A Quick Guide to Handling Negative Feedback on Social Media

download (1)Social media management is not for the faint-hearted. When you manage a Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn account with a large following, people can be ruthless, and sometimes with good reason.

As hard as you might try, it’s impossible to keep everyone happy and social media is the go-to destination for disgruntled users.

The tricky part is that your social profiles act as the face of your brand. So how do you keep it blemish free? You don’t – people will always complain. It’s what you do after the complaint  that matters. These tips will help you keep your cool and handle negative feedback in the best way possible.

Create a Process

One of the first things all community managers should do upon inheriting control of their brand’s social channels is create a process for handling feedback. Never underestimate your community – the vast majority of feedback is something you should pass along right away. You just have to know who to pass it to. When urgent things come through your feed like, “Your app isn’t working…” or critiques on content like, “Your title is confusing…,” it’s crucial to pass that on to the correct person in each department. Make a point to find a contact in the departments that could be affected, ie. customer service, content, etc. This will make the whole process run a lot smoother.

Your primary goal needs to be addressing the problem that caused the complaint instead of the complaint itself.

Identify the Type of Feedback

Once the feedback comes in, it’s important to gauge what type of feedback you’re receiving. Not all negative feedback is the same. In my opinion, there are 4 distinct types of negative feedback:

  • Pressing: An example of pressing negative feedback would be someone Tweeting, “Hey @simplymeasured – my free report won’t generate.” This type of feedback is simply a heads-up of a problem you might have to act on immediately.
  • Constructive: This type of feedback is usually coming from a good place. An example of constructive feedback would be, “This post is a little confusing – those two recommendations seemed very similar.” Constructive feedback gives you an opportunity to modify certain things in the future.
  • Disgruntled: People can get nasty on social media, over both big and little things. Generally these people are very upset because of something and they can’t be reasoned with. The best thing to do in this instance is apologize and move on.
  • Spam: If you’ve ever run a promoted Tweet, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s important to make sure you understand what kind of feedback someone is giving before you respond to it.

Respond to Everything…Within Reason

britishairways1Lots of digital marketers will tell you to respond to everything, but all community managers know that some situations are beyond mediation. Absolutely respond to both pressing and constructive feedback. You should also make a point to respond to 90% of disgruntled feedback. Apologizing, offering up a solution, or even just offering up the opportunity to cater to this concern in the future can go a long way. However, sometimes there are people that are unreasonable and antagonistic. In this case, I’d opt out of continuing a conversation. There’s a huge difference between negative feedback and trolling.

Have Patience, Be Helpful, Make Changes

The number one priority when it comes to handling feedback on social is having patience. As community managers, we’re usually extremely well-versed in the workings of our company and the content circulating throughout the industry. It can be easy to dismiss feedback as ill-informed or irrational (and it very well may be), but keep in mind that every interaction is an opportunity. The better you handle a situation, the more respect you stand to gain. Even if they’re complaining about something that is user-error, take a deep breath, apologize for the inconvenience or offer up a solution and then make changes (if need be) to make sure that the confusion doesn’t occur again.

Give Your Audience a Chance

If you’re as fortunate as I am, you have a huge resource on your hands – your community. Often times, your community is just as well-versed in your company and industry as you are. If you’re doing your job, you’re creating advocates that can go to bat for your brand against anybody. Whether it’s negative feedback, questions or general discussion, it’s always important to give your audience the opportunity to respond first. After all, you’re creating a community – not a personal messaging service. Don’t let too much time past, but there’s no shame in giving a situation (as long as it’s not dire) time to work itself it out.
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Know When to Take It Offline

When feedback comes in, sometimes you don’t know what it’s going to turn into. If your conversation starts to spiral, don’t be afraid to shoot them a DM or a Facebook message instead of letting it drag on in everyone’s feeds. Some things are best handled behind closed doors.

Don’t Take It Personally

Don’t lose sleep over this stuff, people. Social media is destination #1 for negative feedback and complaints, but don’t take it too much to heart. Do the best you can to hear the feedback, apologize, offer a solution and modify going forward. Beyond that, there’s not much more you can do. Stay strong, CMs!

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Jade Furubayashi

Jade Furubayashi

My name's Jade and I'm a social media addict from Seattle, WA. I'm the Community Manager at Simply Measured, so my job is basically to talk to you fine people everyday- which is awesome. Aside from that, my favorite things are dogs, tacos and Beyoncé.

  • http://sociallyacceptable.me/ Vincent Orleck

    Lots of great tips here Jade. As social media manager for all of my company’s platforms, I do see negative comments here and there, especially on our Facebook page. I definitely subscribe to the approach of addressing things head-on but keeping it as positive as possible, and if/when it starts to spiral then it gets taken to private methods if possible. What I’ve found (and I bet I’m not alone) is that, when you directly address someone’s issue that they posted on a public page, they more often than not are just happy to get a response and their initial anger will turn into satisfaction and even happiness in some cases.

  • Oplerno

    Great tips. We’ve also enabled all of our mails, including auto-generated, with feedback buttons so people can help us. The times we’ve gotten negative anonymous feedback it’s usually attributable to a mistake or an assumption on our part.

  • Mil

    Good article, but you can’t DM someone on Facebook (if you’re acting as a brand page).

  • catalina

    Awesome article, i am starting in all this so is always good to read nice tips from people with experience like you.
    thank you

  • aaron bowersock

    You really brought it home with “Don’t lose sleep over this stuff, people.” (Even though “brought it home” is totally an ironic idiom to use here…) Anyway- you’re right. Many people have an ax to grind, and anyone who reads those responses need to take them with a grain of salt. The article offered up great methods for dealing with all kinds of engagement, and I definitely appreciated the bit about finding our own processes.

    Each brand and audience is unique, so there’s no single set of rules to govern how they interact.

    • Jade

      Hey Aaron,

      Thanks for reading! Happy to hear that you found this helpful. I completely agree — every audience is different and your responses should be tailored to match it.

  • Martha L. Castro

    “Don’t lose sleep over this stuff, people” is great advice. When I was the community manager for a local restaurant I often found people had “keyboard courage.” What that means is that they were often very negative and hard to handle online, but once we got a their information and manager contacted them they would often be nice and apologize for their online rants. It was all about how we intercepted.