I’ll never forget the first time I encountered a nasty comment on the Facebook page that I launched and monitored for an organization. The comment was in response to a policy that the organization had announced, and the person who wrote the comment did not hold back when voicing their displeasure.
I was shocked (Who knew someone could feel so strongly about this policy?), appalled (Why would you ever want to attach such a mean comment like that to your name?) and hurt (This was a volunteer-run organization and could very much be described as a passion project. It was the result of metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears.). I had entered the world of nasty social media comments, and I had to find a way to address the problem without further tarnishing the organization’s image.
In other words, I needed a plan — and fast.
It’s been years since I last volunteered with the organization noted above, but I have created social media posts and monitored social media pages for various organizations since that time. I have devised a few steps to writing social media responses that can diffuse the situation, and just might turn the angry reader into a fan of the organization along the way. Grab a pen, because this is one process you’ll want to try.
Take A Deep Breath
It stings when someone criticizes your organization and uses colorful language to describe you, your coworkers, your intelligence, and so on. But before you dive in and write a hotly-worded response in kind, you should remember to take a deep breath (or two, or three, or more) before responding. Your initial response is to make the offending comment go away, but that may not always be possible or productive. By taking a deep breath and even walking away from the screen for a few minutes, you can respond to the complaint in a level-headed manner. You may want to craft your response in a separate document so you can revise before posting.
Figure Out The Problem
Let’s say you run the Facebook page of a popular hair salon for kids. You’ve logged in to the page and found the following comment: “My kid’s stylist was so late that we had to cancel! This place stinks!” Before you reply, you need to understand where the fan is coming from. They made an appointment and cleared out part of their schedule for a haircut for their child. They are (understandably) disappointed that the stylist was a no-show and that they had to reschedule for a time that may not be convenient for them. The comment also indicates that an alternative solution, such as another hairstylist stepping in to cut the child’s hair, was not feasible for myriad reasons. So, you know to address the inconvenience to the customer: the loss of time in showing up for the first appointment, the hassle of having to reschedule at the last minute, and perhaps the lack of a backup option.
Address The Customer’s Concerns
It’s easy to want to respond to the criticism with a snarky “Sorry that happened.” But that won’t win anyone over. Instead, craft your social media response by starting with “We apologize for the inconvenience,” “We are sorry your appointment couldn’t go through as scheduled,” or something similar. (You may need to discuss with management regarding how much blame to accept.) Empathize with the customer, too, by saying something like “We know you were looking forward to the appointment and that rescheduling it may not be a possibility.”
Do Some Research
You don’t have to fall on your sword with every response, either. Was the customer offered some solution at the time of the incident? You can definitely include that in your response if that is the case. You could say something like “At the time of the cancelation, the salon did offer to have another stylist cut your child’s hair.” This makes it clear that while the customer can still be annoyed, your organization took steps to remedy the problem in the moment. Remember, current and potential customers are probably reading this exchange. You’ll want to put your best foot forward in this post!
Offer A Solution
It sounds tempting to write “It will never happen again” in your response, but do not do that. Absolutes (e.g., “never,” “best,” “worst,” etc.) have no place in a response, as you really can’t guarantee that the mix-up will never happen again. That being said, you can and absolutely should offer a solution to the customer after speaking with management. Will the customer receive a discount if they make another appointment or other small perk? You can mention it outright in the response or even direct the customer to speak with a particular staff member regarding next steps. This is also why having a social media policy in place can smoothe a lot of missteps as you’ll know what is feasible to offer to a disgruntled customer.
Write The Response
Get that social media response written and ready to go as soon as you have the information you need. I like to draft my response in a Word document so that I can revise, revise, and revise again; it also means I won’t accidentally hit “Post” before I am ready. Read your response a few times to determine if it could be misinterpreted as snarky, rude, or condescending. When in doubt, consider asking a coworker to take a quick look at it, too. If your response will require a review by management prior to posting, then send the response to the appropriate colleague right away.
Post The Social Media Response
You have the pieces you need to write the response, so don’t wait another day to post the response! The longer a response sits unanswered, the more annoyed the customer will get. After all, no one likes to feel they are being ignored! In addition, the other visitors to the page will see the response and think it’s strange at best, and rude at worst, to leave the comment without any sort of official response. If it’s possible, consider reaching out to the customer via a direct message that reiterates your response so you can be assured they received an answer.