You’ve succeeded in getting a social media strategy in place, you’re sharing amazing, relevant content - and then WHAM! Someone posts a negative comment, and you feel like all of the wind has been let out of your sails.  Then the worrying begins - What do you say? How do you say it? Should you say anything at all?  These are all really valid questions that need answers, quickly, so you’re ready at a moment’s notice to respond the right way.

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First - determine the validity of the criticism.  Customer service, product issues, or even website criticism is valid, and you should own it.  Just like the old business mantra goes, “The customer is always right.” - Even when they aren't.

Very rarely will you see a business or company attack a complaint online and come out looking good.  In fact, I can think of only one instance in the last year - a response by Liberty Bottleworks in Washington to an unhappy customer over the holidays that made the company look good.  Attacking the customer is never a good idea - and generally leaves the business in the “loss” column.

The other side of the coin is the ever-present internet troll - Sometimes mean unhappy people post nasty stuff online and aren't even customers.  If the post is blatantly a troll post, then feel free to delete it from your Facebook wall or forum.  If they posted on Twitter or another network where you cannot delete posts from others, ignore it.  Many people don’t agree with the “ignore it” tactic - but I only recommend enacting “ignore” mode if it’s a one-time non-customer criticism and you can easily post good stuff to move it away from front and center.

So when you respond to a disgruntled customer, do it gently.  Taking the conversation offline is preferred.  Invite the customer to call or email a decision maker directly, and let them know that you’re dedicated to making it right.  This is a solid strategy - but it can also backfire.  NEVER copy and paste the same response in multiple complaints.  If you look at the Facebook or Twitter feeds for larger companies, such as Waste Management or Xfinity - their pages are riddled with unhappy customers - big companies have a lot of exposure to this.  You can note though, nearly every company response addresses the customer by name, talks about the individual issue, and recommends different action based on the complaint.  This is the RIGHT way to respond to complaints.  #1 rule?  NEVER copy/paste in social media.

Now that you’ve addressed the issue, asked the customer to communicate offline, and hopefully resolved the issue, it’s time to close the circle.  Many customers won’t take the time to do this, but if you ask - some customers will go back to the social network and post a resolution.  Even a quick note can help, suggest saying something like “I had an issue with my installation, I called and talked to Evan and it was resolved right away.”  This shows those who view the complaint, or your page, that you cared about your customer and solved their problem immediately. This is a huge step towards building brand advocates - which should be one of your top reasons for getting involved in social media in the first place.

In business we know we have to take the good with the bad.  The benefits of being online and active in social media far outweigh the negative aspects - but when the negative does rear its ugly head - you need to be ready with a solid strategy that your whole team is aware of.

About the Author(s)

Carrie Hill

Carrie is a regular speaker at SearchMarketingExpo conferences and writes columns for and Her expertise as a small business owner, and an online marketer, help her get inside the issues many small business owners face. | Google+ | @CarrieHill | More from Carrie

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