Online reputation management is never black and white and every case if different. But whether someone is posting on your company Facebook page, commenting on your blog or posting their own negative content independently from your social platforms there are a few simple things to have in mind before you respond.
Getting your response wrong could have catastrophic results. Have a read of this blog post I wrote for Speed Communications a while back on crisis management for brands. It outlines some great examples of how not to go about dealing with negative press.
The list below outlines a few of the basics. With this in mind and with some good old common sense you should in most cases be able to deal effectively with negative comments.
1. Be transparent: Honesty is always the best policy – Don’t try and counter act negative posts with fake positive ones! State who you are and that you are a representative of the company in question.
2. Fix obvious customer service problems, just as you would if a customer called your customer service line. Be honest and courteous in your reply. Doing so shows the online community that you are committed to putting the customer first, and that you clean up your mistakes. If you solve the poster’s problem quickly, you may even earn a positive follow-up post.
3. Respond individually and personally when applicable. Acknowledge their complaint and offer a public apology explaining how you are dealing with the problem.
4. Be polite and take their argument on board- Never, ever, fight fire with fire. This is only going to make matters worse and is likely to attract more attention possibly angering the community around the post.
5. Respond directly to the comment – Don’t use “bad plastic surgery” to try and cover it up. This will be detrimental and will make people more fixated in the negative comments
6. Counteract negative posts with evidence – If the person in question is in the wrong then prove it but not in a confrontational manner as this could just make things worse!
7. Build up a profile within forums where possible: If you are getting flack within forums then make sure you yourself are active in these spaces. There is no point just popping up and responding to criticism as you will have absolutely no credibility and are unlikely to be taken seriously. However, if people are used to seeing and hearing from you anyway and you are providing them with good content and advice then what you say will carry more weight.
8. Try and take the conversation offline : Do this after you have made a public response so that your initial response is visible to others who will have seen the negative post. Ask for an email address or give them yours and try to move the conversation away from the public sphere.
9. Contribute to the conversation by leaving comments, writing guest posts, or setting up a blog for your company. As in any community, members of these online hubs are more trusting of people and companies they hear from—so give them a change to get to know you.
10. Offer additional resources. If the negative post refers to a common customer service issue, leave a comment pointing the post’s author to your company’s resources surrounding the issue. If the post poses a new problem, add that issue to your company’s online support desk. Doing so will help to prevent future frustration for your customers. There’s no better way to take a proactive, positive stance on a negative blog post than to provide additional resources.
11. Consider the tone of voice for the specific platform (If someone posts on Twitter respond using the same tone of voice for that channel i.e. informal and direct)
12. Don’t respond to everything at once- If you are unfortunate to have loads of negative comments about you especially on the same website/forum then a) Think about why this many people feel the need to publicly spurn you and b) don’t just fly in and try to deal with them all at once.
13. Prioritise which posts should be responded to – With the previous point in mind, don’t respond to everything as this will be perceived as spammy and bad practise. Think about which is the most damaging and respond to this one first.
14. Back up your response with factual information – It’s always better for everyone involved that the response be substantive and informed, not hastily put together before all the facts are known and interested parties consulted.
15. If comment is false or factually incorrect, contact the blogger or webmaster and politely notify him/her that the information is incorrect. On some occasions you may be able to remove the comment.
16. When relevant link to an ‘official’ page on the site that will back up the claim, however you must be very careful when posting links, this can be viewed as spammy if done too much or if it leads to information that doesn’t directly support the comment.