Social media is a vital marketing tool for any business, whatever its size. While Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others can be brilliant for getting your brand message out to the wider world, but these platforms also provide a way for customers, fans and followers to tell your business exactly what they think.

That can be and often is a really great thing, but sometimes you may also receive negative feedback and for this reason, businesses must monitor their social feeds on a regular basis and be able to take both negative and positive feedback in their stride. Being a Public relations master is not at the top of most small business owner’s skill set but reacting in the wrong way to feedback can be damaging to your business so here are some ways and means to deal with public social feedback.

Public Social Feeds are Public!

Because you want as many people as possible to see your posts, to let them know what is going on in your business and the offers and opportunities that may be of interest to them your social feeds can be seen by anyone, and this also means anyone can post a comment. This means that your business needs to have a clear process and strategy in place for replying and, where needed, finding a solution to your customer’s problem.

Monitor Your Company Mentions

You can’t really do anything if you don’t know who’s talking about your business. Tools like Hootsuite and TweetReach are great for keeping track of places where your brand is being mentioned. Some larger companies have their own monitoring software in place and use that to engage with anyone who mentions their name, often using AI to ensure immediate engagement.

Make monitoring mentions a regular task and part of your social media strategy – it can certainly help find out what you are doing right as well as what may have gone wrong for certain customers.

Is always responding the best policy?

Whether it’s positive feedback or negative, you can’t afford to ignore it. Failure to acknowledge and record these types of interaction generally make people think your business simply doesn’t care. It also means you are missing out on vital engagement with your customers that could strengthen your brand but acknowledging it and responding publicly are two different things.

There is no one size fits all advice when it comes to responding to comments on social media feeds but as a general rule of thumb, acknowledge and thank people for positive or constructive feedback publicly and deal with negative feedback personally but privately.

Dealing with positive feedback

If someone has given you a glowing review, then at least take the time to thank them. Your engagement at that stage could cement their long-term relationship with you and lead them to act as brand ambassador in the future. If someone reposts or retweets your content to their followers, make the effort to pick one of their posts and do likewise if appropriate.

Dealing with Negative Feedback

Handling negative feedback is a little trickier. The last thing you want to do is make the situation worse by either ignoring the post or writing a reply before thinking about your response carefully enough. Here are some quick tips to help you get it right:

  • Listen properly. Don’t take it personally (hard I know!) Find out what the problem is and come back with a balanced and appropriate response. Remember, you are not talking to just one person, it’s likely that their entire following may also be ‘tuning’ in.
  • Respond in a timely manner. Don’t wait for days or weeks. As soon as you see a problem you need to engage and attempt to solve it. According to the recent research, nearly 42% who complain on social media expect to get a response within an hour. With small businesses this may be difficult but at least respond with something within 24 hours, or on a Monday morning if the posts have been made over the weekend.
  • Have a strategy for dealing with negative feedback. Try to avoid making standard responses and be personal, authentic and transparent. Canned replies that are sent out automatically can actually get your customer’s back up even more if they recognise it as such.
  • One way to try and diffuse an often complex issue is to respond to them privately to try and deal with a specific compliant, while acknowledging publicly on the social feeds that you are listening. This can be done by putting out a public comment of – thanks for your feedback I have sent you a PM to try and help.

Finally, always remain on an even keel when you respond. Even if the customer is completely wrong you need to remain calm and react appropriately. Getting hot under the collar and posting something that sounds aggressive or dismissive is simply going to backfire on you and could well damage your brand on social media.