The blog-o-sphere and Facebook world is a public one. People can comment, vent, complain, rant… you name it. So what happens when you have a sizeable internet presence and people start getting snarky and down right rude? Do you delete what’s negative? Do you tell people where to go? Do you ask people to stop?
None of the above. First things first – don’t overreact. It’s not the end of the world. You handle it like you would in real life. This might be a hard thing to agree with, and I understand that ahead of time, before I even say it, but… these are opportunities. As such, they must be handled with finesse and care. If you don’t – you could add to the potential damage versus neutralizing its impact.
To understand what you’re dealing with, first you need to understand there are two types of negativity you’ll encounter: Reactive, and Proactive. In the former, people are responding to something you’ve put out there and you’ve reminded them of your existence by posting something, and this is used as an opportunity to air their viewpoint or experience. In the latter, people are usually so riled up that they are going out of their way to say something negative to you, in a public space.
In both instances, do not censor people or delete what they’ve said (unless they are doing something that fits one of the below conditions). Leave it there, as an opportunity to look like a rock-star for being so good to your patrons, and to show your integrity. It’s easy to bask in the sunshine and roses, but it takes a company with courage, pride and integrity to leave the negative right there for the world to see. It gives people an opportunity to respect you, and to weigh the good with the bad, and decide for themselves. If you let people come to their own conclusions after you’ve handled it right, you’ll be pleased to see that people will think more of you as a result of you taking the high road.
Handling Reactive Negativity
Like anything else, you must first understand the root of it before you can determine a good cause of action. Is is something you truly did wrong, and people are merely reacting to it? Is it something that people are pissed about in general? Did someone hear a rumor and they’re reacting to it? Is it someone just making stuff up? Whatever it is, understanding that before you respond is critical.
Once you understand the root, you can then take action. First and foremost, the most important element to your reaction and my advice – is to be devoid of emotion before you reply. If you reply emotionally, you will lose the argument. You run the risk of getting defensive, getting caught in an argument, making it worse and more. Not to mention – it can really ruin your whole day.
- DO: Remove emotion before replying in any fashion. Once you’re 100% emotionless, then reply with caution
- DO: Understand the root of what it is, and where it’s coming from, and decide a course of action, planning it out before execution
- DO: Take a “best customer service” approach in your reply
- DO: Since the negativity was public, you should also respond in public
- DO: Acknowledge how they feel, thank them for sharing their thoughts with you, and be very polite.
- DO: Own up to it (if you did something wrong, and deserve to), or correct them politely (if they are mistaken) and point out what is correct.
- DO: Apologize for people’s experience – whether or not it’s your fault, and state how you care about people’s happiness with your brand
- DO: Reply in one bulk response if multiple people are complaining about the same thing
- DON’T: Get in an argument with people by trying to be defensive. Stating your case simply, with ownership of wrongdoing, and with an apology, and conclude it there.
- DON’T: Blame people, not accept ownership, or act like it didn’t happen. Ignoring people will not bode well for you.
- DON’T: Delete what they said and not reply. That’s just exceptionally bad form.
If you do all these things right, you should find that it either kills the momentum of the negativity, and it stops, OR (and I’ve seen this) a few rotten eggs may continue, but you’ll find others coming to your defense for you because they saw that you handled yourself with grace.
Handling Proactive Negativity
In this case, someone has got to be pretty riled up to do this. If they’ve emailed you and its not public, then still treat them with care and respect, but you don’t need to do it publicly. When someone makes a point to take time out of their day to write something negative on your Facebook wall or elsewhere, you owe it to them to reply in kind.
It’s important to remember the difference between replying to a big crowd versus one angry person. You’d be surprised what one angry person can do to you, regardless of the size of your business. Never be so arrogant to think that one person can’t cost you countless revenues. That being said, the same bullet points from above apply here, but with these also:
- DO: Address the person by name, and make your note personal
- DO: Invite the person to share more of their thoughts with you, and tell them how much you care about their input
- DON’T: Give them a canned answer that is the same as every other reply you’ve given
In either case of either reactive or proactive, remember what it’s like to be the angry customer that you don’t think “THEY” care about. Put your own needs aside for a moment and consider things from their point of view. Most often, people are being negative for a reason.
When It’s OK to Censor/Delete
There are times that censoring or deleting what people have said is appropriate, but I caution you – please do this under extreme care and as infrequently as possible. Don’t confuse a gripe with something that needs to be censored.
- Vulgarity or swearing
- Spam or scam
- Contains hate speech or attacks an individual
- Violence, crime, or self-harm
- Nudity, pornography, or sexually explicit content
Any of these are grounds for deletion, and may warrant banning from your fan page or elsewhere.