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Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect with family and friends all over the world, at the click of a mouse. It’s changed the way we communicate and the way we stay in touch. You probably also know that social media isn’t just for personal connections – it’s also a powerful tool for building your small business’s reputation, audience, and customer base. Social media allows you to connect with your customers on a more human level, answer questions, share real-time updates, and build loyalty.

For all of the business-boosting benefits of social media, one of the more frustrating aspects of this powerful tool is that you can do all of the reputation management work you want, but you can’t control your customers’ comments on your social media accounts. Because you’re a human and your business isn’t perfect, you’re inevitably going to have a customer or two who have a negative experience and who decide to share that experience with others. However, this isn’t all a bad thing. Negative feedback allows you to learn from your mistakes and improve the customer experience. If you only ever get positive feedback, you’ll never learn how you can do better.

In a 2011 quote in Entrepreneur, Gail Goodman said the following about negative feedback:

Unfiltered feedback from customers is positive even when it’s negative. A bad or so-so online review can help you because it gives customers certainty that the opinion is unbiased.

When you handle negative feedback gracefully, own up to your mistakes, and use it as an opportunity to do better, you’ll not only have a chance at winning back your unhappy customer, but you’ll also earn yourself new customers in the process. In this post, we’ll give you some tip for handling negative customer feedback on your Facebook page, as well as helpful tips for avoiding the negative situation altogether.

Tip 1: Respond to every negative Facebook comment gracefully

It can be tempting to give into the urge to get defensive when a customer posts something negative about your company on social media, however, this will never serve you well in the long run. It’s difficult not to take comments like these personally, but it’s best to make it a personal policy that you’ll maintain your professionalism with every customer, both on and offline. Responding sarcastically or rudely will not only lose you the chance to win back that customer, but it will cause you to lose much more business than the one negative comment could ever do on its own.

When you encounter a negative comment, try to see the situation from the customer’s perspective. Was there something you could have done differently to improve their experience? Was the issue an error on your part or one of your employees? Fulfill your commitment to your customers by admitting you were wrong, apologizing to the customer, and looking into all claims of wrongdoing. Commit to make the situation right for the customer as often as you can.

According to a customer service study by HelpScout, it’s 5 to 25 percent more expensive to attract a new customer rather than keep the ones you already have. Doing all you can to repair a bad customer experience gives you the chance to turn a negative into a positive, and to earn a lifelong customer. Many unhappy clients can be won over if they see that you’re committed to improving your customer experience.

Tip 2: Never ignore negative comments

Another mistake to avoid when it comes to handling negative comments is ignoring the comments altogether. This is an unwise strategy for several reasons. Firstly ignoring the comment will not make it go away, and secondly, if you decline to respond, your unhappy customer will have even more ammo to use against you. Take every negative experience seriously and respond respectfully, even if all you can say is that you’re looking into the situation and will get back in touch with them.

If you need to, take a few hours to clear your head before responding, and then do so in an appropriate manner. If you absolutely do not want to engage with the customer on your public Facebook page, respond politely with instructions on how you contact you directly, whether that’s via Facebook Messenger, email or phone. And when they contact you, respond promptly and politely. You’ll also likely find that if you take the conversation to a private venue, the customer will often be much calmer and willing to rationally discuss the issue, without other people fanning the flames of discord on your public page.

Tip 3: Create a social media policy

Social media is intended to be a way for you to connect with your audience and a place for your customers to discuss your products and services with each other. However, because of the conversational nature of social media, some negative comments are bound to come in. Unfortunately, you can’t do much to prevent this, other than giving your customers the best experience possible and promptly addressing problems as they occur. However, some customer feedback is offensive, inappropriate, or otherwise unhelpful to the page discussion, and could be classified as abuse or slander of your company if there are negative claims that are unfounded.

You can avoid situations like these by developing a social media policy to let your audience know what type of conversation and comments are acceptable and not acceptable on your Facebook page. Adding this to your “About” section will make your policy very clear to customers, and if they choose to violate it, you’re at liberty to delete the comment or ban them from your page.

Here’s a great example of a social media policy from Target’s Facebook page:

We love hearing your thoughts. The Target Facebook page is a community for our fans to actively engage with Target and each other.

Please note, however, that comments, videos and pictures posted to the Target Facebook page are not representative of the opinions of Target and we do not confirm the accuracy of any postings.

Target reserves the right to review and delete any fan posting for any or no reason, including any posting we determine in our sole discretion is inappropriate or offensive or otherwise violates our Terms of Use. Repeat offenders will be removed from the community.

It’s not likely that your fans will often see the policy on their own, but it’s helpful to have publicly available anytime you need to send the link to a user who’s violating your page rules.

Tip 4: Have a list of Facebook stock responses at the ready

Another way to make managing your company’s Facebook page easier is by developing a list of stock responses. Very often, users will have similar questions about your products or services, and instead of having to type out the same response 10 times a day, you can create one response per Frequently Asked Question, along with helpful links to your website for each. This makes your life much easier, as all you need to do is copy-and-paste the stock response. This document can also serve as a procedural guide for certain types of questions and can help your social media manager know when it’s appropriate to handle a negative comment on their own and when they need to escalate it to management. This stock response document can also easily be converted to a FAQ page for your website where you can send customers who have similar types of questions.

Tip 5: Know when to hide negative comments

Unless a user has violated a social media policy that you’ve put into place and publicly posted, it’s usually not a good idea to delete comments. Doing so makes you look shady and like you’re trying to doctor your public image. Deleting comments will often invite even more vitriol from the person who’s comment you deleted, which only makes your original problem worse. However, you may occasionally decide that you need to “hide” a comment from your company’s Facebook page to avoid having negative comments front-and-center.

To do this, hover your mouse over the negative comment and look for the “X’ in the upper right hand corner of the comment. If you’re moderating a business Facebook page, the option to “Hide” the comment will appear. This strategy can be very helpful as it allows you to maintain a clean public profile, and the comment still appears publicly for the user who posted it and friends of the poster. A win-win for both of you. A word of warning, however – only hide comments that you’ve already begun the process of resolving. Don’t hide a comment simply to ignore it – this will cause you even more reputation problems that you don’t need.

Get pro help with reputation management

Managing social media is a lot for small business owners to handle. After all, there’s a reason many people are employed full-time in social media marketing! Running a business and ensuring that everyone is happy and well taken care of on your Facebook page can be stressful, but we’re here to help. Big Leap Marketing specializes in helping small businesses like yours manage your online reputation, including mastering Facebook marketing. Sign up for your free Big Leap social media consultation today – let us handle Facebook so you can get back to focusing on the aspects of your business that you do best.

Meg Monk
Meg Monk is a freelance writer and content strategist based in Salt Lake City. When she's not writing about marketing strategy, she's camping in Utah's mountains in her 1976 Airstream or planning her next international trip - 29 countries and counting! You can find more of her work at megmonk.com.