Social Media Negativity: How to Respond in a Way that Strengthens Your Reputation

Social media presents businesses with wonderful opportunities to reach out and interact more personally to a broad base of consumers, and–thanks to sharing–establish contact with scores of consumers that they may otherwise never have an opportunity to connect with. However, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to be criticized much more openly, in such a way that it can damage their reputation at best and destroy it at worst. How the business responds can sometimes exacerbate the situation and further harm their reputation, unless they know exactly what to say.

Social Media Reputation Management Strategies

Online reputation management is about a lot more than simply establishing and maintaining an online presence, it is also about building and protecting your reputation. This definitely includes dealing with social media negativity, since a single social media post can quickly go viral. And while you may feel it is perfectly appropriate to take a stand and say whatever you feel you should, it’s important to recognize that how you respond can either benefit or harm your reputation.

When dealing with social media negativity, the first thing you need to decide is whether it’s actually appropriate to respond. Some individuals may sling mud at a business through light insinuation, and addressing this can make a big problem out of something small that would go away on its own. Your reputation can remain largely unharmed by such small comments, especially if it has been made strong by many positive comments. However, if a particular individual or organization continually makes negative comments or if their comments are highly visible and shared, you will need to respond somehow. You definitely should always quickly respond when the negative comment is based on your business’ performance, products or services, even if you need to investigate the truthfulness of the claims. These types of negative comments have a tendency to go viral quickly, and can therefore have a huge impact on online reputation. They can also be picked up by others who seek to defend your business, and end up reflecting poorly on it when they are drawn into petty arguments.

Naturally, an important part of managing reputation is knowing just how to respond to negativity. The most important thing is to suppress the urge to simply react and attack the commenter. Though you may feel that such a move is justified, especially if you can prove conclusively that their comment is complete fabrication, it can be the absolute worst thing to do as far as reputation management is concerned. Instead, you need to calmly consider and understand the negative comment, and apologize for any mistakes you may have made. Even where you are absolutely positive that the negative comment is false, don’t immediately attack or discredit the originator. This can make your defense seem weak and can work to harm your credibility and reputation. Where it is appropriate, you can present your side of the story–sticking to the facts and remaining sincere. If needed, investigate to be certain of facts and resolve the issue as rapidly as possible.

However you go about responding to negativity on social media, it is important that you focus on your commitment to do better. This is what will usually stick out most to others who observe the exchange–you exhibited grace under pressure and sincerely seem focused on improving. They will appreciate the transparency, recognize that you are vulnerable just like everyone and everything else around them, applaud your willingness to self-correct and will more likely view you in a favorable light.