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How to Manage Negative Comments Online

Weve all heard the horror stories about brands being caught in a social media crisis. The story is always roughly the same: a customer has a bad experience and tells their friends about it. All 229 of them! That number may not seem so scary, until you realize just how easy and fast it can be for the customers friends to share it with their friends. Then, its 229 x 229. Suddenly, the room can get very crowded.

Fortunately, there are best practices for handling negative comments. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Have a social media policy that defines how negative comments are handled and by whom.
  2. Understand who the commenter is and the nature of the comment. Do you know this person? How credible and influential is she in your community? Is her statement true or does it include inaccuracies?
  3. If theres truth to the comment, speak to the commenter offline and resolve the issue.
  4. If the comment is opinion, clarify any incorrect information, and monitor responses to it. In most cases, discussion will likely be minimal. Sometimes saying less is more effective because continuing to argue with opinion will prolong the discussion and spread the negative comment further.
  5. Use the Air Force Blog Assessment tool to determine how and if you should respond to negative comments. Though several years old, its still useful and relevant today for all social media channels. A copy of the tool is available at David Meerman Scott’s blog. Altimeter Groups Jeremiah Owyang also posted it on his Flickr account.

Most social media crises can be resolved with good customer service. You can convert critics to fans simply by trying to solve their problem.

Perhaps the best way to prevent a social media crisis, however, is to be active in social media.

Social media plays an important role in minimizing crisis, a fact often overlooked. The more you nurture your communities and use them to build loyalty and long-lasting relationships, the less youll need to worry about crisis. Youll be surprised at how many people will jump to your defense when a negative comment does appear.

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