How to Handle Negative Feedback on Social Media

Whether they admit it or not, many businesses shy away from social media because they’re afraid of negative feedback.

With traditional marketing being a one-way conversation, the fact that social media goes two ways can ignite fear in brand managers. With customers having the opportunity to talk back, there’s a perceived loss of power.

But if you have a plan in place for how to handle negative feedback, there’s no need to give that fear enough power to keep you from the opportunities afforded by social media.

Know what you’re dealing with

There’s more than one type of negative feedback. Some is minor, some is serious. And, sometimes, it can just be spam. By recognizing what type you’re dealing with can help guide you in how to appropriately respond to it.

Merited complaints

WHAT IS IT? Someone has had a bad experience with your company. He or she is angry and is now complaining online.

HOW TO HANDLE IT: Acknowledge their feelings, make a genuine apology online, move the conversation offline and offer a solution. If you find the complaint is merely a perceived problem (be sure to be honest with yourself before coming to this conclusion), it’s OK to carefully clarify the situation in addition to apologizing.

THE GOOD: It can help expose real problems within your organization.

Constructive criticism

WHAT IS IT? A customer visits your page to offer a suggestion on how to improve a product or service.

HOW TO HANDLE IT: Thank them online for their suggestion as well as their business.

THE GOOD: The criticism may shed light on an unknown problem or a new, improved way to do something.


WHAT IS IT? Someone is trashing your company online without merit. In some cases, the complainant may be associated with a competitor.

HOW TO HANDLE IT? Acknowledge their concern, apology for a perceived dissatisfaction and carefully clarify the inaccuracies. Take the conversation offline and request more information.

SPECIAL EXCEPTION: In some cases, it’s advisable to not respond to this type of attack. If it appears to be an attempt to trap you in a very public argument aimed at tarnishing your reputation, leave it be.

A simple guide

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, here are a few do’s and don’ts to help keep you on track.

DO remain positive ‑ regardless of how negative they become.

DO respond quickly. The recommended response time is within 24 hours. Responding slowly can allow the situation to fester and attract more negative attention.

DON’T get defensive. Delving into a public argument in defense of yourself can add fuel to the fire.

DON’T delete comments (unless they contain libelous statements, of course). It makes your company look guilty and will only make the complainant more angry.

A final thought

Even though you may still be fearful of negative feedback, hopefully this guide will help you understand you can effectively handle it should it arise. If you’re still too afraid to jump into social media, you should know that just because you aren’t there doesn’t mean the feedback isn’t happening. And if you’re not there to respond, you’re most certainly out of control of how it’s handled.

Thanks for reading,

Drew Larison