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No matter how great your franchise or property, negative comments on social media are an unavoidable part of doing business.

Negative comments can be heard around today’s digital world. Responding to a Facebook comment calling out your property’s poor customer service or a Twitter rant over long lines at a franchise location is just as critical as the need to address negative reviews. What you say, and how you –and your local locations – say it, speaks volumes about your brand.

Multi-location businesses that uniformly master this public forum of social media can transform a disgruntled customer into a superfan and showcase your brand as transparent, helpful, and empathetic, without necessarily accepting blame. Here are four tactics for success and some to avoid for social media responses:

4 Don’ts for Responding to Negative Social Media Posts

Don’t #1: Learn to listen. 

You can’t react to a harsh comment if you don’t know it’s out there. Investing in the experience of your customers begins with listening. Monitoring mentions, both tagged and untagged, provides invaluable insight into the state of the brand and can help minimize a situation before it becomes a bigger public problem. Social conversation tools, like those found in SOCi, allow corporate teams to respond to comments quickly and pull in a local team if needed. 

Don’t #2: Prioritize timeliness for responses. 

Timely responding with an appropriate solution is the quickest way to turn a negative into a positive. Speed matters, but letting the customer know you hear them is most important. Our research conducted with Local Search Association (LSA), found that nearly 80 percent of consumers expect a response to their comments and reviews—a number that will only grow as more people turn to their smartphones to vent on social.

Completely ignoring, or worse, deleting a comment, can only make matters worse and cost customers you didn’t even know you had yet. Exceptions are abusive, illicit, and offensive posts or completely off-base comments that have nothing to do with your franchise. 

Don’t #3: Be professional and genuine. 

When you engage with someone online, you are talking to all your followers. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Showing empathy is crucial to humanizing your brand and will help you better understand –and own the problem, if necessary. 

Generally, a go-to response is to acknowledge the feedback, apologize publicly for any inconvenience caused by their experience, tell them how you plan to follow up (taking it offline if needed), and thank them for reaching out.  

Don’t #4: Don’t be defensive.  

“The customer is always right” mantra also applies to social media. Take the high road. Never go negative and fight the customer’s anger or discontent by losing your cool. Clearly defined social media guidelines can help guide the conversation. Widely communicate these policies and best practices, with examples, to ensure everyone at corporate and, every local owner–and their employees–understand the rules of engagement and how to respond to comments and reviews.

4 Dos for Responding to Negative Social Media Posts

Do #1: Respond publicly.

Always respond to a negative social media post publicly. With more difficult comments, provide contact information and encourage the user to move the conversation offline. Using a private forum, such as the platform’s direct messaging, allows the customer to provide more details, and promotes personal interaction to help address and resolve the situation quickly. 

Do #2: Avoid being generic. 

Social media users are savvy. They can spot a disingenuous or cookie-cutter response a mile away. Be sure to personalize the reply. Include the user’s name and mention specifics from the post when possible. Responses should be authentic, yet still on-brand to align with the company’s overall personality and messaging.

Do #3: Have a response plan in place. 

The best way to handle all comments on social media platforms is to develop a response plan for not only reviews but all varieties of comments. A working template prevents a knee-jerk response and ensures that best practices are in place across the franchise system. 

It’s always a good idea to show your customers that you recognize when they have a negative experience at one of your franchise locations. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept fault for their experience. Even if you’re hesitant to address specific issues, there are ways to phrase the response to convey online that you’re proactively addressing their concerns.

Do #4: Ensure there is follow up. 

While it’s good to take conversations offline, be sure to follow up publicly to show the issue was resolved. This step closes the loop in the public eye and also highlights the effort to quickly resolve any customer discontent and your company resolve to make things right. Customer delight creates long-term consumer loyalty.

Responding to negative comments on social media isn’t always a fun task, but it’s crucial for you to get to the bottom of the problem so future consumers won’t have the bad impression of your business that can be relayed in a single comment on social media.

Through SOCi’s platform, multi-location businesses can effectively monitor local social conversations and respond to customers as they engage with their social content, so you can immediately take action if it happens to be an unfavorable opinion.

SOCi now delivers notifications for Facebook comments and post mentions, enabling you to respond directly to any public comment or post outside of your Facebook page. You can set up email subscriptions, push notifications, and set up rules to help your team prioritize these engagements.

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By reacting in a positive and friendly manner, you’ll demonstrate that your business’ No. 1 concern is your customer’s happiness, which will earn you a stronger audience and devoted consumers over the long run.

Learn how SOCi can help take your
localized marketing to the next level.