This post originally appeared on in June 2015

The saying goes that “you can’t please everyone.” That may be true, but as a brand on social media, it is important to know how to react to negative feedback and have a plan in place to address it in a timely manner. So how do you prepare for the inevitable unwanted comment? Here are five rules to navigate the world of negative social feedback…

blogpost_headers_0000_1. do not delete negative comments No one wants to see negative comments on their page or have failings broadcast for the world to see. The easy solution may seem to be deleting the offending posts, but in many ways this can do more harm than good. Commenters are likely to come back more determined than before and point out the deletion. Deleting comments and posts also portrays the brand as disingenuous and deceptive in hiding negative feedback. However, if the posted content is deemed inappropriate for your audience, an exception may be made. Make sure it is noted on your page that this type of content will not be tolerated (see my post on Social Media Watch Outs for more information).

blogpost_headers_0001_2. Do Reply To Comments[1]There are those posters who are simply trolling brands looking for a reaction, but there are also consumers who are genuinely looking for a brand’s response. Trolls commenting with inaccurate or disparaging content can be responded to with correct information or links to content that addresses their comment. Posts that are negative but not directly damaging (i.e. Company A is awful, Company B is awesome) do not necessarily have to be addressed. Consumer complaints should be addressed directly. However, take the conversation off the public space. Respond to the original comment in the public stream to show response and then dedicate a one on one conversation to resolve the matter. Doing so shows the public a willingness to engage and allows the development of a better relationship with the consumer.

blogpost_headers_0002_3. Know Your Platform[1]As with any posted content, it is important to be mindful of what platform conversations are occurring on and how that impacts the manner and viewing of conversations. Make sure you know how notifications are utilized in each platform, who can see conversations, and how you can direct conversations off a public space.

blogpost_headers_0003_4. stay positive[2]This should be the number one rule and go without saying. It is important to stay positive when reacting to negative feedback no matter what is thrown at you. Consumers can be mean, rude, or offensive to no end, but as a brand maintaining integrity is paramount. No one wants to do business or be associated with a brand that is viewed as rude or disrespectful.

 blogpost_headers_0004_5. Document Encounters[3] Many complaints will be a one time occurrence, but it its helpful to know what has been said in the past, who has said it, and how it was handled. In the case that someone comes back multiple times or repeatedly posts inappropriate content, it is wise to have the history available for reference in determining the appropriate response.

Direct consumer reach is both a benefit and a risk for brands on social media. There is no way to control what people will say or where they to choose to post. However, by developing a plan to handle the bad as well as the good and maintaining integrity and sincerity, brands can turn negative feedback into an opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to customers.