“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

Erik Qualman | Socialnomics

If your 2020 marketing strategy includes a greater emphasis on social media, then it’s important to assign the same quality of personnel and resources as you would to any other marketing tool.

This includes a coherent strategy on how complaints or negative feedback will be addressed. Negative social media is a small peril for greater exposure. But don’t let that put you off – if you strip away the odd ‘troll’ you’ll find valuable data to help you improve your product or service.

Your Social Media Playbook can be a

reflection of your company’s core values.

Chances are, if you have one or more social media platform, you’re not the only person handling queries and posts. You may have appointed a young digital media expert (why not?) to guide your brand properly into the 21st century. Digital savvy professionals are great for directing your messaging to the right online audience, and they’ll easily know when your profile is being trolled or targeted.

But what happens when you start receiving negative comments? Are you certain that the responsible person knows the ‘rules of engagement’? Will they reflect, in their responses, the core values of your company? One wrong move can lead to a complete PR nightmare. So what is the answer?

A Social Media Playbook for Handling Negative Content will instantly remove any doubt or anxiety when, not if, you eventually get confronted by an angry consumer or a malicious troll. If everyone in your team knows who deals with negative conversations, and how they are handled, you can get ahead of the narrative and minimise the impact to your reputation.

I’ve provided a few ideas for dealing with negative social media below, so feel free to share them with your social media and digital teams.


1. Listen Up

A study found that a third of all tweets to companies were about customer service issues, but that only three percent incorporated the company’s Twitter username with the @ symbol. To find all mentions of your brand in social media, use listening tools such as Meltwater or Hootsuite.


2. Display Empathy

Complaints are often filled with language that vacillates between colourful and outrageous. It creates the reaction they seek, from the audience and possibly from your company. But you must find a way to keep your cool in the face of complaints or find the people in the organisation who can do so.


3. Be Transparent

Replying publicly is an important part of the playbook for handling social media complaints. Unfortunately, online customer service is a spectator sport. Your desire would be to make the ‘hater’ happy, but the opinions of the onlookers are your bigger prize.


4. The Rule of Two

On occasion when you respond to a ‘hater’, they reply with something even more negative. They may see you respond and believe they have a foil, a punch bag. But they will not – provided you follow the following rule: Online, never reply more than twice to any one person in any single conversation.


5. Change Channels

For customer interactions that will require research or time to resolve, your goal should be to switch to an appropriate channel after your initial, public response, whether to e-mail, telephone or the private messaging section of that particular social media platform.


6. Hurry Up!

Today, nearly 40% of all social media complainers who want a response, expect that response to arrive within 60 minutes, according to research. Yet, the average length of time for businesses to respond is five hours. Closing that gap will be critical as part of your social media plan.