One of the biggest fears that blogging companies have is critical comments on blogs. The idea of seeing a 'you suck!' conmment on a blog is enough to make most company bloggers break out in a cold sweat. But negative and critical comments from blog readers can actually benefit a company IF that company acts smartly, and has a plan in place for addressing them. Here's a plan of action:
1 - Reply quickly. Often, someone will leave a critical comment as soon as a post is published, and other commenters will 'pile on'. If the company doesn't respond to the points being raised, commenters will often continue to voice their displeasure. But if a company representative can quickly address the issues being raised by the blogger and/or commenters, the tone and structure of the feedback can change dramatically. Sure, there might still be some readers that lash out at the company, but at least now, by replying to the post, the company has gone from reacting to an existing conversation ABOUT them, to PARTICIPATING in that connversation. When their role is changed from passive to active, the conversation changes completely.
2 - Be respectful. Understand this; Every online conversation has three sides. Your side, my side, and everyone else's. If you are interacting with a critical commenter, everyone else is going to watch how BOTH of you handle yourselves. If you are respectful of the other person's point of view, and make an honest attempt to address and response to the issues they raise, that will make a POSITIVE impression on others. But if you lash back and start attacking the commenter, that's going to leave a very NEGATIVE impression on others, and it will probably encourage others to 'pile on' and start lashing back at you, and your company.
It could be that the commenter said something completely untrue, and acted like a complete ass. That does NOT give you the right to respond in kind. We will judge you on YOUR actions, not on what the commenter said and whether or not you were 'justified' in calling him a jerk cause he first said your company sucked.
3 - Be thankful. Let's say a major blog has published a post criticizing your latest campaign. What this blogger has just done is given you an open invitation to address her readers. Now you have a legitimate reason to respond to her post, and address her points. Be THANKFUL that you have an opportunity to talk to her readers. And when they respond with their opinions, be THANKFUL that they care enough to do so.
4 - Invite further feedback. Don't just reply once and leave. Invite readers to leave you additional comments. Offer to answer their questions, and offer to give the blogger that writes about your company more information about what you are trying to accomplish. Be accessible. This shows the readers that you VALUE their opinions, and have nothing to hide. That makes it easier for them to trust you, and instills confidence in your company, as a result.
The bottom line is don't see a critical comment as something to fear, or worry about. View it as an opportunity, a chance to connect with new people and make a positive impression on them, on behalf of your company.
BONUS: Here's how one business followed this plan to convert negative comments into a positive experience.
Pic via Flickr user cat segovia