One of the most common questions I get asked by clients is, “How do you deal when something negative is written about you on the web?” While each situation is different I wanted to create some basic social media response plan on how to typically respond and deal with negative posts in social media.
1) Evaluate the commentary- The first thing you need to do is understand what the blogger or writer is writing about. Is it a customer service issue that needs to be taken care of? If so address it quickly and respond showing that you care about their issues and want to work with them to take care of it. Remember that with social media you need to response promptly so the issue doesn’t snowball. Also it is a great opportunity to learn about what you are potentially doing wrong and improve it. Situations like these allow you to turn something you may perceive as negative into something profoundly positive.
Is it someone bashing your business, you personally, or perhaps spreading misinformation? If so you need to consider when the post went up, the size of the website, and the potential impact it can have. While you may want to storm in and engage it isn’t always the right choice.
If the post is old and it isn’t currently showing up in search rankings around your brand then I would ignore it and move on. By responding to a negative post months after the fact it will only reignite the attention around the post. However if it is showing up in search results around your brand I would comment on the post correcting any misinformation, addressing any issues, and responding in a professional manner.
Besides the date and what the post is about you need to evaluate the source.
2) Evaluate the source- If the post is on a small website that gets very little traction you can respond to it but consider a few things. If it is purely a “troll like” post on a site that gets very little traffic (Alexa ranking of a million or more, low subscriber rate, or low commenting) and doesn’t rank very well with search engines then either let it go or write a measured, well thought-out response and move on. If the post is negative in a totally unfounded way or just looking to ignite controversy giving the poster your attention will only just fuel it.
Engaging a troll on their home field is just going to waste your time.
If they have a larger following or write on a semi well known site, try to get in early with a response. (You should be monitoring your brand, posts should never be a shock.) If there are a lot of comments already and the comments are threaded try to respond to one of the early comments so your point of view can be displayed towards the top. When you cut in though respond to the person directly don’t use it as a chance to just cut into the top because you risk drumming up more controversy or negative attention around that.
3) Don’t draw unneeded attention to the post- DO NOT push the posts on social networks no matter how clever your response is. DO NOT put out a tweet trying to circle the wagons and get people to side with you. By drawing attention to a negative post you are possibly creating backlinks, legitimizing their claims, allowing it to gain steam, and wasting time and energy on something that will eventually go away.
Remember the initial commentary always happens within the first 48 hours usually. Write a response and don’t obsess over every comment. Remember you are playing on their home turf with an audience that is going to side with the original poster nine times out of ten. You really want to be concerned about is how it ranks with search engines not the short term commenting impacts. If it ranks well or has potential to rank well it is important to have a well thought-out response early in the comments.
When negative posts arise remember that each situation may require a little bit different strategy and each person, website, and commentary is different than the last. Don’t go in guns blazing to a post. Take a deep breath, think strategically, and relax.