Moderating “Hypothetical” Negative Social Media Content

Negative social media content centered on your brand, company or business can be detrimental to your overall trust and reputation. Here are a few hypothetical examples of these types of comments and how you should go about responding to them.


To a fast food chain:

“I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

First thing to do in order to resolve this solution is to respond immediately, considering a Facebook wall post can be seen by everyone, especially those who follow the brand. Do not delete the negative comment, it shows weakness. Prove to your audience you are strong and passionate enough of a brand that you can resolve issues, even ones as bad as this. There are two actions I would take:

1)     Respond to the post with something similar to: “I want to apologize on behalf of our entire organization. These types of grotesque behavior have no place in any of our stores. We are investigating this with much consideration and those responsible will face consequences. We appreciate your business and bringing this to our attention. We want to ensure you, our customers and everyone listening that these irresponsible actions will not happen again.”

2)     Send a private message to the user and offer some sort of compensation. I would say: “Please enjoy a $20 gift card on us at your next visit to 1467 Justin Kings Way. We assure you this time your experience will be entirely different and you will leave feeling nothing less than satisfied. Once again, we apologize for this instance and we value your feedback and support. Thank you!”

Here is one more negative post:

To a mainstream news network (let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides):

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

No matter what, when you report news that inflicts any kind of bias in even the smallest way, you are bound to get feedback, especially controversial issues involving the Middle East. Even though the news network has completely balanced coverage in regards to giving both sides equal time, that doesn’t mean your audience sees it that way. Here is how you engage with this user:

“On behalf of our MS News Network, we apologize you weren’t satisfied with our recent reporting on the Middle East. I can assure you that we pride ourselves on unbiased, fair and balanced reporting and under no circumstance do we deviate from this motto. We will do our best to make sure any future reporting on this subject is covered entirely from both sides. We value your viewership in our network, as well as the trust you have in our brand. Please don’t hesitate to send any more feedback you may have, for we are always looking for ways to please our audience. One again, we apologize you were not satisfied and we will do everything possible to ensure we stick to our motto and that all coverage is done with integrity and fairness.”



8 thoughts on “Moderating “Hypothetical” Negative Social Media Content

  1. Hi Gavin,
    I really like the images you used for this post! I think they exemplify what most social media managers feel at some point in their career.
    I also really like the way you handled the situations. I think offering the user a gift card is a nice gesture to guarantee that they will return to your store. I also liked the genuine message you sent to them. I’m sure the customer would feel much better with the way you addressed them.
    The news conflict was a little harder for me to tackle. I think your response was very effective and authoritative. It really let the viewer know they have a right to feel the way they do, you understood them, but you were standing your ground on your coverage. As you said, news reporting can be a tricky topic on social media because everyone has an opinion…you handled it well!

    • Thanks, Alexis. The News one took a little more thinking, because it actually offended someone to the point of cussing. I like doing these types of examples, helps us better prepare for things like this in the future.

  2. Gavin,

    Great responses! I think you really summed up, in both cases, what it feels like (for us to response as social media managers), how quickly (you should and need to response), and what you should (ideally) say to customers.

    I love your second post—reminding people where your mission statement is makes it very tough to tell you that you’re wrong. If you’re following what you believe in overall, makes it tough to tell someone they’re not standing on their own two feet. I think you took a great approach with that, and though the individual will most likely find a reason to continue to be upset, it is difficult not to have a better understanding of where you’re (and the station) is coming from when you read something of that caliber.

    I went with something similar on the first post, and figured once we made contact with the customer, I’d see if a meal was necessary for service recovery or not. I have the tendency to play it on ear on those. Having an Ops background previous to Marketing, I always think of the bottom line before I give things away. ☺

    • Thank you! I think finding that “kindness,” regardless of what was said is the hardest part. This is especially evident in the News example where you know you are doing the right thing and the viewer is technically wrong. You have to be able to understand where they are coming from, even if you don’t agree. It’s never worth losing a follower.

  3. Hi Gavin,
    I think you did a great job with your responses. Sometimes people do have a knee jerk reaction and want to remove a post, but handling things a publicly allows for other customers to see that a company is working with integrity and can handle any problem in the same manner.
    I think you did a great job with the post about the news station, however, would you just let the cursing go? I think you handled the post better than I did on my blog, but I think the foul language should still be addressed. Great post!

    • That’s true about people wanting to remove posts, but I am not a fan of that. No brand is perfect, and when you can acknowledge your mistake(s) to the public and tell–and show–them that you are making changes to improve, other customers or potential customers will respond well to that.

  4. I agree with the praise above Gavin. To echo Amanda, you ok with the cussing? Check the Week 6 Assignment strand on Sakai after you answer to see how this was handled in real life!

    • That’s a tough call, Justin. I personally have no problem with a little profanity to bolster an argument, but it my network (or whatever brand I was working for at the time) caters to the youth, then I would look to take it down. If I took it down, I would make sure to answer the question publicly by rephrasing it and leaving out the cussing. Very interesting to see how it was actually handled!

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