Social Engagement Series: How to Positively Handle the Negative

You have worked hard to create engaging material on your social media platforms and results are rolling in; that’s great! Remember, though, oftentimes with the positive comes a little negative and with resources like Facebook’s new ‘reactions’  coming out in the near future, business pages will need to tread lightly and have a protocol in place for how to handle tricky situations where negative feedback is involved.

The wall that is social media guards people online in a way that allows them to feel more comfortable saying things they otherwise might never be willing to say in person. It’s important to remember that even if your fans ditch proper social etiquette, it doesn’t mean your business should. Here are some ideas on how to professionally handle situations when someone isn’t exactly being a positive fan on your social media outlets.


People often take to social media with their anger when they feel no one is listening. Before jumping the gun and responding, listen to ALL of their frustrations. An automated, robotic-sounding reply will only fuel the fire, so be sure to respond to their unique situation. Personalizing a response by addressing the person by name or restating their concern in your reply can help to bring down the heat of anger, because you are connecting with them on a more personal level. They are more likely to feel that you have listened and understand their individual situation, and are reaching out to personally help solve their problem.

Show empathy and make the effort to look at the situation from their perspective, such as in the example below. This consumer does not agree with the company as a whole, but the company’s social media representative still took the time to understand what exactly is causing their anger and explain a step-by-step game plan to rectify the situation. This gives the consumer a chance to calm down, and you have an opportunity to gain their trust in the process.

It is also a good idea to keep track of any and all customer complaints, and check those records before responding to examine the details of the customer and see if this is a recurring issue. If you can avoid avoiding asking repeat questions that may already have answers, you will save time and frustration.


If you want to make someone on social media angrier, make them wait. If it’s an issue that takes some looking into, while this is going on you should respond in a timely manner (within an hour or two if possible), to reassure them that they have been heard and that you are actively working to solve the issue.


The old saying ‘the customer is always right’ does not always ring true, but validating their complaints may help to move past the issue and find a solution. If you are being contacted over a complaint, they are already saying, “This is not okay, someone needs to take responsibility, and right my wrong.” This seems like Business 101, but many companies pass complaints off, which can anger ther customer even more. Apologize for their frustrations, don’t respond defensively, and avoid making excuses for the situation. Let your customer know that you are personally addressing the manner and seeking out a solution, much like this example by Joe De Sena, CEO and cofounder of the Spartan Race.


Be sure to follow up with previously frustrated consumers, and don’t assume that you resolved their problem; take the extra step to ensure that they are now satisfied customers. For example, if you offered instructions on how to fix an issue, contact the customer when a sufficient amount of time has passed (usually a couple of days) and see how things are going. By following up you are showing all customers, even the dissatisfied ones, that you value their feedback and care that they were able to find a solution.


A couple of final things to remember while going through this process: Never delete a comment from a customer on social media; their feedback will help grow your business, and other fans can see how well you address and handle complaints. Also, stay positive and don’t take the complaints personally – they are mad at a situation, not you as an individual, and we can all relate to being frustrated with a product or service.

When complaints are made, you won’t always know what it’s going to turn into and some things are best handled privately. If your conversation starts to spiral, it is totally acceptable to take it private and send them a message instead of letting it keep going in everyone’s feeds. You won’t always be able to make every customer happy, but you can handle the situation with the respect and professionalism that comes from proper social etiquette. Finally, remember that word of mouth is at its peak of power and one person can quickly reach hundreds or thousands when it comes to social media, so make sure your business is represented properly with every interaction. For help with successfully addressing and handling these kinds of situations on your social media channels, contact us to discuss how we can take the stress of dealing with negative feedback off your hands.