How To Turn Social Media Criticism Into A Positive

Most businesses that use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter worry about how to deal with customer complaints on these platforms. There is often a huge fear that negative comments voiced on a public platform can do permanent damage to a brand, and some companies even choose to stay away from social media all together for that very reason.

The most important thing to remember is that social media is an open, two-way dialogue and should be used as such.

The way that a company responds to criticism can make all the difference to the success of how their brand is represented. Whilst of course the whole world can see the complaint, it’s not the grievances themselves that you have to worry about, but how you deal with them.

Customer complaints can have a positive effect on your brand and below there are a few things that you should never do if your company should come in for criticism on a social networking site.


  • Delete the comment, this will result in simply making the customer angry and will lead to a snowballing situation which can quickly get out of control, as the customer uses further tactics to get their point across. This can take the form of leaving comments on posts you and other customers make, and can get out of hand very quickly.
  • Take a long time to respond as there is nothing more irritating to a customer than waiting for a reply. This will frustrate them and you will find them more difficult to deal with, the quicker you deal with a complaint, the more likely you are to resolve it satisfactorily.
  • Behave like a robot: social media users respond to human beings who treat their complaints with compassion. If you attempt to fob them off with comments such as ‘our PR department is looking into it and will get back to you’, this won’t help.

It’s always worth bearing in mind that social networking is a two-way conversation with you and your customers. Due to the very nature of the platform, customers expect to deal with a friendly ‘face’ and expect a personal response.

The way you deal with it, in a timely fashion, can improve your brand as other customers can clearly see that you care about the service or product you provide and this will ensure that they are more likely to recommend your company to others.

This is especially true of the complainant – if they are satisfied, then they will relay this information to their friends.


  • Offer an incentive: below is a good example of how US burrito chain California Tortilla dealt with a complaint that their breakfast burrito was described as ‘nasty’ by a customer. As you can see, the reply came the same day, was friendly and offered to ‘make it up’ to the customer by giving a direct email.

Another example is the way that Graco, a maker of prams, dealt with a product recall via Twitter and illustrates just how impressed their customers were with the way the problem was handled.

This is a brilliant example of what happens when a company gets it right – not only do they keep their customers happy, they generate positivity from users who may not have even been affected by the problem – as they say, no publicity is bad publicity.

It’s important to remember that social media users make decisions based upon what their friends like, so do respond to questions and complaints quickly and you will rapidly gain a good reputation for being a business who cares about their customers.

Of course, should customers become aggressive and rude then it’s something of a different story. Initially, the best practice would be to politely inform the customer that you’re perfectly willing to discuss the matter in an adult manner and make it clear you won’t tolerate abuse.

This gives the perpetrator the opportunity to show contrition and become more open to discussion. If the abuse continues then inform the customer that you will no longer respond, the only person here that will look bad is them and you may even find your other followers jumping in to defend you.

Social media complaints are more likely to improve your brand, rather than harm it, if dealt with correctly. When giving out apologies or incentives, be polite, friendly and sincere, there’s nothing worse than a curt ‘I’ll look into it’ whilst the customer kicks his heels in frustration.

Monitor social channels at all times, ensure you answer all questions and complaints in a manner that is timely, friendly and gives the customer what they need from you. Offer a discount, apology or incentive and never, ever, get into an argument with a customer.

Finally, it’s imperative that you don’t disable your Facebook wall; many large companies have fallen into this trap and as it’s so frustrating to customers it can seriously damage your brand.

Complaints on social media really never have to be a negative thing and can almost always be turned to your advantage.

Written by David Ingram.

David Ingram is a social networking addict and enjoys nothing more than looking past the likes and retweets to try and figure out what really makes social relationships work. By day he works for MySocialAgency in London, and by night he reaches out to his friends from around the world using his beloved networks.

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