How to Handle a Negative Social Media Comment or Review

How to handle a damaging social media comment or review

Sometimes businesses can get things wrong, and displease a customer. And occasionally, they can get things right yet still displease a customer, through no fault of their own.  When issues and complaints are raised directly to a business, it gives them an opportunity to address and hopefully resolve it. But all too often, these displeased customers turn to social media or review platforms – typically Facebook, Google My Business, Yell.com, Trustpilot and TripAdvisor – to air their grievances publicly.  

Why do people complain on social media instead of directly to the company? 

Social media gives everybody a platform and public voice, and while some people prefer to handle things directly, others like to air their grievances publicly online. They might genuinely want to warn other consumers about the experience, or they might feel that their complaint will be dealt with more quickly due to the added pressure of it being launched in the public arena. 

While this situation isn’t ideal, if you have business social media accounts, then the occasional negative review or comment is part and parcel of this, and is ultimately out of your control. What you can control though, is how you respond to these reviews. You can take back control of the narrative and response from your company. Research has found that 78% of consumers believe it’s important that businesses respond to issues raised in reviews (Critical Research 2021).

Can you remove a negative comment or review? 

Facebook gives you the option of hiding negative or unwanted comments left on your posts, and it gives you the option of reporting reviews that you feel are inaccurate or unfair – but there is no guarantee that it will remove them. The same goes for reviews posted on Google My Business, Trustpilot and others. Similarly, Yell.com has a process in place for people to report reviews, and they will be reviewed by its Policy team to ascertain if they breach its reviews policy or conditions of use, or if a user fails to validate their feedback when asked to.

Yet the removal of negative reviews shouldn’t necessarily be your first course of action; while it can be distressing to see unfair comments, it is much better for you to have your say, and to set the record straight (or, if you were at fault, to apologise, and so demonstrate to any viewers that you know how to resolve customer issues). Recently there has been a trend for companies to fight back against unfair TripAdvisor reviews by publicly refuting customer comments on social media. While you have every right to do this, and to refute claims you deem unfair, you must do it in a professional tone of voice – no matter the tone or language used by the customer.  

All key review platforms including Yell.com enable you to respond to reviews, to have your say – so make the most of it by responding quickly, with empathy, and seeking to deliver a suitable resolution to any issues where possible.  

What is the best way to respond to negative social media comments and reviews? 

If the content of the review is wholly abusive in nature, simply report and block the account where possible. 

If the negative comment or review is not abusive, then your best course of action is to immediately address it. They’ve posted it into the public sphere so you have a right to address their comments there too. It is your opportunity to defend your business if you feel the comment is unfair, or to apologise and demonstrate proper customer handling if you know that the review was based on a true experience. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement that on this occasion you fell short can be enough to pacify an angry customer, who may then even remove the review. In this instance, if you don’t feel comfortable posting a public full apology, you can simply comment on the post asking for their contact details so that you can resolve the situation offline – this also shows other people viewing the complaint that you take customer service seriously.  

One final thing that you can do to lessen the impact of negative reviews is to encourage more positive ones. Positive reviews will help redress the balance against negative ones, and highlight the experiences of your happy customers. Research has shown that 31% of consumers are more likely to leave a review for a business if they are specifically asked to do so (Critical Research, 2021). To drive more positive reviews, make it easy for people to do so; if you collect their data, email your customers after their purchases to ask them to review the item or service. If you don’t collect data, think about including a “tell us what you think” card with every purchase, with the details of your key review platforms on it. 

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