With close to 4 billion active users, social media is a powerful tool brands can use to achieve business goals. From customer service to brand awareness, it is possible to use social media branding in many positive ways.
But it could go the other way too. A negative comment can as easily reach millions of people as your brand campaign can. And if not handled well, this negative comment could tarnish your brand reputation.
Negative comments on social media will happen to every brand at one point or another; it’s impossible to avoid social media trolls forever. However, such comments need not be a fully negative experience - if you don’t ignore them.
This article explores why you mustn't ignore negative comments on social media and provides an action plan as to how you can strategically use them to your brand’s advantage.
Why Should You Bother Reacting to Negative Comments on Social Media?
Some brands choose to ignore negative comments on social media. Big mistake. An essential part of knowing your target audience is knowing how they perceive your brand and how they present their opinions publicly. Thankfully, brand monitoring tools make it easy to gather this information.
It can be very tempting to ignore or even delete negative comments on social media. Out of sight, out of mind right? Wrong. Here’s why your strategy should never be delete and ignore.
Social Media Users Trust Posts from Other Consumers
Research shows that social media users trust posts from other consumers more than those posted by brands. They take it the same as they would a recommendation from a family member or friend. Users also consider posts from other consumers more authentic than posts from brands.
If you ignore negative comments on social media rather than provide a response, you are inadvertently backing up these claims and providing fuel to any fire these comments may have caused.
Social Media is the New (and Transparent) Customer Service
Customers are tired of waiting in a queue to get customer service. Instead, they are taking to the social media platforms where they know they will get a speedy response, if they tag a brand in a negative social media comment.
Whether you like it or not, your followers are watching to see how you’ll respond. Your response will determine whether or not they perceive you as trustworthy and a company that cares about their customers. How you handle these support-seeking comments can be make or break when it comes to brand loyalty. And because social media is more transparent than other customer support channels, you must be extra careful how you respond to negative comments.
Social Media Has Become a Critical Aspect of Product Research
People are now using social media to research products. In fact, research by Salesforce shows that as much as 54% of millennials research products on social media before deciding to buy. They want to see the product in action and read what other customers have to say about their experience. That means they go through reviews and comments left by other users — including the negative ones.
If negative comments are handled well, it can flip what might have been a bad perception of your brand. If negative comments in social media are left unattended, well, it’s another instance of adding fuel to the flame.
5 Smart Ways to Use Negative Comments on Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is a powerful platform. Your customers love it because it gives them the power to hold your brand accountable. That’s why you must never trivialize social media comments, both positive and negative.
Too many negative comments about your brand could cause your customers to lose trust. In addition, unfortunately, negative comments tend to attract a lot of attention and can even go viral. While they do say all publicity is good publicity, you have to be proactive in turning negative comments on social media into good publicity.
So how can you do that?
1. Respond Quickly — With an Apology and Alternate Solution
Speed is of the essence when it comes to turning around negative comments on social media. Research from HBR shows that customers are willing to spend more on brands that respond within five minutes of their posting a negative comment. By following this strategy, Solitaired increased their customer satisfaction score by 16%.
However, your response must not just be fast. It must also be strategic. Respond with an apology and a solution to your customer’s gripe. Doing so will help you reduce customer churn: 67% of customer churn is preventable if the issue is resolved in the first engagement. Check out this example from Blueground:
Notice the customer’s response after the issue has been resolved. The upbeat tempo shows they’ll probably continue using the service.
While negative comments on social media may begin as bad publicity, responding quickly will help you turn the situation around by showing consumers that you have their best interests at heart.
2. Use Negative Comments to Show Your Brand’s Human Side
While it may not seem like it, sometimes negative comments on social media can be good for your brand identity.
If you handle the negative comments well, you can use the situation to showcase your brand’s human side. For example, you can use humor in your response to diffuse the situation like Sainsbury’s did:
However, remember to respond tactfully so as not to offend the customer and make them feel you’re trivializing their case. Another way of leveraging negative comments to show your brand’s human side is by employing empathy in your comments.
This will show the disgruntled customer, and everyone who sees the comment, that you’re not just about profits but people.
People value brands that have a human touch. Research by PwC shows that two-thirds of consumers believe most brands have lost their human touch. Furthermore, 75% of the survey respondents also say they would love to see more human interactions from brands in the future. This is exactly where you can use negative comments to your advantage.
Be vulnerable and let your customers know you do make mistakes sometimes.
