7 Tips for Staying On Top of Negative Comments on Social Media

Everyday CIIC runs and manages social media campaigns for a number of our clients. We brainstorm daily and weekly messaging, send out posts, interact with fans and followers, monitor which topics perform better than others and encourage engagement with our client’s different social channels. We coordinate with our travel and tourism clients to promote special events, vacation deals and local interests. To drive awareness and reach new audiences, we develop and execute contest and sweepstakes with the occasional secured partnerships for added exposure and enticing additions to the grand prize. This is all done with one goal in mind – to create and maintain ongoing conversations with our clients’ fans. Photo credit: Flickr / Jason A. Howie

But what do you do when negative comment comes in on social media? According to Frank Eliason, during the recent Realtime Marketing Lab conference in NYC, you should “kill them with kindness.” Mr. Eliason, the Director of Global Social Media for Citi, reasons that in your reply, you can start a dialogue with the person that then transforms them into a “brand advocate.” In other words, impress them with your amazing customer service skills so that they can only sing your praises.

There is definitely a fine line when it comes to replying to comments on social media, as seen in the PR fails of major brands such as Applebee’s overnight “automated” meltdown or small business’ like local NYC restaurant Sticky Finger Joint’s epic Twitter battle. While these are instances where brands and companies provide fascinating (and at times, entertaining) case studies for social media management gone awry, it is possible to reply to negative comments without going off the deep end. Take Wal-Mart for example; when the super-giant first entered the social media arena, they used social media in the same manner as their other advertising channels – as a way to send out content.

During the Realtime Marketing Lab, the message was clear – the old ways were no longer going work. Pushing out “quantity over quality” is no longer the rules of the road. Social Marketing Strategist, Ted Rubin says that social media is now about “realtime” engagement with fans and clients, where brands must cultivate “conversations and relationships” in order to run successful social pages.

Wal-Mart has recognized these changes, and not only is the company taking a more active approach to interacting with their fans and followers, they are also tackling many of the negative comments that come their way. Wal-Mart utilizes their 20-person marketing team and seven Twitter handles to sift through and reply to certain online comments or attacks.

No matter what size your company or team is or whether your messaging is for a big brand or a small business – it is possible to integrate these new practices into your social media campaigns. Whether you are really acting in “realtime” or on a weekly basis, it all boils down to monitoring, monitoring and monitoring. Here are 7 tips for staying on top of comments and replies to your business:

  • Take a look at what people are saying or posting to you on your social channels even if it’s just 5 minutes a day or three times a week
  • Remember to look for your brand or company’s name and not just what comes up under your Twitter account’s name. Not everyone “tags” the handle.
  • You do not need to reply to every single negative comment – use your judgment. It’s ok to be selective.
  • Think of how you can draft a reply that will turn something negative into a positive – instead of “no we can’t do that” to a “while we cannot do that, did you know about this….”
  • Consider empowering certain members of your team or company to be able to jump in and handle answering “routine” complaints or negative comments. Some companies like IBM enable employees to act as “brand emissaries” with their personal accounts.
  • Answer the comment online so that your audience can see that you’re dealing with the situation and if needed, enable the commenter to bring the situation offline to resolve one-on-one.
  • No matter what you say, you cannot always win over everyone. Sometimes the saying is true, “haters gonna hate.” There will be times when you’ll just have to remember, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Every day, CIIC interacts with our clients’ fans and followers to promote those important “relationships and conversations” that drive social media campaigns. Some days we do have to deal with a negative comment that come in addressed to our clients and usually the complaint is nothing too major. It’s important to us to establish a standard operating system. We work with our clients to create guidelines for responses beforehand to answer typical kinds of negative comments. We also know that there will be situations that we do not foresee and either need A) to ask our client for a recommendation or B) to hand the situation over to them, depending on what works for them. Find what works for you and stick with it! Just remember – make sure to monitor what is being said and know that not every negative comment needs to be answered! Some conversations are just not worth having.

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