Indigo Online: What to do when it goes wrong on social media

At some point it’s inevitable – somebody is going to pick an issue with your organisation on social media. It may be a problem with a product or service or maybe someone just doesn’t like what’s been said and can’t resist letting you know.

You get your facts together and compose a quick response. But before you hit the send button, take a moment to consider if you are doing the right thing.

Negative social media feedback can be completely different to ‘traditional’ complaints. Some people will take to social looking for help, but others are just out to be negative and there may be absolutely nothing you can do to console them.

So which is which? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Don’t respond, and you risk upsetting a genuine customer, or you can respond and risk inflaming the situation.

The answer is usually to use your intuition. Trolls are sometimes easy to spot, as they often post misinformation and derogatory remarks, rather than talking specifically about their own issue with your products or services. What they can say can be damaging, but replying to them could add a whole lot more visibility to their comments, which could do more harm than good.

All social media accounts have the ability to block users, but blocking may not be without consequence. Even if their comments are completely unfounded, blocking someone rather than responding can come across as an effort to dodge giving an answer. Also, if someone is determined to attack your organisation, there is very little to stop them from creating more accounts and coming back to leave more vitriol.

Much like school bullies, sometimes the best course of action is just to ignore them and they’ll go away. To that end, Facebook recently introduced an option to ‘hide’ a comment, making it invisible to the public but leaving the commenter unaware that their post has been hidden.

Hopefully, it never happens, but if something is so serious is said that it poses a risk to your organisation, the best course of action is to block the user, and if needed, seek legal advice.

Of course, a completely separate approach is needed for genuine complaints in instances where your organisation has erred. The best approach there is to be seen to be quickly and politely trying to find out what is wrong – in line with your policies.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with unhappy users on social media, but exercising your judgement and knowing when to use the right tools at your disposal can help prevent one piece of unhappy customer feedback from turning into a company-wide crisis.

Erith McKean
Social Media Executive