Is All Publicity, Good? How to Manage Negative Online Comments

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”  — Oscar Wilde.

When I started my professional career, we didn’t have email, faxes or social media.  Heck, the first television station I worked at even had manual typewriters.  Without the aid of technology, spreading the word about your small business was much more difficult.  Basically your publicity opportunities amounted to radio, television and newspapers or magazines.  Boy has the world changed!

Today, reaching the masses is simple and inexpensive, thanks to the Internet and social media platforms.  But along with the ease of access comes the risk of repercussions.  Disgruntled employees, unhappy customers or even unethical competitors, can use the same simple tools to take shots at you in an effort to tarnish your brand.  And it’s all happening in real time.

So is Oscar Wilde correct:  The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all?  Let’s just say, if people don’t know about you and your brand, then they definitely aren’t talking about you, but you probably aren’t building your business either!

Many small businesses shy away from social media because they are fearful of negative comments.  My advice:  Grow a thick skin.  Negative comments are probably going to happen simply because you can’t please all the people all the time.

Instead of avoiding the use of social media tools, create a proactive strategy to manage negative comments when they occur.

1.   Don’t React Emotionally.

Before you respond to a negative comment on any social media site, calm down.  Never react emotionally.  Take a deep breathe and count to 10 — at the very least.  Once your blood pressure has dropped, think through an appropriate, professional response.  Getting your side of the story out isn’t as important as demonstrating you can keep a cool head.

2. Don’t Make it Personal.

Whenever you respond to the negative comment, focus on the issue, not the person.  A personal attack with make you look bad in the eyes of others.

3. Don’t Use a Standard Response.

Never use a cookie-cutter response to a posted comment.  Your comments should be directed to the specific circumstances.

4. Apologize Privately.

Some social media sites permit you to apologize privately to the commenting party.  Sometimes this can satisfy the individual, and as a result, they’ll voluntarily remove their offending remarks.

5. Build A Network of Advocates.

Every small business should have its cheerleaders — those loyal fans who will advocate on your behave.  Encourage your good customers or clients to post their comments on various social media sites.  Of course, never ask anyone to comment unless they have personal knowledge and can be sincere in their remarks.

6.  No Response May Be the Right Response.

Sometimes the best strategy is to simply say nothing.  Getting involved in a tit-for-tat social media discussion is time-consuming and draining.  So before you invest the energy and effort, ask yourself:  “Is it really worth it?”  I think we’ve all read nasty reviews that were in sharp contrast to other comments and recognized them as being off-the-charts.  People typically discount extremely negative comments, and perhaps, so should you.

Have you dealt with negative customer comments online?  How have you handled it?  What was the result? Share you best practices.


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