How Your Small Business Should Handle Negativity through Social Media

Social media has the ability to catapult your business to incredible highs, potentially in both name recognition and in its bottom line.  It is also opening the doors to negative comments and feedback from anyone who chooses to vent.  The question that looms for many of us: how should I handle the negative feedback?

This is a simple, yet difficult question to answer.  The true answer is…

It depends.


Why such a gray answer?  Well, every circumstance is unique, so it’ s hard to abide by any single approach. So let’s instead think about where negativity might arise..

An Unhappy Client or Customer

This is where most negative feedback comes from.  People feel a connection to products or services.  If they choose you, they are putting faith into you and your offering.  And if something goes wrong, they will be sure to let you and anyone who will listen know what they think.  With social media, they will let the world know!

A Competitor

On occasion, a competitor will cross the line and post a disparaging message about your business.  According to experts like Andy Defrancesco, this is a rare instance in social media, but you must be prepared for any potential posts to show up.  Most businesses are concerned about ethics, but bad-mouthing a competitor will always happen in one form or another.

A Former Employee (or current employee)

Former, or current, employees may feel the need to make negative comments about your business.  These instances may be a result of how they were treated, how they were not treated, the reasons why they left, how they were managed or any other number of reasons.

Potential Candidates

If a potential employee is mistreated or has a poor interview experience, this will certainly be something to share with others they encounter.  It is imperative for a business to put forward their best image in an interview process.  If you cannot sell your company or your brand to a potential employee, why should anyone buy from you?

The Bottom Line

With any of these potential sources, it all comes down to perception.  If a person perceives that they were unfairly treated then negativity will pour from their mouths.  If a business places a strong emphasis on customer service, the potential for these moments will hopefully decrease.

Each circumstance is going to be something new to respond to, or not to respond to.  Your business should have a social media policy in place and one aspect of it should refer to negative comments and postings.  If you have a well established policy, this should help guide you to what deserves a response and what you should leave alone.

A negative response that is aimed at a specific instance of a product or customer services may be responded to easily.  An apology always helps along with a willingness to answer questions or have a further conversation offline to address anything specific.  A negative comment aimed at an individual (usually a business owner) might be best to not respond to.  A negative comment that is either vulgar or contains inappropriate maybe deleted (if that is stated in your social media policy).

Negative comments will come to most every business at one time or another.  Understanding how to best react in those moments is critical and sometimes a defining moment for a business.  Are you prepared for such a moment?

Image credit to Lead Remarks

Keith McIlvaine manages the recruiting social media strategy for a Fortune 500 company and is an avid networker.  He is a corporate recruiter, social media advisor, coach, speaker, blogger and an all around fanatic.  Connect with Keith on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or on his blog at the HR farmer. (The statements posted on this site are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer)



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  1. 1

    Thanks Keith for good writing. I like especially that you point out to the fact that “Negative comments will come to most every business at one time or another”. This is very true since social media is transparent and no one is perfect. What your reaction is like depends on your crisis plan. Most importantly it should NEVER be the primary reaction. We wrote about that
    Markku Nummila

    • 2
      Keith McIlvaine

      Markku, thank you for the feedback. Absolutely, companies need to expect the unexpected and prepare for situations. That is where a solid strategy comes in quite handy. Thanks for sharing and your kind words!

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