Negative Social Feedback is a ToolCustomerService

I’ve heard many organizations say they’re afraid of establishing a social media presence. Knowing that social media provides venues for people to speak their mind publicly, they imagine the worst: a flood of negative feedback and angry complaints.

Let me start by saying that while that’s true, I monitor a lot of social media accounts, and negative feedback is relatively rare. It does happen, but it’s not something that should be feared. It’s something that should be managed. When you establish a social media presence, you aren’t only opening yourself up for angry criticism, you’re also – more importantly – opening yourself up for positive interactions. Easily, 95% of what I read each week is pleasant. Often that number is 100%.

Consider this. In order for people to interact with your business on social media, they have to take the trouble to find you. Customers and clients who go looking for you are usually people who are enthusiastic about your service and want to follow you. They look forward to your posts because they want to hear what you have to say and feel connected with you. They take the time to leave pleasant reviews, because they want to spread their enthusiasm. Social media marketing works because it encourages word-of-mouth promotion.

Those that do seek you out to complain must be listened to as well. People who complain want to be heard and they want you to respond publicly in a way that soothes and mollifies them. These complaints are usually opportunities to connect with unhappy customers and turn them into advocates. Negative feedback online must be dealt with effectively and promptly and not ignored, lest it inflames the customer to further negativity.

Negative social media feedback is a tool. It is always better to hear from an unsatisfied client and have the opportunity to correct the situation than to never hear from them and never have them use your service again. The worst case scenario is an unhappy customer who doesn’t take the time to complain. This is the person who will bad-mouth your company privately. You will still get that word-of-mouth effect, it will simply happen in private, and you’ll have no say in how that progresses. So don’t be afraid of the public nature of social media complaints. It actually provides you with the opportunity to save these relationships. More importantly, your followers will see that you take criticism seriously and make an effort to solve the problem. Providing true customer service is a wonderful quality to advertise through demonstration.

That said, there is always the possibility of a true loss – an unhappy customer who is not open to having their complaints addressed and simply wants to vent. These are the folks who not only have negative things to say but who are aggressive. They curse, they threaten, they slander. These attacks are far rarer than you’d guess. The best way to deal with these kinds of social media attacks is to ignore them.

Some businesses feel helpless and worried when this happens and they’re not sure how to “save” their online reputation. I maintain their reputation is in no danger. I prefer to keep these kinds of complaints in perspective. If 95% of your feedback is positive, if you have a demonstrable history of addressing complaints in a proactive way but you have one profane review, your social media followers are going to quickly identify the flaming, immature behavior of the poster and disregard their feedback as offensive. If someone expresses themselves with irrational fury or slanderous remarks, it’s best to not to react – ignore them. Keep it classy. Their outsized reaction probably has little to do with their actual experience with your business. In other words, it’s not you, it’s them.

There’s a saying in the internet community – “don’t feed the troll.” In other words, don’t give obnoxious behavior more attention than it deserves. That only encourages further attacks. Instead, continue providing your usual wonderful customer service, acknowledge and thank everyone who leaves you actionable feedback on social media, and demonstrate your concern and appreciation for those who do want genuine interaction. Eventually the troll will get bored and slink back to the bridge he or she came out from under. The wonderful thing about social media is that content, posts, and comments cycle quickly, and in very little time, that one impossible complaint will vanish into the backlog of old news. Don’t obsess if you have one violently negative review. Focus on those who do leave meaningful feedback (positive or negative), and keep a cool head.

Social media is a beautiful tool for connecting with your clients and all manner of communicating with your clientele should be embraced. Don’t stay away for fear of getting attacked. Attacks are rare, manageable, and when not manageable, fleeting.