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Did you know that 98% of people have at least one social media account? It should be no surprise that many companies rely heavily on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn to share their stories, nurture leads and connect with their customer base. Social platforms also provide a direct line of communication to key audiences, often leveraged to engage in real-time customer service. When used effectively, social media fosters an authentic connection through each step of the purchasing process.

From a customer standpoint, social media provides a wealth of information in regard to product or service recommendations. People might scroll through a post’s comments to get an honest perspective on others’ experiences with your company, and positive or negative comments may play a powerful role in influencing their decision to make an eventual purchase.

But what can a company do when negative comments start popping up on their profile? It’s true that online negativity and criticism can spread like wildfire, but don’t despair. Managing online negativity with a level-headed and strategic approach can lead to quick resolution. Here are a few tips to keep your online followers satisfied and engaged.

Always Respond to Comments to Show You’re Engaged

Do your best to respond to 100% of legitimate comments — both the good and the bad. Doing so shows that your brand cares about its customers and your public-facing image. Don’t ignore online criticism and simply hope it goes away. If you continue ignoring negative comments when they occur, they could build to a point of damaging your company’s reputation. In that case, it requires a lot more work to improve relations and get back on track.

Respond Promptly, Before More Negativity Spreads

Don’t give the negative comments time to multiply through retweeting and sharing. Instead, actively monitor comments so you can address issues quickly when they first appear. Angry followers — especially if they feel like they’re not being listened to — can go rogue across multiple posts, only getting angrier. One disgruntled customer can easily transform into numerous unhappy customers if you wait too long to respond.

Assess Whether Communications Should be Public or Private

In some cases, a good way to immediately soothe an angry commenter is to invite them to contact a customer service rep via phone or email, or message your page directly. Keep your response solution oriented rather than combative or defensive — after all, you want to help them. This also allows you to resolve the issue without an audience of other followers, keeping the drama to a minimum.

Otherwise, your company might decide to respond publicly, especially if you feel that other followers could benefit from the information. There might be other people watching the comment thread with the same question.

Keep Your Stellar Customer Service Front-and-Center

It’s amazing how far compassionate, attentive customer service can go. It’s possible an unhappy customer is really just looking for someone to help them out — and just needs you to make the first step. Reach out with a kind and accommodating tone. On the other hand, companies that respond to negative comments with rudeness or sarcasm only make the situation worse. No matter how unfounded you think the feedback is, keep it cordial and classy.

Prepare Your Team with an Appropriate Response Plan

What if you keep seeing the same complaint, over and over again on your profile(s)? In this situation, it might be helpful to create a bank of response templates you and your customer service reps can rely on when these issues arise. These templates should help you quickly engage and drive the conversation to a private location to resolve the problem. Moreover, this could signal a larger communication issue. Take a step back to see if your company needs to update the website, clarify user instructions or send proactive emails.

Block or Ban Trolls

Social media can be a wonderful place for connection and growth, but it can also foster some unpleasantness. If your company or organization is targeted by a troll — someone who won’t stop posting negative or inappropriate comments even after a diligent effort to address the issue on your end — you have the option to block or ban them from your page.

With the best communication methods, issues on social media can be quickly resolved well before they develop into a crisis. It’s imperative your company monitors any comments pertaining to your brand and has the resources to respond to criticism in a timely fashion. It might be helpful to create a private channel for people to submit negative feedback and get an appropriate response. Further, collaborating with a social media marketing firm can help your company hone and maintain a responsive online presence.

Most importantly, keep all company communications professional and friendly — sometimes this is enough to douse the online flames.

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