In the 90’s, the word “troll” conjured up fun; images of Kramer-like colored hair and giant eyeballs. Now, trolls are people ‘trolling’ social media to cause havoc and disturb an otherwise-peaceful post on homemade granola. In fact, trolls can be downright destructive. Many businesses with an online presence are dealing with actual trolls who are targeting you unfairly, competitors who want to bring you down or ex-customers with a chip on their shoulder. And things can get ugly fast. Here’s how to protect your company reputation if you’re encountering sour comments online.
Most customers who aren’t pleased with your products or services will make their complaints known and maybe ask for some money back, and then fade away into the night. But every once in a blue moon, there’s a disgruntled former customer who is angrier. Perhaps your ex-customer has some stressors at home (or has simply never been taught social graces), so they take to the internet and shoot off a tirade about your company online.
We know – you want to fire back. Fast, and with vehemence (and maybe a few choice words). When someone unfairly attacks your business, your team or your integrity, it can cause a deep wound. It puts you on the defensive, and rightly so. But the first thing you should do in this scenario is pause. Take a few deep breaths (seriously, even if it sounds too cheesy or Zen for your tastes, it calms you physiologically), and leave it alone for a bit. This will help put distance between you and the negative comment, and help you get some perspective.
Consider the impact.
Next, think about the damage this public vitriol may cause. Each instance should likely be handled differently because their impact will differ. Here are a few example scenarios…
- Someone leaves a scathing comment on your Facebook post, attacking the character of your employees. Think about how many people will likely view the comment. If it’s on a post that will be pushed down your profile within a few days’ time, it probably won’t be seen by many people. Furthermore, is the comment rooted in truth or is it just sour grapes?
- Someone sends a hurtful direct message on Instagram that mocks your leadership prowess – and hairstyle. If someone sends a direct message, it’s not public. No one else will see it but you. You can take the high road and ignore the offensive message, or you can carefully craft a response that cannot be used against you.
- Someone posts a review on Google that calls your business practices into question. Consider if this might be libelous. Is someone accusing you of unethical business practices or even criminal behavior? Before you do anything, meet with a lawyer and ask for their opinion. These types of comments are very rare, but should be handled with care because your company reputation is really on the line.
Once you determine whether the impact of the negativity even merits a response, decide what that response should be. In scenario one above, you may have an opportunity to respond in a way that casts your company in a positive light. Perhaps the comment was about your team members’ “laziness” or “complete disregard for deadlines.”
Here’s an example of a classy reply: “Hi <customer name>. We’re sad to see you brought this issue to our attention on social media, as we would’ve loved to find solutions together in person instead. We didn’t realize you felt this way. You’re right that we were 3 days late in delivering your project, and we take full responsibility for this. We would like to give context and make this right. We’re so sorry for letting you down, and hope you may give us another chance to make it right in the future.”
This type of response diffuses the emotion of the attacker, and shows you own your mistakes. It also humanizes your company, and shows that there was a valid reason for disappointing the customer, even if it doesn’t excuse the delay. Any potential customers who happen to see this exchange on social media would be more incentivized to work with a company that directly handles problems, takes accountability and tries to make things right. This is one sort of negative feedback that is always best addressed publicly.
Negative comments on social media can sting, but they don’t always leave a dent in your company reputation. First, take a breath and consider the actual impact (if any) of the unkind words. Then, decide how to respond (if it’s worth your time at all). Often savvy customers and clients will read the reviews and If you’d like help setting and managing your social media strategy, we can help!