It's enough to make the average business owner break out in a cold sweat; the thought of bloggers ripping them.  But while many businesses and companies are fearful of posts that shine a negative light on their business, these instances are in fact a wonderful opportunity.

Here's what often happens with the clients I work with.  A blogger will write a post challenging them, or outright attacking them.  The post is usually based on either a specific interaction the blogger has had with the business, or it's based on something that they have heard that the business has done, or will be doing.

In either case, the blogger has just done something that should excite every business.  The blogger has given the business an open invitation to reply to them, AND to address his/her readers. 

Step back for a second and think about what would happen if you went to a blog and left a comment explaining what your business is, and how it functions.  You'd be slammed unmercifully for self-promotion, and 'spamming' the blog.  Your online reputation would suffer.  As it should, because you would be entering into a conversation that had nothing to do with you, and would be promoting yourself.  VERY bad move.

But what if a blogger wrote a post slamming your business?  Or the new promotion that you are running?  Then it would be perfectly acceptable for you to reply with a comment explaining who you are, and why your promotion is structured the way it is.  Not only would the negative post give you the open invitation to explain yourself and your promotion to that blog's readers, but the blogger and his/her readers would be THANKFUL for you responding to them!  Not a bad deal, eh?

Or what if a blogger leaves a negative post about your company, but the thrust of the blogger's negative stance is based on inaccurate information?  This gives you the chance to come to their blog and correct the misunderstandings, and (if you are REALLY smart) you can then reach out to connect with the blogger to better explain how your efforts are organized.  Offer to call them and walk them through your promotional efforts. 

The bottom line is that when you see a negative post/comment from a blogger, don't think 'oh no, how do we make this stop?!?'  Instead, realize that you now have an invitation to address these blog readers and better explain yourself to them, and connect with them.  Negative posts and comments can be a very powerful tool to build your online reputation, if you are thankful, honest, and respectful of the people you are interacting with.


March 18, 2009





Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.






Comments(36)

Hey Mack, I have to completely agree with you. You can't control what people write about you but you can always control how you react.

A couple weeks ago here in my small city a local business owner was brutally reviewed on Facebook after he yelled at customers in his restaurant. The event would have been overlooked and he'd have only lost a few customers except his mistake was broadcast to the whole community through his poor service.

The result? He learnt his behavior needed to be corrected and his business will be better for it, and his public apology was well received by the whole community. I don't think you can ask for a better outcome.

Companies don't like to deal with problems and negative customers in the open. A lot of companies fear one negative customer can create a wave of negative people with the same problem.

The advantage of being open for the negative response is that you will get the negative information much earlier and the problems will not grow out of proportions.

Hi Mack,

Good points. It recently happen to me. I wrote an article and the second comment on it was a negative one.The comment was placed not only on my blog but on LinkedIn also where I've placed a snippet of the article. Lucky for me I didn't got angry when I wrote my reply. After my response all the other comments supported my reply and everything went back to normal.

Knowing how to manage a negative comment or blog post is important because when you are on the web this things can happen - and most likely will.

Thanks,
@TomaBonciu on Twitter

People can be downright cruel when posting online. Often they say things online they would never say in person or on the phone.

I find most people are pretty good and decent online. I try and be as polite as possible and people usually extend that same courtesy back to me.

-Rick Financial Consultant

Great points everyone. I think when it comes to online, every conversation has three sides. Your side, the side of the person you are replying to, and then everyone else their own opinion of the conversation. That third side is most important, because it comes from everyone seeing how you are presenting your side, and reacting to the other.

So if a business handles itself with dignity and is respectful and thankful for someone that leaves a negative comment, it will almost always reflect positively on that business.

I could not agree with you more. I has a dude visit my blog and used language that while mild was inappropriate for a blog on a business site. Well, that dude, the old fart, owns a very popular SEO forum. He trashed us on his forum and his associates went after me on my blog and on their blogs and across several forums.

At first i took the high road and gave them a voice on our blog. All of this was time consuming. Much of what they had to say was mindless ranting. So I deleted all of there garbage from our blog and instituted our first comment policy.

All of this none sense finally stopped when I ignored them. Never the less those damaging posts kept sticking around the SERP's. Since our Businesses name includes our primary keyword phrase. It took 5 months to push those trashing posts down in the results.

So I don't see much good in negative comments. It is easier to delete them and move on.

These days Online Reputation Management is one of the key tool for online success.

I think for negative comments we should rectify the post by friendly conversation.

This is a very common issue for our industry and we find that a well thought out response is the best answer. Often times we want to react quickly to inaccuracies or false accusations, but having the opportunity to set things straight has been brilliant for us.

The points you make in your article are very good. I recently had an interesting situation with the company I work for, although a very good niche market software development company they knew nothing about SEO or SEM. One of the first things they wanted to handle was a bad review on two "software review" sites. These reviews had been up for over two years. Neither site allowed comments, had contact data or even identified who was running the site or doing the reviews. As this in it's self was weird I started my invest. What I found was that these sites were done by the same person or persons and that the only software company that did have a high rating didn't even exist! Also, per analytics both sites have a high % of referrals to our site. Needless to say I convinced the owners to ignor these sites, put all my investigation data on our own blog and forgot about. “Bad PR” is not always a Bad thing.

"Often times we want to react quickly to inaccuracies or false accusations, but having the opportunity to set things straight has been brilliant for us."

Good point, Jamey. And Boris is also right, you will occasionally run into people that are simply trying to start/sustain an argument. I agree that you can police the comments of these people as you see fit, but having a general rule to delete all negative comments is a very bad idea, IMO.

What do you think? Is it better to attempt to handle negative comments appropriately, or just delete them all? And in either case, how would the rest of your readers react to you handling the negative comments?

