10 Tips and Rules for Handling Negative Social Media Comments

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An individual takes the time to write and post about the experience in your restaurant. If the comments are positive (80% of Yelp reviews are 3 stars +), they’re as good as free advertising. However, if they are negative social media comments, they can be damaging, and in the majority of cases you must exercise damage control. Here are some tips and rules for handling negative social media comments.

Making a bad situation good for your restaurant

Negative social media reviews have increased by 50% (2011 Forrester Research Study).

You need to react quickly to a negative review, and decide on recourse (if needed), but without the emotional reaction of a personal affront. You must be diplomatic, apologetic, professional, and you must be human.

3 consequences of not dealing with or badly handling negative social media reviews

1. Comments are considered accurate

If your customer base is largely transient, social media reviews have great influence. Not responding to negative reviews will imply that the comments are accurate.

2. A missed opportunity

The negative social media review is feedback, and in many instances informs you of what can be improved upon. It is an opportunity, but ignoring or not knowing the review is even there means you miss the opportunity to improve. Other customers will suffer the same bad experience as a result.

3. Unprofessional attitude

You will appear unprofessional, and as if you do not care about handling customer complaints.

3 useful tips for online reputation management

4. Handle the situtation correctly

Do not ignore negative social media comments or reviews. They do not go away on their own. Handle the situation correctly and the reviewer will feel obliged to remove the review.

5. Get notified when a bad review is submitted

Know the instant a bad review is posted about your restaurant by setting up a Google Alert with your restaurant’s name and variations on the name. The reviews can appear in many locations, from Yelp, OpenTable, Rewards Network, to Facebook, UrbanSpoon, and beyond. It can be time consuming to monitor them all, and most restaurants cannot afford a full-time online community manager. Google Alerts will appear in your e-mail inbox with a link to the mention.

6. Update your contact information

Many patrons post negative social media reviews only when they’re unable to contact the restaurant directly to lodge a complaint. Avoid this by ensuring your website, Facebook page, and other social media platforms have up-to-date contact information.

4 rules of responding to negative social media reviews

To gain answers to specific problems or issues you are facing with your restaurant’s online reputation management, please feel free to “Ask Aaron”.

7. Throw your hands up

It is unusual for a review to be entirely negative, but even so, the review may have factual errors. Spend time reading the review and highlight areas where you need to throw your hands up. Contemplate what you can do to avoid negative situations from reoccurring, and in your response detail the measures you are taking to improve.

8. No place for arguments

A public forum is no place to have an argument. It looks bad to the other site visitors (for every 1 reviewer there may be another 20 readers) and may only serve to escalate the issue. Those reading will expect an apology. You need to offer one publicly, and give reassurance that other diners will not suffer the same experience.

9. If you need to think long…

Social media users generally can spot a serial complainer, or competitors flagrantly using the review platform to promote their own establishments at your expense. Sometimes it’s best not to react to some reviews at all. A useful rule of thumb: if you need to think long and hard about whether it is correct to react, then don’t.

10. Private communication vs. public apology

You can respond privately and you can respond publicly. In many cases you will want to gain more details from the reviewer about the complaint. It is best to keep the details confined to private communications, but do make your apology public.

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