Social media is supposed to be just that – social. If someone takes the time to comment on your post or page, respond to them using best customer service practices. Engage with your audience and you will build champions and advocates.

This is easy to do when the comments are positive. Thank them for their comment, give them a shout-out, ask a follow-up question, etc. By doing this you are starting (or continuing) a conversation and you will begin to build a relationship and trust.

What about when the comment is negative or false?

Before we get into some strategies for that, let’s take a minute to look at overall best practices when it comes to social media conversations:

  1. Be aware of your social media policy, terms of service and what you can or cannot do under those guidelines.
  2. Know who to go to if things heat up – general counsel, communications director, team manager, etc.
  3. Take time to craft a good response; don’t rush. This is especially true if the initial comment causes you to feel defensive, hurt or angry. It is never a good idea to engage with anyone on social media from an emotional perspective.
  4. If it will take time to develop or research a response, post a short comment to acknowledge you saw their question and that you are working to find the information they need.
  5. When you respond, use the tone of voice that reflects your organization (professional, conversational, hip, etc. This should be stated in your organization’s brand guide).

Given these basic guidelines, here are some tips for responding to less-than-positive Facebook comments:

Monitor only – do not respond

  • If the source is dedicated to bashing or degrading others, such as a[MOU1]  vocal community activist with a clear agenda, you should avoid responding.
  • If the post is a rant, rage, joke or satirical in nature, do not comment or reply. These can be very tricky because you can’t judge the tone or intent with online comments.
  • If the negative comment is from a person or source that is credible and with strong viewership, such as a local elected official or your local paper, you should probably not engage. This is especially true if their trust level is higher than yours in the community.

Fix the facts

  • If the comment has misinformation or blatant lies you will want to reply. Be sure your response is transparent. Explain the situation, cite sources and identify yourself (see “pro tip” below).

Respond

  • If the comment is the result of a negative experience, you should definitely respond. Write a public response to a public complaint that invites the person to contact you directly to resolve the situation. Try to avoid a back-and-forth online conversation. If you know the person and can contact them directly, do so. Resolve the matter offline, then go back online and post a thank you to the person for taking the time to resolve it. This allows the public to see that you are responsive and care about peoples’ experiences.

Pro tip

When engaging with an angry or negative comment online, it is always helpful to add your first name to your response (if allowed in your social media guideline). It is much easier for someone to be emotional and disrespectful towards an organization, as opposed to another person. This strategy has a tendency to deescalate things quickly. Here is an example:

Facebook Example