The Art of Responding to Social Media Comments

By on September 8, 2014
Social Media Comments

If you’re unsure of proper social media etiquette, given the array of social media platforms out there and the different types of fans and followers each one attracts, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Think of each interaction as if it’s occurring face-to-face, rather than via a laptop or hand-held device.

By following this precept, your small business will make a lot more friends — and far fewer enemies — whether you prefer Twitter or Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn, Google Plus or Instagram.

For small businesses, the most critical element of participating in social media is responding appropriately to user comments, both positive and negative ones. Here are suggestions to bolster the reputation of your business, rather than make it an object of social media scorn:

Know what’s going on. You can’t really know how to respond to comments if you’re not actively tracking online conversations. Wherever you have a social media presence, it’s important to frequently monitor those channels for comments made both by your customers who know your business and by others who just have an opinion about it.

Using tools like Google Alerts enables you to stay on top of a potentially unfavorable situation — or, on a more positive note, express gratitude to people who take time out of their lives to praise your business.

Always respond and do so promptly. People go on social media platforms to criticize, complain, ask questions, offer a good word or just make helpful suggestions about the businesses they patronize. If you’re wondering how to address those comments and complaints, here’s the simple answer: Be responsive.

Handle negative comments with courtesy and respect. If a customer complains about your business online, any delay in responding only lends credence to that individual’s comments.

A prompt response, on the other hand, indicates your interest in clarifying the public record, while doing so in a polite and respectful manner. Never match a user’s level of anger or vitriol. Your goal is to defuse a negative situation, not make it worse.

“The number one way that small business owners respond to customer feedback is by deleting/hiding comments, or ignoring them entirely,” notes Ezra Chasser, founder of Sore Thumb Marketing. “Facing a complaint is an opportunity to salvage a potentially lost customer and ignoring this negative feedback is only going to exacerbate the problem.”

And remember — both the negative customer comment and your response exist on a public forum. Everyone can see what’s being said back and forth, and everyone will form an opinion about your business based on how you respond. It’s another compelling reason not to slip into a defensive or argumentative mode. That tactic is almost always self-defeating.

Know when to take the exchange private. While social media etiquette requires that you address, rather than ignore, negative comments, this doesn’t mean offering up a detailed explanation for everyone to see. Respond promptly by thanking the customer for his or her comments and then suggest that they call, email or text you with a more in-depth account of their particular issue.

Most problems can be resolved this way, followed by a more public “thank you” for bringing the issue to your attention and making sure the customer is satisfied with the resolution.

Reply to positive comments, too. Positive customer feedback is a wonderful thing and should always be publicly acknowledged. Just as you would show appreciation if someone sent you a complimentary email, reply on Facebook, Twitter or other channels and thank the customer for their willingness to praise your product or service.

Best of all, displays of gratitude on social media encourage others to come forward with a good word of their own.

Always be engaging. Prompt responses to both positive and negative user comments shows your business puts the customer’s interests first. In this way, maintaining an active presence and following the right social media etiquette serves as effective marketing, too.

As Ezra Chasser says, “The more time you put into actively engaging with your community, asking questions, commenting on other users’ content, and just being friendly, the faster your communities will grow and the faster you’ll see results from your efforts.”

About Peter LaMotte

Peter LaMotte is a Senior Vice President at LEVICK and Chair of the firm’s Digital Communications Practice. He is also a contributing author to LEVICK Daily, where he routinely writes about social media marketing and online reputation management.
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