A Guide to Dealing With Negative Reviews on Social Media


Last week, popular ice creamery Gelato Messina won praise on social media for its response to an angry online reviewer who called one of its employee’s racist and derogatory names.

In a review titled “Worst Customer Service”, posted on Urbanspoon for the Gelato Messina store in Parramatta in Sydney, a “diner from Sydney” claimed they received “unpleasant” and “rude service” in February.

Social media soon exploded with praise for the way Gelato Messina handled the complaint. Not only did they still respond to the complaint, they did not back down on their own values and tolerate the manner in which the diner chose to express themselves. Raising the question: what is the right etiquette when responding to negative feedback on social media?

Granted, the Gelato Messina example is on the extreme spectrum of negative feedback, it’s increasingly common for small businesses to be faced with it online.

Responding to negative feedback


If you believe the review is untrue or not from a genuine customer, you can contact the review site to have it removed. Note: way easier said than done. Sites like Google Places and Yelp have strict standard practices that prevent them removing reviews as they are a forum for users to share both positive and negative opinions. They don’t arbitrate disputes and more often than not they leave the reviews up.


Most sites prohibit swearing, personal attacks and breaches of privacy. But there may also be some rules for responses that aren’t so obvious (e.g. many sites prohibit advertising, ALL CAPS and links in responses). Read the site rules that apply to you. Each site also has rules for reviewers, and you should read these to help decide if a negative review breaks their rules.


Many business owners are upset or angry when they read a negative review. After all you’re only human. A negative review is not good for your business, but a rude, aggressive or flippant response from you will damage your reputation even more. Be polite and professional at all times.


Speak to your staff and get their side of the story, and communicate privately with the reviewer to find out more details.


Respond to each review publicly, addressing the issues while maintaining a professional tone. You can also choose to respond privately, but doing that will not allow potential clients to here your side of the story.

Online reviews aren’t set in stone, by responding positively and offering a solution you give the reviewer an opportunity to change their review.

If the reviewer is baiting you into a back and forth, take the conversation offline immediately by asking them to PM you their email address or phone number so you can handle the situation away from the public forum.

Once you’ve communicated privately with the customer, post a public message outlining what you’ve done to resolve it. This will show you are responsive to feedback.


Successful business people learn from negative reviews, improve their business if need be, and move on. Use each negative review as a chance to learn something new.

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Maintaining Your Rep: Dealing With Negative Comments on Social Media


Interacting with your customers on social media is a great way to build your business and maintain a strong online presence, but inevitably, not all of the comments you receive will be positive. To protect the reputation of your brand, it’s important to know what to do when your social media outlets receive negative comments.

Put a Positive Spin on Negative Comments

The way that you respond to negative feedback on social media will make all the difference in protecting your reputation.

If someone has an in-depth complaint, ask for their contact details and explain that somebody from your company will contact them to resolve the matter. This is a good option because any further complaint details will be dealt with privately and it will show on your social media account that, as a business, you actively work to resolve complaints.

For simpler negative comments, like somebody commenting that you never have the product they want in stock, a good response would be to apologize and offer to make a special order of the item.

Trying to appease the customer who has had a bad experience is always a good idea. It will keep that customer coming back to you and it will put your company in a good light on social media. However, you should refrain from publicly appeasing customers with gift vouchers or coupons. If other people spot that your company gives 20% off coupons to people who complain, that will only serve to encourage more negative comments. When responding to negative comments, you should be:

  • Polite
  • Sincere
  • Working towards a resolution

Balance the Bad with the Good

You can’t please everyone and other people reading your negative comments will understand this. Don’t delete negative comments because people will notice this and it will make your company look dishonest and as if you have something to hide. Customers appreciate transparency and having negative comments on your social media sites will show them that you are an honest business.

Having negative comments on your social media page isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have handled them well and you can work to counteract the negative comments with posts from happy customers. 

  • Encourage happy customers to post on your social media site
  • Publish positive reviews online
  • Retweet or share any good feedback you receive

Don’t Engage with Haters

Always respond to negative comments in a calm and professional manner. You can block someone from posting on your social media accounts if they persistently post comments that are:

  • Offensive
  • Rude
  • Abusive
  • Have no truth

To ensure that the reputation of your business does not get damaged, you should always maintain the higher ground.

Closing with one final piece of advice – Do not engage with Internet trolls because no one wins!

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