uh oh. someone said something bad about us…

So?  People are going to be talking about your organization online whether you like it or not and whether you’re listening or not.  Social media provides your organization with an opportunity to engage with the lovers AND the haters.   It’s an opportunity to provide credible information, apologize, own up to any mishap, and reassure the user that you’re paying attention and willing to help and address needs where you can. The opportunity lies both in positive and negative commentary.


An argument I often hear is “why would you respond to something negative? You are just fueling the fire”.  Firstly, I strongly suggest you immediately dispel this myth.  If someone says this to you, turn ‘em upside down and shake it out of ‘em. My motto: always respond, always avoid argument and never delete someone’s thoughts.

My approach to responding to negative feedback and commentary is strategic.  Without taking too much time, I research the user.  I get a sense of their common language, interests and passions by taking a look at what they post about, assess their followership to get a sense of their audience (both who they follow and who follows them!) and pull any relevant information from their bio, e.g. employment. This gives me a sense of their flavour, their perspective and their insights.

I’m not saying I need to know EVERYTHING about the user, but it’s important to gather some information in order to respond in a way that will resonate well. Like any form of communication, understanding the audience and responding in a tailored way is important.

I’ll admit, when you’re passionate about what you do, it is easy to get your back up in defence.  It’s easy to personalize the comment. It’s easy to get self-righteous about the info you created that is being criticized. Believe me, I’ve been there!

Resist the temptation to:

  • Argue
  • Overly defend your position
  • Delete the comment
  • Provide a canned response that doesn’t acknowledge the person (e.g. Thanks for your comment, have a great day!)
  • Ignore

Keep these few bullets handy when writing a response to negative commentary:

  • Give facts, be transparent – don’t twist the response, most will catch on.  If they don’t, someone else online will.
  • Polite – thank the user for their comment/feedback.
  • Positive – don’t use a negative tone.  THAT, will definitely fuel the fire.
  • Solution – where you can, provide a solution to a problem or credible information.
  • Public – respond publicly, if you must take things to a private message to resolve, than do so as you seem fit.
  • Never, ever delete – don’t delete a comment.  It makes it seem like you have something to hide.
  • Avoid arguments – makes you seem like you don’t know how to listen.
  • Have someone else take a look – it’s always good to get a second opinion on the structure of tone of your response where you can.

Anyone have any stories they’d like to share from the public sector?


2 responses to “uh oh. someone said something bad about us…

  1. Pingback: Back in the saddle! Chats, conferences and Halloween. | Public Health and Social Media·

  2. Pingback: Us at the Healthy Toronto 2013 Conference | Public Health and Social Media·

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