How to Handle Negative Comments on the InternetDaniel Bower
Don’t let slanderous negative comments hinder future business or your company’s rep
People get upset pretty quickly, and unfortunately the Internet has become the easiest place to voice negativity towards anything or anyone. Just take a look at Twitter for ten minutes and you’ll see how easy it is. However, when it comes to your business, negative comments can take a serious toll on your reputation – one of the most important aspects of a business. In order to dodge and/or fix these negative comments, there are multiple approaches you must keep in mind. After all, this can even get legal.
1. Drown out negative posts with a bunch of positive posts to cloud potential consumers’ ability to see the negativity. This could take a lot of time and/or money if you outsource these postings to another company (yes, there are companies and people that freelance in posting positive things on your webpage. Additionally, there are ways to pay people to bring a ton of followers to your social media pages. However, it’s usually a bit obvious when this is done. If you’re going to do this, even by yourself, assure that you do it well and extremely diversify your comments from one to another.)
While this will bring a lot of positive support to your page and potentially block a negative comment, there is still the possibility that this negative can outweigh multiple positives – especially if someone is referencing a specific issue that they had with your company, whether it be with your service members or a product you sold them. Therefore, this isn’t the most effective approach, but it can certainly work.
2. Approach the person directly about potentially removing their comment and/or correcting it. Sometimes, it’s smart to go right to your ex-consumer in order to sort things out, (unless it’s a competitor who’s out to get you, in which case this process would lead to you finding that out). Send them an e-mail, a Facebook message, or any form of contact at all. Sometimes, it’s a problem of communication that you may have had with the customer, or something wrong you may have done without noticing it in the grand scheme of your business – either way, some people lash out with their feelings in harsh and hurtful ways.
By approaching this consumer, you may find that you were in the wrong or that there is something you can offer them. For example, you could even offer them an incentive, such as a discount or a full/partial refund on a product that they had an issue with. If the subject of matter is a service, you can offer them a “re-trial” or improvement to fully satisfy their needs. In terms of customer support, this is certainly the best approach for getting return customers and keeping slander away from your reputation.
3. Public Response. If you don’t want to engage with the customer directly, you can always publicly respond to their criticism of your business. In a kind, yet straightforward and confident way, you can portray your sympathy for their feelings, while also offering them an incentive or courtesy of some kind. Not everyone is willing to comply with you if you offer them incentives – people hold grudges for a long time when it comes to their money and dissatisfaction with products/services. So, you can publicly respond to their comment (on most social media platforms and other 3rd party sources, this is possible) and show them and the rest of the Internet population that you are willing to comply with disgruntled customers and that you will go to great lengths to please your customers.
4. Delete it. If possible, the easiest way to solve a slander dispute is to simply delete the comment. If you have the power to delete, let’s say, a comment on your Facebook page that you deem inappropriate or would really not like to be publicly displayed in general, you should have the power to delete that comment. There are many exceptions to your ability to delete comments, however, so this isn’t the most useful tactic in responding to a slanderous statement. However, it’s definitely the easiest. A couple of clicks and -vamoose! Problem gone.
5. Pursue Legally. This is for the most extreme of cases. First of all, you need legal grounds to even file for a lawsuit and take the person on the other end of the interweb to court (though finally seeing this person would be gratifying). How do you know if you can finally deliver this slanderous individual to court? First of all, the negative comment has to be considered libel– or, any written defamation (negative comments) towards your business that someone posts on the Internet containing no factual basis. So, you need to be able to prove that this person’s facts are wrong, and not in a 3rd grade opinion-based type of back-and-forth. You need actual proof that what this person is stating is actually completely false.
For instance, if someone references a service that you gave them that was terrible and that they would never recommend you to anyone, but that story is made-up, you can pursue them legally. Also, although these negative comments may hurt your feelings, you need to prove that the slanderous comment actually hurts your reputation. In other words, that people are really seeing this comment and that its being there can wrongfully harm your company’s potential future business or reputation to the general public.
Many times, pursuing legally can cost a lot of money, so you should make sure that it’s worth it to go through all of the trouble. Many times it is, because slander is a serious offense, especially if it’s done on a very public platform with traces to the person accused of it. So, get your story straight and assure there are no loose ends you might’ve forgotten. If you know you’re right and this person is making up some bologna about your company that could seriously hurt your reputation and business, it’s time to make the call to a lawyer and get that person on the stand. For more information on your internet rights, check out The Privacy Initiative of New Jersey.
Slander is a serious offense. Although it’s easy to be anonymous on the Internet, tracing abilities are still possible and defamation is still an act that has serious consequences. If all of the other options are not possible or won’t solve your situation, then pursuing them legally is the next step. It’s important to not allow the flexibility of the Internet to ruin your competition. Competitors and even disgruntled customers can even create false accounts to try to slander your company and it’s up to you to prevent and minimize these threats. Check all of these options before you pursue legally, but definitely don’t allow negative comments to hinder your business potential.