How To Positively Handle Negative Social Media Comments

CTO at Paulsen, a marketing agency that moves rural America.

Negative comments on social media are nothing new. In fact, if you’re a brand with a social media presence, chances are high that you’ll receive one. As an agency that works primarily with clients in the agriculture industry, we see negative comments often.

So, what is the best way to deal with negative comments in a way that doesn’t tarnish your brand or resurface every time someone searches for your company?

The answer to that question varies. This is because every organization is different in terms of industry, audience, staff size and social media objectives. However, there are some general guidelines you can use to help put together a plan for your company. Let’s take a look at them.

First, let’s chat about negative comments in ag.

When it comes to social media and agriculture, there seem to be a lot of critics who are not afraid to be vocal. Some of this is due to how rapidly misinformation spreads online. However, it is also the reason many ag organizations are understandably reluctant to get involved with social media. That said, social media can be a great place to advocate for ag and to correct inaccuracies.

Why might consumers react negatively in the first place?

• They don’t understand agriculture.

• They find the facts overwhelming.

• They don’t know who to trust.

• They’re frightened.

• In that state of mind, they’re easily led.

• Their reactions are intensified by conspiracy theories, activist propaganda and fake news.

Whether you are in agriculture or another industry, the following guidelines can help you respond to negative social media comments.

Here are some things you can do before you get a negative comment:

Set goals for how you will respond.

Remember that you are not trying to win an argument or persuade an individual. Your responses should maintain a safe, constructive environment. When someone is spreading misinformation on your page, you are absolutely in the right to correct it in an appropriate manner.

I also recommend you define what is acceptable and what is not. Yes, people have a right to their opinions, but a code of conduct is applicable even to social media. Decide what is appropriate behavior for your page and know when you’re going to put your foot down.

Plan your responses.

When you have your goals in mind, plan your responses and put them in writing. When you are crafting how you will respond, keep in mind that people are watching. Don’t be emotional or defensive—only state the facts.

There are three must-have documents we recommend you prepare (or have a PR expert assist in preparing):

• A scenario chart: Think through any possible scenario that could warrant a negative comment. For example, technical troubles, supply chain issues, poor customer service experience or miscommunication.

• Pre-written responses: When you think through any and every possible scenario, start writing comments that can be used for each.

• Response flow chart: This type of chart will provide a variety of possible negative comments and how the person should respond to each. For example, a negative comment may come from a troll, someone ranting, an unhappy customer, spam or a misguided person. Each situation needs to be approached differently. A quick internet search will bring up several examples of response flow charts. Find one that works best for your company.

Assign staff to handle the negative comments.

With your goals set and your responses documented, it’s time to select staff members who will be responsible for handling negative social media comments.

Choose staff members who:

Understand your brand’s values and voice.

Have demonstrated the ability to remain calm, strategic and positive in stressful situations.

Know when to ask for advice from others.

Are available to respond quickly.

Here’s how you can handle negative comments when you get them:

Don’t ignore negative comments.

Some companies don’t respond to any comments, positive or negative (we generally don’t recommend that). Some respond to every comment. Some only respond to correct misinformation or redirect customer service issues. Deciding your level of involvement in responding depends on many factors and varies across organizations.

However, I recommend always responding to a negative comment. If you don’t, it could lead to an already angry client having more reason to be upset with your brand. Use the responses you pre-wrote and respond in a timely manner.

Be polite and courteous.

It is usually beneficial to approach these comments with the mentality of “the customer is always right.” If it’s misinformation, politely provide the facts. An apology may also be appropriate, even if your brand did not do anything wrong. An apology is a positive step toward resolving conflict and makes the person feel seen and heard.

Handle it privately.

Provide an option for the person to continue this conversation in a private manner. The best way to do this is by providing your contact information. Ask the person to email, direct message or call you. This will show others you take customer feedback seriously and are willing to have the necessary conversations to resolve issues.

Get help handling negative social media comments.

Preparing for negative social media comments ahead of time can feel like a chore and leave you questioning your decision to use social media. Partnering with an experienced agency and good PR team can make the prep work easy and bring peace of mind to your company’s social media team and management.

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