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Five Ways to Handle Negative Comments

August 2, 2011  

Whether bad-mouthing a product via Twitter or leaving a scathing review on Yelp, unhappy customers—or mischievous competitors—can and will sully your business, often through anonymous accounts. "While brand-bashing is nothing new," writes Pamela Seiple at the HubSpot blog, "the tools of the web and social media make the comments from these meanies even more lasting and impressionable." So how do you fight back? Seiple has advice like this:

Determine whether the comment deserves your attention. Some people leave outrageous comments with the sole purpose of generating conflict. If they don't seem to have a following, and anyone can see their comments are routinely malicious, their venomous feedback might not rate any reaction.

Make a quick response your first priority. The longer you let a negative comment go unanswered, the more credibility it gains with a user's friends and followers. An immediate reply, however, shows that you're paying attention and concerned about the problem.


Apologize, even if the customer is incorrect. A petty argument about who's right and who's wrong will accomplish little. And, notes Seiple, most observers see silly complaints for what they are.

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  • by Tom Brown Tue Aug 2, 2011 via web

    I do not agree with Apologizing. There are just some complaints that do not warrant any feedback period and should be removed. Mostly I refer to personal attacks.

    Too many people, attack the messenger and not the message or service. Leaving those comments available publicly only invite more attacks.
    In one client's case, we had a specific person creating multiple email addresses trying to leave very inappropriate comments on the blog and then posted the following question on the Facebook account.

    "I keep posting, but you keep removing it?"

    Simple enough. And we responded with the following

    "As a general rule for [websiteURL.com] and facebook, I allow and encourage posts that disagree with me, but if it is insulting, degrading or abusive, I will not post it. The purpose for allowing comments is to discuss the CONTENT of the message, not to vilify the messenger."

    This was posted on the Facebook as a status and NOT a reply to his question. This allowed us to reply quickly, actually start a conversation with others on facebook, answer his question, and not really validate his other attempted comments.

    It is your Blog/website/etc and you get to control it to a degree. Just don't be too heavy handed.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Wed Aug 3, 2011 via web

    Part of being on social networks is dealing with negative comments. The tricky part is weeding out the trolls who just want to fight for the sake of fighting, and the real customers with real issues. Rule of thumb-kill them with kindness.

  • by Dan Soschin Wed Aug 3, 2011 via web

    I encourage folks to develop a triage plan that has a well defined system for classifying the comment and clarifying to your organization whether it merits a reply. Many negative comments do not as you rightly pointed out. These negative comments are posted by trolls looking for a fight. The anonymity of the web should discredit posts like those, but unfortunately, if you do not control the forum, it is a challenge to have it removed. We often recommend abstaining altogether and have found that our happy customers will come to our defense. There's a great flow chart graphic the Air Force developed and you can read about it here: http://www.dansoschin.com/2011/05/23/how-to-respond-to-a-negative-post/

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