Are you mastering your brand’s reach and engagement on social media? Congrats on getting to that stage that many only dream of!

But – that means you’ve probably also encountered a few unfriendly, critical or downright rude comments along the way. The downside of growing your social media following is the increased chance of people popping up with something nasty to say.

Some commenters may genuinely feel wronged by your brand, while others may simply want to stir up trouble. For many companies, this is a daily (if not hourly!) occurrence, and the way they react can make or break their success online.

Here are our top tips for how to deal with negative comments online.

Read the comments for genuine feedback

Listen to your customers. It’s always good to receive constructive comments from potential – and existing – clients.

To nurture a positive reputation for your brand, keep your eyes peeled for what people are saying about you. Only then can you devise a PR strategy and digital marketing plans that truly work for your customers as much as they do for you.

Be positive and make the conversation private

Your latest Facebook post promotes your restaurant’s new menu. But, what’s the first comment you receive?

“I ate there last week and the service was sooooo slow! And when the food finally arrived, I was given the wrong order! Terrible experience. Don’t go!”

The truth is one of your chefs had called in sick at the last minute. So you were one chef down, and unfortunately your service suffered on that day. This definitely isn’t representative of your standard service. You could just let the comment go by. But in this case, we’d advise a polite, positive response and moving the conversation to a private channel.

“Hi, I truly apologise for your experience at our restaurant. We had some unforeseen troubles that night, and so you didn’t receive our standard level of service. I’m sending you a private message now to see how we can resolve your negative experience.”

The commenter will feel listened to, maybe they’ll love to receive a free meal and then they may even post about their improved experience. Other people will see that you’re a people-centred, honest company that takes steps to give your customers the product and service they’ve been promised.

Don’t feed the trolls

If you’ve got an actual troll on your hands, don’t take the bait. Focus on those customers who are giving you genuine feedback or asking questions. And thank those who leave positive comments.

After being ignored, the likelihood is that the troll will move on to trolling someone else.

Use humour well

If the troll sticks around and you happen to have a witty response that might disarm the commenter or defuse the situation, using humour tactfully is sometimes a good idea. But – only use humour if you’re good at it, otherwise you could make the situation worse.

Test your reply on a couple of other people – maybe some co-workers – to see if it elicits a laugh. Humorous responses humanise brands, and your other followers will appreciate the giggle.

The key takeaway

Use kindness, facts and tactful humour in response to negativity. Make your social media space as safe, positive and fun as possible. Remember that you’re building a community on social media. Yes, you’re trying to sell your products or advertise your event, but without your online community, your marketing efforts will fall on deaf ears.

Communicating with people is what we do! Contact WMA to see how we can help you communicate effectively with your social media followers.