Do you have a reputation management plan in place for responding to negative reviews on social media? Everyone would love to only receive glowing and positive social media reviews, but that scenario is highly unlikely. Negative social media reviews are inevitable and come with the territory in every industry represented online.

Reputation Management is Important

Reputation management is all about monitoring and shaping the online image of your business. This includes overseeing and addressing the comments and concerns of your customers, both positive and negative. Most individuals leave negative reviews online as a way to validate their feelings and 73% provide reviews to save others from experiencing a similar situation.* These negative reviews can have a significant impact on your business image if left ignored. Eighty to eighty-five percent of individuals who complain on social media expect a response within 24 hours.** Most expect a response within an hour. With such quick responses expected, do you have a plan in place to combat these reviews quickly when they come in?

At the 26th Annual CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference, Andrea Parrish, Digital Marketing Assistant Manager at STCU, held a session on “Social Warriors – Handling Complaints and Negativity on Social Media with Professionalism and Empathy.” She shared key insights for responding to negativity on social media.

Step 1: Have a social media response playbook
Andrea advised that every organization should have their social media response playbook. This booklet should include your organization voice/language, response hours, handling emergency communications, crisis plans and complaint processes. This playbook should have step by step guidelines for good reviews, bad reviews, comments, questions and complaints.

This tool will give your team the foundation for engaging and interacting more effectively online.

Step 2: Have empathy
Before responding, try to have empathy for the person making the complaint. Understand where your customer is coming from and have an emotional response to it. Putting yourself in their shoes will go a long way towards creating a positive online interaction.

Step 3: Responding to social media reviews
Now that you are ready to write, these are the steps Andrea suggests for responding to negative online feedback:

  1. Breathe. While it possibly feels very personal, it likely is not. Take a second to re-read the post or comment to ensure that you fully understand what is being said.
  2. Thank them for taking the time to share (remember, relationships die of apathy, not conflict.)
  3. Correct factual inaccuracies.
  4. Give a path for following up — or take responsibility for doing so.
  5. Respond, or attempt to respond, twice.

An additional tip Andrea suggests is to give the individual at least two ways to reach out to you.

If you adhere to these steps, you are sure to either maintain a positive online reputation or take control and transform your online brand image. Ajahn Brahm, the popular Buddhist teacher, said, “Complaining is finding faults. Wisdom is finding solutions.” Hopefully, you’ve found some wisdom for handling complaints and negativity by reading this.

If you need a little help with managing your company’s online reputation, feel free to reach out to us. We would be happy to connect you with a member of our Path Interactive team to address any online reputation management questions you have.


*Corra, Roasted Reputations. 
**Altitude Software, Omnichannel Evolution of Customer Experience, 2016.