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Jun 20 2013

Dealing With Negative Comments on a Company’s Social Media Accounts

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The Q&A Team answers questions from ProfNet readers with advice from our large network of experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to polina.opelbaum@prnewswire.com

Dear Q&A Team,

A couple of weeks ago I was assigned to manage my company’s social media accounts. I started noticing negative comments being left on our different accounts, and I am not sure if I should delete/block or respond to these comments. What is the best and most professional way from me to deal with these attacks?

Lost in SM World

_____________________

Dear Lost in SM World,

Congrats on your challenging but exciting new role! Here are seven ProfNet experts who provide their insight on managing negative commentary on a company’s social media accounts:

Define the Attack

“First, define who is attacking you, because it might not be worth your time to pursue,” says Penny Sansevieri, president/CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. “It’s important to know the difference between an online attack and a difference of opinion. We’ve worked with authors who have gotten bad reviews and wanted them pulled. A bad review is not an online attack — it’s someone’s opinion of your product or book. They didn’t like it and it’s their right to voice that.”

Therefore, “if the negative comments are constructive and have merit, it’s critical to respond in a respectful, conversational and non-defensive way. Explain in a fact-based manner the brand’s position,” says Lisa Gerber, president of Big Leap Creative.

In addition, there can be times where the comment may be a customer service issue rather than a blatant negative comment that is delivered via social media and seems aggressive in nature.

“How you respond, and who should respond, should be known in advance throughout the organization,” explains Chris Dessi, CEO and founder of Silverback Social. For example, he says, “Is there a customer service email you can refer people to? A customer service phone number?”

Responding to a Negative Attack

Wikipedia defines a troll as “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseor otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Now that we know the “official” name of the individuals who attack, how do you deal with the attacks?

Peter LaMotte, senior vice president of LEVICK, says, “Your message needs to be clear and firm, and must communicate the company’s pre-determined position. If a firm is clear with their communication and stance, there is little more to add unless the conversation takes a new direction. A clear statement can also avoid time-consuming back-and-forth arguments.”

“The company should always be honest about how they are dealing with the issue,” added LaMotte. “If they legally can address the issue, they should never be anything less than transparent. Transparency shows that you have nothing to hide, so anything less than full transparency will exacerbate the issue. Finally, use your platforms to focus on the positive aspects of the issue. If steps are being taken to address the issue, use your blog to tell the story and then share that content across all of your social media platforms.”

Sansevieri agrees: “Communicate on your blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Don’t stop talking. That’s the first thing many big companies want to do: go silent. Silence is not golden. Be communicative.”

Some issues should be handled outside of social media, says Bill Corbett, president of Corbett PR. “Major concerns should be taken offline for discussions and communications with customers with issues.”

Sansevieri says, emailing the person and having a dialogue may be the last thing you want to do, but “step back and realize that going directly to the source could fix this much faster.”

As far as how quickly you should respond to the attack, Dessi recommends responding “as quickly as humanly possible. Really. No matter what, you must respond quickly. The faster you respond (even if you don’t have a solution for someone), the better. We like to at least say to people: ‘We hear you. Thank you for posting. We’re working on getting you an answer.’”

Read the full post by PR Newswire ProfNet editor Polina Opelbaum on Beyond PR.

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