While criticizing people and companies is nothing new, social media platforms have made it so that negative comments from bad actors have a much greater—and a longer-lasting—impression on the public.
Additionally, with platforms such as Twitter and Yelp making it easy for people to create fake accounts, the anonymity people can get on the Internet makes some of those bad actors a lot more comfortable with losing their sense of respect, decency and good manners—which, in turn, makes them share negative comments on those platforms.
Fortunately, there are several ways that companies can deal with those types of comments.
When a company is the target of a negative comment on social media, the company should respond as quickly as possible. The longer a negative comment is left unanswered by a business, the more time it gives for others to see that someone has complained about a business without the business making any sort of response.
By addressing any negative comments they receive as soon as possible, companies can prevent them from snowballing into something that's potentially more negative or damaging for a business and its reputation. A single negative comment or a reply on social media is going to be much less of an issue for a company to respond to, compared to a negative article or blog post which can have a long-lasting effect on a company's reputation.
When a company quickly responds to a negative comment, it shows to the public that the business cares about its customers and is listening to what they have to say. This allows other potential customers, as well as members of the public, to better understand how dedicated a business is to its customers.
Companies should react to negative comments publicly at first, and then take the conversation to a more private communication channel. For instance, if a customer is particularly negative or difficult to deal with, it's best for companies to take all communication with that particular customer to a private mode of communication.
Businesses can do that by sending the customer an email, or a private message, or even calling them up and explaining that the business wants to discuss the matter further in a way that provides a customer with a more personalized experience. This way, companies will give those negative customers and their comments the attention they're trying to get from the business, without making the entire interaction publicized for anyone to be able to see it and potentially misunderstand it.
There are certain cases where it’s perfectly fine for companies to delete negative comments that they receive. Those cases include any time someone is commenting on a topic that's unrelated to the content, or if their comment contains offensive language. In those types of cases, there's no harm in deleting that person’s negative comment.
However, if someone has a genuine complaint about a business, the company should never remove that comment. People can be incentivized to share even more negative comments if they end up getting censored, and this type of situation can make it look like the business is hiding something—which isn't good for any brand.
Matt Caiola is co-CEO and leader of the corporate technology & communications practice at 5WPR.