Hand holding a Social Media 3d SphereIt’s not easy to hear criticism about your business—and it can be especially hard to get negative feedback from customers on your social media pages, where the whole world can read it, and share it. How should you respond when someone takes aim at your reputation online?

These tips will help you process and deal with criticism in a way that will keep things from getting worse, and may even improve the situation.

Step 1: Pause Before you Post

Negative criticism stings. You may be running a business, but you’re only human—and your first reaction may be to lash out at the person who posted the feedback.

It is imperative that you resist the temptation. Engaging in a public fight with a detractor is the worst response you can offer in this situation. If you react emotionally to negative feedback, it will be nearly impossible to take it back once you’ve calmed down.

So step away from the keyboard and get over the anger first. Then, move on to the next stage.

Step 2: Decide whether to Respond

Some businesses make it a policy to ignore all negative comments on social media and hope they go away. Although this isn’t always the right strategy, there are some circumstances where you should overlook the offending post.

If the person is aggressive, abusive, or otherwise over-the-top with their language and sentiments, chances are they’re seeking attention, rather than looking for an actual response to a real problem. In these cases, it’s best to ignore or even delete the post, and not engage with it at all.

If the criticism seems to bring up a genuine problem, your response is required.

Step 3: Acknowledge and Apologize

Remember the old saying, “The customer is always right”? This still holds true for any business that wants to succeed, especially in the highly public arena of social media and the viral Internet.

Never deny that the complainer has a problem—even if you believe they’re wrong. Regardless of the story behind the issue, you will always look like the bad business who has no interest in supporting customers after you’ve already taken their money.

Instead, offer a sincere apology, and ask what you can do to address the problem. Chances are, the customer only wants to be heard, acknowledged, and offered a reasonable solution for the issue.

If you’re unable to resolve the problem through comment exchanges, you can always take the issue offline. But if you do manage to satisfy a ruffled customer, they could become a powerful source of positive word-of-mouth for your business.


Melissa Rudy is a full-time freelance copywriter with Words by Melissa in Cincinnati, Ohio. She and her team specialize in web page content, articles, product descriptions, brochures, postcards, press releases, and other marketing collateral. Melissa previously held roles as an E-Commerce Content Manager and Technical Writer.