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What do you do when people post negative comments about you?

Face it, not everyone loves you. And many consumers let the world know just how much they dislike you, your products and your practices on your social media channels.

We’ve seen the scenario hundreds of times. Someone posts a disparaging comment. Your boss or your client demands that you delete it immediately, and you’re left with a very difficult decision. You ask yourself a question many have asked before you, "should I delete negative comments from my social media pages?"

When trying to tackle this difficult situation, you really have three choices: engage, ignore or delete. All have their drawbacks. And there is no “right” choice for every situation.

We manage the Twitter feed for a large Quick-Service Restaurant brand and are constantly strategizing on what to do with questionable comments. We always weigh the benefits and the consequences of each option before doing anything. We’re all human. So it’s normal to want to delete disparaging comments, but, in most cases, it is a mistake.

Someone once asked me why SeaWorld continues to let critics bash them on their own Twitter feed over the alleged mistreatment of animals. My answer is that deleting such comments sends the worst possible message. It can imply that you don’t care about your customers’ feelings and that you have no compassion or empathy for what they’re experiencing. You come across as arrogant, uncaring, unapproachable, out-of-touch, non-transparent and, worst of all, in many cases, removing such comments can create a crisis out of a complaint.

But what if the complaint is false? Well, we recommend that you address it head on for all to see. Nine times out of 10, your fans and followers will “police” your social space by burying the negative post with positive ones. That said, there are instances when we believe you have proper cause to delete inappropriate comments (note that we said inappropriate, not negative). Here are three:

  1. Foul language: You can set up a filter on some social platforms to weed out swear words, but people find creative ways to curse, such as using a zero instead of an o. Get rid of them.

  2. Advertising: When people use your pages to promote their products or ideas, you have every right to hit the delete button.

  3. Insulting or abusive comments: You don’t want to provide a forum for your customers to verbally attack and assault one another. Remove any such comments right away.

Make sure that you outline your expectations for fan/follower behavior in your community guidelines. That way you should have no problems when you need to delete inappropriate comments. In the end, remember that social media is always a two-way conversation (whether you like the topic of the conversation or not), and how you approach online complaints can determine if a few negative comments explode into a full-blown crisis.

Andy Skoogman is a guest blogger for StoryTeller and President of Narratus, Inc, a Twin Cities based strategic communications firm specializing in crisis management and real-time media training. Andy is a former spokesperson for two high profile government agencies in Minnesota and an Emmy Award winning news and sports reporter. He blogs on topics related to crisis communications, traditional and new media and occasionally about his true addiction…golf. Reach Andy via Twitter @askoogman or by e-mail andy@narratustraining.com.

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