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A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling Negative Social Media Messages

olivia-pope-its-handledOn ABC’s hit political drama Scandal, Olivia Pope is known for her iconic saying, “Consider it handled.” Her crisis management firm handles a variety of public image crises for the nation’s elite. While you probably won’t face the same type of crises, being in the public eye means that your company might receive some negative comments or complaints via social media. What should you do? Channel your inner Olivia Pope and read on to learn how to handle negative social media messages.

Step 1: Take a deep breath and keep cool.

It can seem like a personal attack on you and your company, but try not to take it personally! Take a deep breath and remain calm. Responding to something on social media before you think it through will almost always exacerbate the issue. The Internet always remembers.

Step 2: Document it!

If a negative comment appears on your social media platforms, it’s crucial to screen capture it and document it in some way. Depending on the platform, messages can sometimes be deleted or modified. A screen capture will help you if the situation escalates into something more serious and you need further proof (think liabilities—yes, it can happen!).

Step 3: Keep leadership in the loop.

This is critical. Depending on the severity of the message, let leadership know of the situation immediately and outline the steps you’ll take to resolve the issue. Upper management may want to go in a different direction or have a social media crisis plan already in place.

If you’re your own boss, we salute you. Please read on.

Step 4: Track and Engage

Some marketing software programs like HubSpot have tools specifically for social media management. These tools may have even brought the negative messages to your attention. Whatever your situation, they are worth the investment, because they make it easy to respond to any comments and keep tabs on whenever and wherever your brand is mentioned.

Depending on the message, other customers or followers might come to your defense before you get a chance to respond. In this case, let your social community rally for you. You’ve got your brand advocates on your side. Follow up with a response, if necessary.

Step 5: Don’t delete negative comments.

Deleting negative messages on social media is a huge no-no. It compromises integrity and gives the impression that a company does not value its customers. Plus, you run the risk of aggravating the commenter, and he or she might move the conversation to a different platform.

Step 6: Respond to each complaint in a timely and professional manner!

In the world of social media, word spreads fast. Take care of the situation and respond to each message in a timely manner (think within hours, not days). A slow response can damage your company’s reputation.

When you respond, the tone of your posts should be pleasant, positive, and helpful. This is the customer service side of social media, and your response to each message should seek to take the conversation offline to resolve the problem. How do you accomplish this? Encourage them to send you more information via email, call your company, or send you a personal message.  Some people will respond to your requests, and others will not.

After the situation is resolved, follow up with the customer on social media! Something as simple as “Thanks for letting us know!  We hope the issue has been resolved,” will speak volumes about your company’s commitment to solid customer service and, who knows, that customer may become a brand advocate!

Of the 7.2 billion people on the planet, almost 1.7 billion have active social media accounts. That’s a lot of people, with a lot to say! When your company faces negative social messages, remember that how you handle it can make the difference between keeping and losing customers. Stay calm and Consider It Handled.

About the Author

Sarah Corley
Sarah Corley
Sarah works as a marketing specialist at WSOL where she helps clients put their best digital foot forward online. She has been the driving force in defining company culture at WSOL. As a co-leader of the Chicago HubSpot User Group, Sarah is dedicated to creating a community where developers, marketers and sales teams make the web a better place. She worked for Nestle Toll House on their campaign, Bake Some Good, as a national brand ambassador and even baked her way to set a Guinness World Record. She has Bachelor of Science degrees in graphic design, journalism and public relations.
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