Responding to Social Media Criticism

Recent social media statistics show that 90 percent of young adults are tuned in to social media, and usage rates by adults 65 and older continue to grow. Smartphones have become a nearly ubiquitous tool in our society and it’s very likely that at some point your establishment’s patrons are going to seek out your Facebook page, spread word about your business on Twitter, or rate their experiences on a review site like Yelp. No matter how carefully your operation is monitored, you won’t be able to please everybody and some of your customers will have a negative experience to share. Although massive chains can afford to be lax about responding to social media comments, a local business handling social media criticism appropriately can have a huge impact on its public perception.

How to Handle Social Media Criticism

Because social media connects you directly to your customers, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp should be seen as extensions of your customer service. Just as you wouldn’t ignore a customer lodging a complaint in person, you shouldn’t ignore the chance to respond to social media comments and improve the situation. While it’s easier to respond positively to a complimentary post or mention, critical posts can be handled in a way that changes customers’ opinions and lets onlookers know that your business cares about each guest’s experience. Below are some tips for turning your critics into fans.

Respond in a timely fashion. Customers interacting with your business on social media expect a quick response, and while you may not have the resources to constantly monitor your accounts, they should be monitored regularly. Having notifications set up for new mentions and posts or checking your accounts at the beginning, middle, and end of the day can help ensure that issues are dealt with before the customer is left waiting for too long.

Leave the “if” out of it. By responding, “We’re sorry if this happened,” you’re telling the customer that you don’t believe them. Even if you suspect the customer’s complaint is the result of a miscommunication or an exaggeration of events, acknowledging the situation with an apology will start the conversation off on the right foot. “We’re sorry we didn’t provide an enjoyable visit” lets your customer know you take his or her bad experience seriously.

Don’t respond to negativity with negativity. It can be tempting to respond to a negative post with more negativity, especially if the poster’s tone or message feels like a personal attack. However, responding angrily will escalate the situation and reflect poorly on your business when other customers see it. You want your business to be known for what it’s serving, not its poor social media management or temperamental customer service.

Maintain transparency. Handling social media criticism by deleting negative reviews and posts can turn your customers against you. Just as those posting to your page will notice if you ignore their comments, they will notice if posts go missing. Deleting poor reviews instead of addressing them can make your business seem untrustworthy.

Establish a protocol. Before your restaurant ever gets its first bad review, you should create a plan that outlines how you expect employees to respond to social media criticism. It can be tempting to give multiple employees access to your accounts to make posting visual content easier, but having so many social media managers can backfire, as disgruntled employees can use your account against you and personal tweets can accidentally be sent to professional accounts. If an employee has access to your accounts, he or she should be trained to handle them according to the social media plan you’ve established to avoid any mismanagement.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English. Passionate about Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and all things geeky, she spends her free time playing tabletop and video games, collecting beer caps from craft breweries around the country, and celebrating the Cubs' 2016 World Series win. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.

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