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A guest post by Greg Scott.

Everybody loves and hates Facebook at times. It’s a great way to build your brand, whether you’re a business, a band, or a worthy cause. You can get fans quickly, spread the word, and create an online community using Facebook's ready-made platform.

But it just takes one visitor leaving a negative comment on your Facebook Fan Page to ruin your whole weekend and make you hate social media once and for all. People can do a lot to damage your reputation on Facebook, but there are things you can do to save face and even turn it around completely into a boost for your brand.

Resist the Urge to Hate Back

Your first impulse will be to hit "reply" and put that hater right in their place. It would certainly feel good---but it can actually do worse damage to your reputation. The reason is that you look defensive. Even if you reply with a witty comeback that you know will get your other fans chuckling, it’s obvious that the hater hit a nerve.

Instead, you should take a few deep breaths. Although you need to respond as soon as possible, give yourself the time and thinking space to respond appropriately. Otherwise, you (and your company/brand/etc.) look like a jerk as well.

The Nature of the Hating

How you should respond depends on the nature of the negative comment. Is it an unhappy customer? Is it constructive criticism? Or is it just trolling and spamming? The first step in responding is to figure out where they’re coming from.

If you’ve been trolled, spammed, flamed, or otherwise meaninglessly attacked, delete the comment. No one’s going to miss it. None of your other fans will be shocked that the comment yesterday that said "U SUKK" is gone today. You might consider reporting it as spam to Facebook and banning the user.

If it’s a legitimate complaint, criticism or problem, make it one of today’s high-priority tasks to craft your response.

Replying the Right Way

I don’t mean to lay on the pressure here, but your response is critical. It’s your chance to turn this negative comment into a PR opportunity that shows your concern for your fans.

When you reply to negative Facebook comments, there are four things to aim for:

  • Acknowledge the comment and admit to your faults (if there’s any legitimacy to what they say).

  • Offer an explanation to help them understand.

  • Show that you’re working to resolve the issue.

  • Encourage more discussion from your fans.

All of these show that you’re concerned about the products or services that you offer---and also concerned about what your fans think. Any combination of these four will create a good response that can turn a negative comment into an opportunity for you.

Example 1: The Case of the Shoddy Gym Gear

Here’s an example. Let’s say that your company sells home gym equipment. Somebody gets on your fan page and says, "I bought this piece of crap two days ago and the straps are already broken!"

A good response would be something like, "Fred, thanks for drawing my attention to this. Can you explain in more detail about how they broke? We’re in the development phase of our next model, and we want to address every customer issue. Please email us, and we’ll give you a refund."

What an awesome company! They care about quality and customers. What this says to other Facebook fans is that you care about the quality of your products and the happiness of your customers. You admitted your fault, and you’re going to resolve the issue so that Fred is totally satisfied. OK, he could’ve been nicer in his comment and not called it crap, but it’s just water off a duck’s back for you.

Example 2: Website Design Wackiness

Here’s another one. Let’s say that you’ve got a fan page site for your design company. Somebody gets onto your Facebook fan page and says, "It looks like you guys do nice work, but, good grief! White text on black background? That’s a rookie mistake!"

Ouch! They called your professional design company a bunch of amateurs. With a comment like this, you might say something like, "Thanks for the tip, Jarvis. We thought that the black background worked well with the banner we’re using, but now that you mention it, the white text is a little tough on the eyes. Any other opinions on this?"

Again, you’re acknowledging the comment and taking it as a bit of constructive criticism. You explained that you guys aren’t rookies, thank you very much, but designers who chose the black background for a reason (without saying it in those exact words). You’re also asking for more opinions. That shows that you’re interesting in what other fans have to say.

The Good News About Bad Comments

A negative comment can be a good thing. It gives you a chance to show off your customer service skills and create a dialog for your fans. When you get negative comments, this also means that you’re getting fans and traffic. It means that people are interested in your business and what you have to offer.

Of course, this isn’t the case if it’s just some moron blasting you for no good reason. In that case, erase it and forget about it.

One thing to keep in mind is that whenever anybody succeeds at anything, they always have haters. It comes with the territory. Think of this when you get discouraged by negative comments. There are lots of people who love to hate those who are successful.

Greg Scott is a freelance writer at Greg Scott Writes. He blogs about Japan at BlogIt Japan and plays in several Tokyo bands.

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