How to Respond to Negative Feedback Online

When Fans Attack – How to Respond to Negative Feedback

When Fans attack blog postSteps To Take to Create Effective Social Media Communication

Many brands and businesses are using Social Media as a way to advertise and connect with their customers. It can be time consuming work creating and maintaining a Social Media presence. And because of the constant changes in how information is displayed in newsfeeds for Facebook, it’s become a challenge to be able to educate, share, and keep clients informed and in the loop regarding what you are up to.

Quite often we may post something that sounded good in our heads but doesn’t resonate as we had hoped with our fans and clients. (Tweet this!)

And, unfortunately, there are times when what we post is something that we think is not controversial, but it somehow hits a raw nerve for a fan, follower, or even a friend. It’s important in these situations to know how to respond to criticisms, negative comments, or flat out attacks. The key is to not let yourself react to the negative comment in an equally negative way. Doing so will only cultivate more issues that could escalate out of control, and that would look very unprofessional.

We’ve outlined five steps below to guide you in how to respond to negative feedback as well as how to build a path towards better, positive communication.

Being Heard – First try to put yourself in the shoes of the fan, friend, or client involved. This will allow you to get a broader view of the situation. In more cases than not you will realize that the person’s negative reaction to your post is not directed towards you personally, but rather their reaction to the topic in question. Their reaction can also be a reflection of an issue they are currently going through in their own lives.

The main thing to keep in mind here is that any conversation that continues from this point needs to be unbiased and balanced. You are not out to prove a point, good or bad, or argue over what is right and what is wrong. Respect the fact that everyone has different beliefs and views.

The next step forward should be aimed at moving things forward in order to ensure better communication and understanding. Any time a client or fan expresses their dismay over something, it opens a door of opportunity that can foster understanding, so use that to your advantage. You get a chance to see where that person is coming from.

As a business, you should  provide an outlet for fans to be heard, without  fear of negative backlash for having a different view. (Tweet this!)

This can nurture an environment for better communication if a fan realizes that you do understand them and acknowledge their feelings.

Start by asking them for some clarification to be sure that you understand what the issue is. Often, when someone responds in the heat of the moment, they can overstate, misstate, or not clarify their point clearly, causing confusion. This is a common emotional reaction that many people have when they feel angry and wish to share their disappointment.

Restate Their Concern – Try to restate the issue or criticism from the fan in a way that you feel you understood it. It gives the fan a chance to examine their own reaction as well as ensures them that you did hear them and you want to understand their view. This also allows everyone to “listen in” on the conversation and be part of what is going on. It fosters an environment of openness.

Of course there are times when a fan is just plain unhappy and they don’t seem to care who they tear down in order to make themselves heard. You may just be the unlucky recipient of their anger because you were in their “target zone”. This does happen but it is rare.

One big step as a business owner is to set clear guidelines and policies regarding what is acceptable communication and what is considered malicious and unnecessary.

Face The Situation Head On – The worst thing that you can do is to try to hide or delete the post. Doing so can often have negative consequences as it will raise more questions and can look like you are trying to hide something. And more times than not, the fan in question will feel slighted and come back with more negativity. This could eventually lead to making your business or brand open for more ridicule.

Trying to ignore the situation in the hopes that it will go away will only make it seem like you don’t care about your fans or their feelings. And this also can create a situation where people make an assumption about your ideals, yourself, and your business. So it’s best to tackle the situation head on. It will show that you are responsible, understanding, and gives you a chance to explain yourself if a post was taken out of context.

Don’t Just React – When you are faced with a negative comment, take a step back rather than allowing anger to cause you to have a knee jerk reaction. Take stock of what the person is saying, along with any other replies by other fans. Trying to come across in a condescending way, posturing, or getting defensive are not the way to go.

Remember, at this time the comment is not about you or your business. It’s about the person who reacted and how they chose to perceive what you said. It’s also about making sure that they have the right information or understood you correctly. Try restating your comment or point in a “better way”. It will stop any opportunity that the fan may use to engage you further, on a more personal level. This is something that you can do later, after the situation has been resolved, should you or the fan wish to communicate in a less public way.

Don’t Wait Too Long – You know how quickly a post can go viral these days, usually in a matter of seconds. So you will want to respond quickly and decisively. Of course give yourself a moment to take it in and calm yourself if you feel agitated. But don’t wait hours to address the situation.

You want to make sure that you have control over that Social Media maverick by having as much information and clarification out there as possible. Otherwise all the world will see is your post and a negative outcry with no explanation as to what really happened. The next thing you know. You will have a group of negative people looking to back up what they saw as an insult.

Don’t Put Them Down – Above all, never degrade or disrespect a person for speaking their mind or having an opinion. If they are being abusive and nasty, by all means, call them out on it. But do so in a balanced way, perhaps by stating what is written in your guidelines for proper communication on your page. If the fan is rude, be sure to make it clear that you are ready to address their concerns providing they continue the conversation in a civilized way. If that person should continue to berate you once they have been warned, stop the conversation. It will be quite clear to other fans and clients that you did your best and that the person in question was being unreasonable.

In Summary:

  • Acknowledge the fan’s concern so that they know they have been heard.
  • Ask them for clarification to make sure you understand their issue correctly.
  • Restate the issue, concern, or problem to make sure you and the fan are on the same page.
  • Educate, inform, or restate your original post in a more positive way that will help the client understand what you were trying to get across.
  • Make clear any actionable steps that can be made in order to resolve the situation, allowing things to move forward.
  • Make sure you have clear guidelines on how you will proceed with negative communications from the start. (Tweet this!)
  • Be sure you state what will be acceptable and what is not allowed. If these are not followed and the person continues with abuse, end the conversation.
  • When all has been resolved, thank the fan for bringing their concerns to your attention.

Have you had a situation on Social Media? How did you respond? I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t. Please comment below!


  1. […] Responding to negative feedback may be uncomfortable and a bit confronting, but, the way you respond is crucial to ensure your fans are being heard. @dawnrjensen @virtualoptions  […]

  2. […] When Fans Attack – How to Respond to Negative Feedback Steps To Take to Create Effective Social Media Communication Many brands and businesses are using Social Media as a way to advertise and connect with their customers.  […]