How to Handle the Negative in Your Social Media Channels

Businessman with hands on chin at workstation
Getty Images / Thomas Barwick

Negativity often sways business away from social media. There is a fear that social media will discredit the business or destroy the reputation of the business. We all know that dealing with negative comments in social media can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but you can ease that by having a plan on how to handle the negativity in a way that protects your company and engages your social channels.

Having a plan will take the guesswork out of what to do if someone begins to attack or take your social channel in the wrong direction.

What should you include in your plan?

Comment and Post Policy

Let’s start with the basics. Create a comment and post policy, what types of comments and posts will you allow.  Make the policy public on your social channels. Your policy should be clear on the language that you will allow and what comments or posts you deem unacceptable. For example, perhaps your policy would state that foul language will not be tolerated or that all comments must be on topic.   Explain what will happen if the policy is broken. Will you ban users for a span of time or permanently?  Will you block them?  Be as specific and as clear as you can be.

Guidelines for Handling the Negative

Now, let’s say a comment or post is on topic, but it’s negative about a product, service or just your business in general.

Don’t sweat it. Follow these guidelines, and you can turn just about any situation around.

  • Guideline 1:  Address the Comment or Post in an Effective Manner
    Most negative posts fall into one of four categories.  They include:
    • A business error
    • Miscommunication or misunderstanding
    • General negativity about your business.
    • A disgruntled employee or past employee.
    Identify the category and address the post or comment quickly. Try to come up with a positive solution. Don’t be afraid to ask the commenter or poster if you can take it offline to discuss via a telephone call or email so that you have all the details. I always explain that the reason I’m trying to take it offline is for their protection when it comes to privacy.
    • Guideline 2: Stay in the Right Frame of Mind. Don’t Get Defensive​
      It’s easy to get defensive and take things personally. Do yourself a favor, don’t! A defensive reaction will only make matters worse. Identify the issue, be polite and quickly try to find a resolution. You can’t make everyone happy, that’s simply the fact, but you can give it your all to try and resolve the problem. That’s all really anyone can ask. Also by being polite and not defensive other customers and/or fans will see that you are trying to move towards a resolution and most appreciate this. I have often seen other customers come to the defense of a business if they see they are in fact trying. 
    • Guideline 3:  Don’t Be Afraid to Own It!
      Don’t be afraid to own up to a mistake or error. They happen. Everyone knows this. There isn’t a company in the world that has a perfect track record. Just deal with the issue head on by following the two guidelines above. Acknowledge the issue and move to resolution as quickly as possible. Never be afraid to apologize, sometimes that alone goes a long way with someone that is being negative and combative. Hey, we screw up – it happens. 

    When it comes right down to it, there are only four things you need to remember, and they will work for any business:   

    • Step 1 – Acknowledge
    • Step 2 – Own it if it’s your error.  Apologize.
    • Step 3 – Quickly find a resolution.
    • Step 4 – If necessary, take it offline.