How Should I Respond to Criticism on Social Media?

There are two types of people in the world: those who are on social media, and those who couldn’t retweet if their lives depended on it. Social media has a become a tool used for more than just sharing pictures of your lunch, and if your business isn’t active on it you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to connect with customers.

As useful a tool as it may be, social media also provides another outlet for unhappy customers to share their criticism – only now, these disparaging comments are public for all your customers to see. In an age where the internet can be your judge, jury and executioner, it’s important to approach your social media strategy with a game plan and prepare for a variety of conversations. Here are some tips on how to come across as professional and helpful via social media, even with your toughest customers.

Stay On Top Of It

The internet and social media specifically have made virtually any piece of information available immediately. If a customer can’t solve a problem online or find the answer on your FAQ page, there’s a good chance they’ll take to social media to avoid a long wait on the phone.

The sooner you address the comment, the sooner you can find a resolution, help your customer, and steer clear of any backlash. Another plus to responding quickly: other customers will notice that you’re on top of things and feel more confident in your business overall.

To ensure a rapid response to every question, create a social media response team or designate a few members of your customer support department to address inquiries as soon as they come in.

Take The High Road

Not all questions or comments that come through your social channels will feel fair or even polite. When someone comes to your Twitter or Facebook with harsh criticism, ignore the devil on your shoulder that encourages a passive aggressive or defensive response.

It’s crucial to stay positive in the face of angry customers, just as you would in person. Address the issue, offer a solution, and give further options follow up should they need more assistance.

Be Real

There’s a reason your customers are tweeting and posting on your Facebook Timeline instead of calling an automated message system with a never-ending phone tree. Talking to a robot is frustrating, and social media provides a quick, conversational alternative that is just as effective at delivering information. Even if your intention is to sound professional keep in mind that tone is difficult to gauge online, and you could come off as cold and indifferent.

Keep it polite and brief; apologize for the experience and use their name if it’s available. Small personal touches can do a lot to turn a bad experience around, but a stodgy tone that reads like a terms & conditions page will only infuriate them further.

Know When To Take It Offline

Not every problem can be solved in 140 characters, and if a conversation is getting too complicated with a lot of back and forth, your customer is going to become frustrated. Offer to contact them offline to resolve, but try to make that option a last resort. For the best customer experience try to find a solution over the medium in which the customer inquired, but don’t let an angry or complex conversation stay online and sully your efficient reputation.

Recognize Trolling

Some people don’t necessarily want to be helped, just heard. If a customer is flaming you with criticism and not accepting any help, you might be dealing with an Internet troll. Identify these types of commenters and kill them with kindness. Even if they return with venom, other customers will respect that you kept a cool head and trust you as a helpful, reliable resource.

And remember – for truly rude or inflammatory trolls, there’s always the block button.

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Kylie Anderson is an L.A. based writer covering employment trends for the ZipRecruiter Blog.

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