Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to avoid getting burned by negative comments

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


jphodgins said...

Great post. It's actually encourage me to comment more on blogs I'm reading (starting with this one).

When I bring up doing blogs, the fear of negative comments is the first argument I hear. This post does a great job of answering those fears. I'll be sure to pass them on. Thanks.

Ian Campbell said...

This is a great post. I encourage a lot of my clients to write blogs and they're always concerned about negative comments.

Vincent Lowe said...'s funny that in the (apparently) timid and frightened world of mid-level enterprise decisionmaking, there's no understanding of a basic premise.

When someone else calls you a nasty name, it reflects on them, not so much on you.

The points you make in this article are apt, and it's about time someone spoke them out loud where others could hear them.

When someone posts negative comments after a blog post, the nature of their communication defines them. If the comment is filled with scatological language, invective, and rudeness, the finest approach is to respond with graciousness. (I also favor silence on occasion.)

If someone has a substantive complaint, what corporate Chicken Littles have to understand is that this customer is already saying those things to others. When they do it in your blog, at least you have a chance to address the matter, and frankly to identify your company as responsive and concerned for the experience of the customer.

Thanks for posting this article. My hope is that it will open up some new perceptions at companies that are not listening to their customers now.


Stuart Foster said...

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to respond immediately, be on topic and write out what you are going to say in Word before you type it.

Use Pam's rule. Let Michael Scott say the dumb thing to get it out of his system...then give him another chance.

lisahickey said...

Great post. I have nothing negative to say : ) I love the thought that blogging gives more and more companies a chance to talk about the issues that define them, and to give all of us a chance to see how people respond gracefully, under pressure, when attacked

Geoff_Livingston said...

Ah, screw em. LOL, no this is good. Sometimes I just let them sit, too. If someone is being negative and antagonistic without reason their comment often serves as its own response. :)

Jack Steiner said...

Blogging provides a very simple way to make your business more human. Most people understand that not everyone is going to be happy/satisfied with how you do things.

Give them a forum to complain and address them. If it get to be out of line or too ridiculous there are other steps that you can take.

But it sure helps your image to be open and transparent as opposed to being viewed as cold and unfeeling.

Gavin Heaton said...

The Air Force blog response guide is a great template for corporations to think about. I thought your readers might find it useful (it can be found at David Meerman Scott's blog):

Anonymous said...

Great blog post here. But how do you respond to negative comments made on someone else's blog (not your own or your company's) and with even more negativity in the comments?

Do you jump into the fray or ignore and move on?

Mack Collier said...

Mary I actually wrote this post and these steps for replying to negative comments/posts left on ANOTHER blog, not yours. Sure, some people simply want to agitate and 'stir the pot', but most people that are critical of your company simply want to be heard. If you will listen to them, and make a sincere effort to solve their problem, they will almost always be thankful.

And as I said, everyone else will notice how you handle the exchange.

Harsha Kalapala said...

How would you approach negative comments if you were someone like Walmart with dedicated haters that comment on issues irrelevant to the current conversation?

Anonymous said...

Great post Mack. Absolutely love the image.

Anonymous said...

A good read

Kim Maisel said...

This is fantastic, and I appreciate you calling out several of the key points that executives stress over when thinking about blogging. I am working with an executive who "gets it," but we are bringing it to his executive committee next week to show them what he is doing and to ask for their engagement, and I think that this will be a great article to print out and have on hand.

This article really shows that blogging is similar to any negative feedback you get in life, because you have a choice on whether to act to control it or not. It isn't any different, and once you point that out and that you can weedle your way out of it and use it to your advantage that will go a long way in making them feel more comfortable.

Thank you!