Use trained customer support personnel to respond to negative comments. Don’t use robots — people can tell the difference. Thankfully, this has become easier thanks to remote work.
Use visuals in your responses. Make sure they relate to the negative comment, and if possible, include a touch of humor.
One thing that will also help you here is to have a defined brand personality. It will help your customers and social media followers feel like they’re engaging with a unique friend. It is likely that when they think of posting a negative comment on social media, they probably won’t be as harsh as they would typically be.
3. Demonstrate that Customer Experience is One of Your Brand Values
Customer experience (CX) has become the biggest brand differentiator. It has even overtaken product and price. That’s because today, customers have a wider choice of products to choose from within the same price range. As a result, they’d rather choose to partner with a brand based on the overall CX it provides: they’d rather buy from brands that make them feel good about their purchase.
That’s why you must use negative comments to demonstrate that your brand cares about giving customers an exceptional experience as they do business with you.
Customers want to see that you’re there for them and are concerned about making them happy. When you address their issues, they’ll even be more comfortable doing business with you again. They’ll become loyal customers. Here’s how JetBlue turned a negative comment on social media into an opportunity to show how much they value CX:
Use negative comments to demonstrate that one of your brand values is CX. Your customers and followers will love you for it.
On a side note, it’s excellent customer service like this that makes people interested in checking out your other digital platforms, like your blog, for example.
4. Use Negative Comments to Improve Your Products/Service Offerings
Another good use of negative comments on social media is to use them to improve your product/service offerings.
One reason people post negative comments about brands is that they didn’t get what they paid for. That’s pretty frustrating. Whether it’s a substandard product or poor service delivery, people will call you out on social media.
Instead of ignoring the negative comments, use them to improve your product/service. Here’s an example from electronic signature software brand, Pandadoc:
A negative comment on social media helped them iron out a bug in their application. A frustrated customer called out a bug in the product, of which other customers were also experiencing. As a result, the glitch was fixed and PandaDoc had a better product at the end of the day.
Remember, if one customer finds it imperative to leave a negative comment about your brand on social media, they’re probably not the only one disgruntled. Others are not happy but choose to be silent. Some will show their unhappiness by liking or sharing the negative comment. This means even if it’s just one negative comment, treat it with the same gravity as you would a protest against your brand.
The best way to address negative comments is not just by apologizing but by incorporating the feedback into your product development or service delivery. If possible, let your followers know in the same thread that you’ve sorted out the grievance. Also, thank the customer who posted the negative comment for helping you improve your brand—bonus points for offering them a free gift.
As much as you may have an excellent product, there’s usually more room for improvement. And that room for improvement is sometimes seen when a customer leaves a negative comment on social media. Don’t take it as an attack on your brand. Instead, look at it as the customer showing you what they’d like to see in your product.
5. Use Negative Comments to Generate Positive Reviews
Many brands make the mistake of deleting negative comments customers leave on social media. That is a grave mistake. For one, the affected customer will call you out for it, making matters worse. Secondly, it shows other customers that you don’t care about addressing their issues.
So what can you do about negative comments?
Turn them into positive comments like Southwest Airlines did:
When a customer leaves a negative comment on social media, they’re crying out to you for help. Go out of your way to help them and give them a positive customer experience. If you can manage to do that, they’ll rave about how you treated them. If they don’t, follow up on the same thread and ask them if they’re happy with how you resolved their issue.
One thing you must remember is that customers don’t mind if you mess up. What matters to them is how you respond to their grievances. If you can respond in a way that makes them happy, what started as a negative thread will be a thread on how great your brand is. And if you’re lucky, other customers will also chip in and share their positive experiences with your brand.
Negative Comments on Social Media Can Be Turned To Your Advantage
Negative comments on social media from frustrated customers (or trolls) can’t be avoided. Unfortunately, just like positive comments, negative comments have an impact on how customers view your brand. That’s because social media users trust posts from other customers more they trust posts from brands. As social media plays a huge role in product research, you must know how to respond to negative comments as they can shine a bad light on your brand and products.
Take control of how people view you by using negative comments on social media to your advantage. Use them to demonstrate that customer care is one of your core brand values. You can also use negative comments to:
Improve your products/service delivery
Show your brand’s human side
Generate positive reviews
Handled well, you can leverage negative comments on social media to your advantage. This will not only help you save face online, but will also enhance your products and brand image.