How to Handle a Negative Comment in Social Media

Earlier this month, something happened that increased my respect for the city newspaper. Actually, the paper itself did nothing unusual. Rather, one of its loyal employees did something worthy of commendation.

What did he do? Well, he talked to me. He engaged me in a conversation. That’s it. Simple, yet profound.

Let me explain why I found that to be so significant.

Two days after the World Series ended, I noticed that the newspaper including Game 6 in its TV listings. On my Facebook status I wrote, “If anyone at the paper watched TV, they’d know the series ended a couple days ago.” I also made a snide remark about the “dead tree” medium, using a broad brush to make a fine point. That elicited a few comments, including two from Facebook friends who are former newspaper journalists.

That night, long after I’d gone to bed, another Facebook friend wrote something I found quite profound. He said, “The section where TV listings are located prints early, but point taken. As someone who still loves to read the ‘dead tree’ and who also is marketing the media company that makes it, what advice would you share?”

Why was his two-sentence comment commendable? Here are six reasons I valued his response:

  1. He did not ignore my negative comment. Instead, he talked to me. He listened and responded.
  2. He communicated with me on the same social media platform I originally used. He did not redirect me, suggesting that I call customer service or write a letter to the editor.
  3. He did not take my negative comment personally. He responded in a sincere, professional manner.
  4. He provided additional information that helped me to see things from a different perspective.
  5. He responded person-to-person. I knew I was not getting a formal, canned reply from a faceless corporate entity. I was talking to a real person, a Facebook friend who also happened to work at the company.
  6. He asked a question, implying that he valued what I had to say. His question also indicating his willingness to keep the conversation going.

I admire the way my friend handled this situation. He taught me some valuable lessons on how to respond to a negative comment in the social media.

I work at the American Red Cross. If someone says something negative about my organization, I hope to respond in a similar, positive manner. As a reminder to myself, and also as a suggestion to others swimming here in this murky social media pool, I hold up my Facebook friend as an example of someone who is doing things right in this evolving 2.0 world in which we live.

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4 Responses to How to Handle a Negative Comment in Social Media

  1. Dawn Dawson says:

    Would say any comment even if perceived to be negative should be embraced as the sum total of the parts make us whole. Another add is be sure you know what platform you are using and it’s specific functions.

    My example is the other day I made a industry related comment on Tweetdeck (Twitter) via a Tweet and added the person’s @ on the end. This shows up in mentions and I often do this to get someone’s attention or let them know what I’m thinking. (blah, blah, blah @northlandfox).

    The individual immediately took offense (similar) how dare I DM (direct message/imply), and even though I responded via Twitter & a personal e-mail to elaborate, continued with negativity via Tweets, a would be response disaster for the org if it happens. I.E. bad Twitter Etiquette on their part as would not allow me to have my opinion. Mentions are defined as “A mention is any Twitter update that contains @username in the body of the tweet.”

    Well now that I may have befuddled many with my Star Treckish Vulcan speak I simply say thanks for more insight and another good post. : )

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Thanks, Dawn, for sharing your example. It illustrates how misunderstanding can occur when we’re trying to communicate via social media.

  2. Almitrab says:

    It is amazing how a business/organization listening to its audience, and responding in a helpful way, has a positive impact beyond the event. I had a poor experience at Panera Bread and posted about it on its fan page. Within minutes Panera commented with an apology and encouraged me to let the manager know.

    Also, the manager apologized and promised to make it right. On my next visit, he did!

    I think that’s another important part of the new social media communication. Making the real world interaction as positive as the SM interaction!

  3. Duane Hallock says:

    Almitra, I learn best when I see a demonstration of how something was done right. Your experience with Panera is a good example of that. Too often I find anecdotes of how people use social media inappropriately, but your story was worth sharing. Panera was listening and they responded quickly. Thanks for your comment.

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