Brands, Handle Negative Criticism on Social Media Like a Champ

Social media is a wonderful tool to connect with loyal fans and potential customers directly and organically. It’s also a perfect opportunity for consumers to air their grievances, in both positive and negative ways. When the latter happens, it’s important for brands to have a plan in place to separate the trolls from the real-life consumer issues, and standard operating procedure to act upon in each situation.

When brands receive negative criticism, they have a few options to deal with it:

Ignore

This is an option brands should practice with great care. If your brand’s social media daily interactions tally in the thousands upon thousands, replying to everyone can become hard to do. Comments from trolls can generally go ignored, unless others start to pick up on them. When negative comments go unchecked completely, they can turn into a social media wildfire that brand’s social media managers may have a hard time putting out.

Delete

Again, this is generally a no-no when it comes to managing social media accounts, unless the comments are overtly threatening, racist, or derogatory. When comments are deleted, brands are simply adding fuel to the wildfire. Rather than commenting and leaving it be, users will feel obligated to share with their entire networks the continuing negative treatment they’re receiving, solidifying in their minds (and their friends and families minds) why they should never do business with you again.

F.U.

When it comes to natural instincts, the urge to fight back might overpower sensible reason. This is another “no” option, but still happens. The absolute worst thing to do when someone comments with a negative reaction to your brand is to respond negatively in turn. When a consumer says “F.U.”, don’t respond back with the same language. They won’t be the only fan who sees the reaction, and again, fuel will get poured into the fire.

Canned Response

Any response to negative critics must be genuine, otherwise it can and will have a negative effect. It will only serve to worsen the situation – and for your brand’s sake, never have anything set to automatically respond based on keywords. Each response must be tailored to each unique complaint, because canned response are just as bad as ignoring and deleting.

Address It

The only appropriate solution brands can take when met with negative feedback online is to genuinely address the comment publically, and more importantly, offer a workable solution offline. Transparency is the basis of all great customer service, and when brands treat their social media fans like they would customers in their brick-and-mortar stores, brands become known for it.

Recently, there have been a slew of great examples of brands showcasing their social media savviness when met with negativity. If you’re in the process of building a social media standard operating procedure, review the following examples for ideas on what to do and what not to do.

MAC Cosmetics

On Instagram, MAC cosmetics recently shared a close-up image of a black models lips wearing “Matte Royal” during New York Fashion Week. This image quickly went viral – as did MAC’s reaction to the negative, racist slurs. Rather than take a political stance, MAC addressed it in their Instagram bio, “The Official M-A-C Cosmetics Instagram. All Ages, All Races, All Sexes,” in addition to commenting to the racist trolls with a simple kiss emoji.

MAC acknowledged the storm that was beginning to brew, and because the comments were derogatory and racist in nature, have actively been deleting them. In this case, deleting is the right call because they cannot give potential MAC customers the idea that they agree with the racist statements by letting them stay up or continue.

Smucker's

In a sticky situation back in 2014, Smucker’s also made the choice to delete their fans posts, which was met with intensified negative backlash. When fans began to confront Smucker’s stance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Smucker’s simply started deleting their posts. This led consumers to rally and boycott the brand, and Smucker’s stood by their decision because they believed the comments fell under ‘political commentary, deceptive and misleading claims … or spam’, according to a statement released by Marybeth Burns, vice president of corporate communications.

Adidas

In another Instagram firestorm, Adidas posted an image for Valentine’s Day of two runners, clearly female, wearing the same shoes. The issue? One of the runners is standing on her tip-toes, seeming to reach for a kiss. While the photo drew hundreds of positive, supportive comments, it also drew angry comments as well.

Adidas’ social team chose the route of responding to each comment with a positive statement and the same kiss emoji. While some may consider this an “F.U.” move, Adidas positively handled a potentially negative and hurtful situation, with a little bit of humor thrown in.

Consumers who share negative feedback on social media can become your greatest advocates if you address their complaint genuinely, showing that your brand cares for everyone individually. It’s a perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, and create a life-long loyal customer in the process.

Stephanie Duncan is the Communication Coordinator for Veterinary Hospitals Association, a member-driven association organized to represent the interests of their over 345 members and the veterinary community. She is also the owner of Oh So Sociable, which she blogs at infrequently. Follow Stephanie and VHA on Twitter at @theStephDuncan and @VetsHospAssoc.