your current and future customers that they can expect a response from you regardless of how they are reaching out. The way you respond will build a perception around your brand – did you acknowledge mistakes, show empathy, and provide a solution? Putting your client experience on display, even if you’re dealing with a complaint, can bolster your customer relationship management and lead to potential clients. You can see examples below of how ZapierZoomBuffer and we handled unhappy customers with transparency and accountability:

Screenshot of a social media post where a customer complains about Zapier services, and the reply from Zapier to the comment.
Screenshot of a social media post where a customer complains about Buffer's services, and the reply from Buffer to the comment.

Be human

Ever talk to a brand on Twitter or Facebook and get a canned response with what seems like superficial empathy? Then you know how infuriating it can be! Remember to respond like a human. Acknowledging someone’s feelings by repeating them back is a great way to validate concerns, like noting how frustrating an issue sounds. Show empathy, but don’t go too far with apologizing when you can already be moving on to a solution. You can show you care with only a few words and jump right over to solving the problem, which is really what your customer is after. You can see great examples of this from Team NikeBasecampBuffer, and Kabbage:

Respond quickly

Social media moves fast, so customers are expecting a quicker response when they contact you on one of your platforms. 80% of people expect brands to respond to their comments on social media within 24 hours so, at the very least, you should be aiming for getting back to customers within a day. Ideally, when dealing with an angry customer or a negative comment, you want to get back to them even sooner. 32% of customers that contact a company through social media for support expect a response within 30 minutes and 42% of them expect a response within 60 minutes. If you’re using social media for your small business, ask yourself if you have the bandwidth for this kind of support. Many companies are notoriously slow at handling customer complaints, so you could set yourself apart by your quick responses, or fall under the category of just another slow-to-respond brand. It could be a matter of only starting with one social network at a time, or waiting to form a strategy when you’ve hired someone who can fill this role – whichever way you go, ensure you’re considering the pros and cons of going with or without social media.

Know your audience

When responding to an angry customer, remember where you are. On Twitter, you need to keep it short and sweet to reach their 240 character limit while still getting the job done. Facebook has no character limit, but you should still avoid walls of text to keep things concise. Facebook tends to be a more thoughtful platform when it comes to customer complaints, so you have more details to work with when forming your response.

The five characters from the movie The Breakfast Club sitting side by side, each representing a different social media platform.

Both Twitter and Facebook are more casual and personal platforms, so expect customers to feel comfortable voicing their concerns – in turn, you can also take on a more casual approach while still keeping it classy. As a professional network, it’s less likely you’ll see more scathing comments on LinkedIn, but you should be prepared to address feedback, questions, and concerns that will come through regardless. Check out examples from Slack and SurveyMonkey below:

Screenshot of a social media post where a customer shares a feature request from Slack, and the reply from Slack to the comment.
Screenshot of a social media post where a customer shares a feature request from SurveyMonkey, and the reply from SurveyMonkey to the comment.

We’ve all been the Angry Customer™ ourselves one or many times in the past. Remember what it felt like and use that perspective when taking on the negative comments about your own business.

Maybe it’s not your fault, maybe it was customer error, or maybe you did make a mistake. Whatever the situation might be, your focus should be on your recovery. Customers are flocking to social media to share their concerns because it’s a place where they feel they’ll be heard and responded to – it may sound like a low bar, but many companies are missing the point. Now is the time to leverage your customer relationship management skills to stand above the rest!

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