The Do’s and Don’ts of Negative Reviews on Social Media

Social media is great. It opens up the lines of communication between brands and their customers and provides a platform where companies can share some of the coolest aspects of their products or service with people who actually care.

But, as with all good things, there is a potential downside: Negative reviews on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

With the lines of communication completely open, you can’t expect everything someone says about your brand to be positive.

So what do you do when someone leaves a negative review on social media about your business?

First things first, don’t panic.

Follow these do’s and don’ts to avoid getting caught off guard and waking up to a full blown crisis.

DO plan in advance

“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”

It may be a cliche statement, but it’s 100 percent true when it comes to social media.

Unfortunately, people aren’t always going to have nice things to say about your brand on social media (sorry!). When the negative reviews roll in, it’s best to already have a plan in place for how to handle them.

Sit down with your social media team and brand executives ahead of time to come up with your strategy.

How will you respond and what will you say? Does your customer service team need to be looped in? If so, in what capacity? Will you offer incentives (i.e. refunds, gift certificates, etc.) to repair the damaged relationship with the complaining customer?

These are all questions you should have answered well before the first negative review pops up. Better yet, you should have a template with approved responses at the ready for common questions or complaints.

Having a “crisis management” plan already in place will help eliminate some of the anxiety that comes with receiving a negative review. You’ll feel confident and prepared and know that you already have senior buy-in on your response.

DO monitor for negative reviews

It’s hard to openly address an issue you aren’t aware of. Lots of times, your customers may not even publicly tag you in a negative post.

That’s why social listening is crucial — as part of your planning, put together a strategy for monitoring the web for negative reviews on social media.

DON’T ignore the issue

Negative social media reviews may feel like the scary monster in your closet, but hiding under your covers won’t make them go away.

You can’t leave a negative review to fester.

Most times, customers who have had a bad experience just want to feel like a brand is listening to and understanding their concerns. After all, don’t we all want our opinions to be heard?

Address the comments as soon as possible to make them understand that you truly care about their opinion.

DO try to take the conversation offline

While your initial response to a negative social media review or comment should be public (you’ll definitely want other fans and customers to see you don’t ignore issues), there’s nothing wrong with directing the conversation offline for further handling.

Moving to a private channel will allow you to better serve the customer while also avoiding a potential public shouting match if things don’t go well.

In your response, you could say something like, “Thank you for reaching out with this issue! We are truly sorry about your experience with (enter the complaint here). Please email/DM us/call us at XXX so we can work together on a resolution.”

DON’T take it personally

It can be easy to let our feelings cloud judgment when someone is attacking something as important as our business. (Been there!)

Remember to take a step back, take a deep breath and respond as a brand.

Avoid getting heated or challenging the reviewer as that will only agitate them and the situation even further. Even if you don’t believe or agree with what they’re saying, remember that they have the right to voice their opinion and you have the obligation to hear them out.

DO apologize

There’s nothing wrong with the words “I’m sorry” especially if your brand actually was in the wrong.

Remember though — there’s definitely a right and a wrong way to apologize, so be sure to brush up on the basics before making your apology public.

DON’T make excuses

For most people, the immediate gut response to a complaint is to offer a reason why there was a problem in the first place.

The customer doesn’t care that you were short-staffed that day or if there was a computer glitch, and offering up those excuses will only make it seem like you’re trying to pass the blame.

DO offer solutions

Going the extra step to resolve a problem can turn an angry customer into a lifetime-buyer.

Think back on the resolutions you came up with during your planning stage and figure out how you can turn around the customer’s experience.

DO contact the review website (if absolutely necessary)

If a negative review truly is slanderous and completely untrue (and you can demonstrate that), you do have the opportunity to contact the website where the review was left and ask for them to intervene.

Review websites like Yelp pride themselves on being as accurate as possible, so they are usually willing to help get fake accounts and reviews removed if the issue does arise.

If you work with other stakeholders in your business to put together a plan in advance and follow these simple rules, you may be able to turn a disgruntled reviewer into your best customer.

How do you handle negative social media reviews? Let us know on Twitter.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Rachel Pluck
About Rachel Pluck
Rachel Pluck is a communications specialist for Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co), focusing on content and digital marketing. She previously spent four years in the marketing world, working in-house at a tourism bureau before joining a full-service marketing agency and is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Clark Associates Inc. In addition to her 9-to-5 responsibilities, Rachel is a photographer specializing in landscapes and family portraits.