Phew! Tensions have been running high these past few weeks, and frustrations are showing up everywhere. Your business may even see an increase in negative social media as people find ways to let their stress out.

So what’s a small business to do when a negative comment or post puts them on blast? Don’t freak out. We’ve all been there. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite tips and tricks to turn that customer’s frown upside-down.

Catch Negative Posts Quickly

Turn on notifications for all of your social media channels on whichever device you use, and keep an eye out for comments and mentions, in particular. Working from a social media dashboard makes it easier to publish and respond to everything in one place.

The key takeaway here is that it’s not only the person who commented that’s watching your response. It’s potentially all of your followers. How you handle one person will give them insight into the way they’ll be treated, too.

If you can respond to comments and mentions within an hour, you’ll be at the top of the class. Anything beyond 24 hours, and you’ve likely created some longer-term ill will with that customer.

What Should You Say … and Not Say

First and foremost: Be human. During a time when everyone’s feeling stressed already, the last thing someone in distress wants to read is a canned, automated, computerized response (in fact, many companies get called out publicly for this). We’ve learned in recent months that what we’d all love is a little authenticity.

Here are a few ways to respond:

  • Apologize sincerely and explain how you’ll make things right. But don’t over-promise.
  • If you need more info, ask for it directly and let them know what your next steps are. If needed for privacy, take the conversation to direct message or a phone call.
  • Thank them for the feedback. This might be tough, especially if you feel you’re in the right. However, we all can learn from every interaction.
  • Don’t ignore their comment or delete it without trying to make amends. Try not to take it personally while you work through a solution.

Add Some Levity

OK, so you’ve got to be careful here since this tactic can go horribly wrong. So use it judiciously.

Not long ago, as I was managing an Instagram business account, a feisty follower commented, “They just want us to throw money at them!” And she added a bunch of silly emojis. I took a deep breath and wrote:

“I mean, sure! If you insist!” With a smiling emoji. She responded with a laughing emoji.

To which I responded: “In all seriousness, we want our services to be a good fit for you … and your budget.”

I like to imagine that her stress was lifted the same way mine was, and maybe this fun exchange would inspire her to give the business a second look.

If All Else Fails

You want to protect your employees, yourself and your other followers. If a commenter continues angry rants, uses foul language or gets verbally abusive, you have every right to delete their comment and ban or block them from your page.

Each channel has its own process for this, so review carefully.