@Mack Collier - My personal opinion is that unless a comment is derogatory, contains profanity etc... it's likely best to respond and at best begin a dialogue, or "at worst" have the chance to set things straight.

Inevitably, it's likely we'll all come across a comment that requires deletion at some point.

Thanks for the discussion.

Over all I like to handle things with communication. I think anything can be handled with communication, but yes there are times that you just have to hit delete. Thats where you have to asses for your self "Is this doing me more harm than not?" Sometimes by just addressing the comment you give it more crediblity.

Thank you so much for this disscussion. I normaly just read your posts but it's nice to be able to join in once in awhile.

Excellent article Mack! Just about all the points that you and others make for blog posts also apply to customer reviews. As with the blog posts, the best policy in most situations is to reply positively to a negative review. Explain to the online audience what you've done and what you're willing to do to make the situation right. Most times, if you demonstrate that you're willing to work constructively with a customer when problems arise, you'll be building your business reputation. If the review was written by a competitor, I'd also post a positive response, if at all possible.

What drives me nuts are businesses that don't respond at all. There's a car dealer in a nearby city that's had a single, very negative, but very credible review posted on Yahoo Local for several years. Since it's the only review for that business, it is their online reputation. It's time for small businesses, even in rural areas, to take the blinders off, get online, and set up automatic searches for reputation information. Then they can follow your advice and respond to negative (and positive) feedback in a constructive way.

Thanks again for a great article!

This is a terrific post Mack! C-level execs should paste it to their computers. :>)

@Mack - Great, great post. We deal with this issue all the time. It's getting folks (not just small business owners, but corporate pr folks, c-levels, etc.) to understand they can't control the conversation. We're in a fundamentally different communications landscape and it's better to do what you can to participate lest everyone else takes part in the conversation without you.

Good post.

On a side note, I sometimes hear something of the sort: "Whether it's good or bad, at least they wrote something"...

Have you hacked into Guy Kawasaki's Twitter account? If not you, somebody who likes you has - multiple links to this post today ??

Vanessa I hope you'll start commenting here more often ;)

Paul that's a good analogy to customer reviews. Another reason why I think many businesses make social media a lot harder than it has to be. It's just new communication tools. Showing customers respect and being willing to listen works with all tools.

Uhhhhhh no Kalena, I haven't hacked into Guy's Twitter account. That would be pretty dumb of me, wouldn't it?

Great post, Mack!! This is a good strategy on taking advantage of a negative comment and turn it into an opportunity.

Negative comments are good. It gives the company via a blog to explain themselves and educate visitors about something that may not understand. A blog is a great platform for discussion.

Well put,

All businesses large or small cannot control what folks can say about them but they can control the quality of their product or service.

If negative publicity could shut a business down, almost nobody would be left to do business with!

Blogs can be a great way for small businesses to build their reputations.

Mack, thanks for your thoughts. Right on the money with (It's NOT about you). As a prior business owner, I wish that I was as educated then as I am now regarding negative remarks. Thanks again. Regards, Richard

I believe it was Marilyn Manson of all people who said, "I wake in the morning and read about how great I am in the papers and it's good. I wake up in the morning and read about how evil I am and it's great. I wake up in the morning and nothings written about me... I worry"

The old saying that there's no such thing as bad publicity might be a little skewed, but while you're on peoples minds you best make sure they remember you fondly no matter the reason why they thought of you in the first place.

As always, it's not what you do, but rather how you do it.

Every business should be equipped and be trained to answer all negative feedback about them. Always remember, answer the negative ones in a postive way. For that, you will still be able to defend what the company issue is.

You should be thankful if there are critics in your business. Don't mind them as long as you know you are able to cope up with their need and if you are right and on track, there is nothing to worry. Yes, I believe if you are not talked about, you are not hype.

Responding works when the blogger is sane or rational. But what about when they are neither.

When an anonymous blogger slanders you with false information, impersonates you in comments, and edits your comments to say whatever he wants to make it look like you said, what do you do then?

Chris if it's gotten to the point where someone is editing your comments, etc., then it's usually best to just walk away. I know it's frustrating as hell to deal with someone that's doing that, but don't sell the rest of us short. We can see what is happening, and if someone would do that to you, they will do it to others. It's their reputation that will be negatively impacted, not yours. Just be respectful and we'll see what roles both of you are playing.

Hey Mack - just wanted to say sorry if I gave the impression I thought you were a hacker - I apologize, I never meant to imply that. The comment was meant to be tongue in cheek - found it amusing that somebody was using Guy Kawasaki's Twitter account to link to this post and talk about #friedchicken. Whoever did it was obviously just having a gag with Guy, he seemed quite amused by it by the tone of his follow up posts although he did remove the tweets. Anyway, sorry for any offense caused.

I agree that there are too many "trolls" on blogs though. Many people will just sign up and make negative comments and then leave, which is wrong. You see a lot of this type of thing on political websites, but not so much around here. At least that's the impression that I get.

Chris

Interesting post, I have learned that a negative comment is not always bad as long as it is handled in a
positive way and how to deal with the issue. A negative reply on a blog was one of my biggest concerns.
Just learning to blog.

Donna

Oops, forgot to enter the URL.

Thanks for the response mack. I have been ignoring the guy and he doesn't cost me any business. I just have to explain it from time to time about why he is there and doing this. If he wasn't an anonymous coward, I would respond, but as long as he doesn't put his name to it, it has no credibility anyway.

Well of course is there also the other side of negative feedback that is also beneficial. How will you ever know if something is wrong unless someone actually points it out?

Constructive criticism should always be welcomed.

Chris, surprisingly enough, the US Air Force actually has a pretty simple way - brilliantly so, maybe - of handling their social media interactions. A flowchart: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_xN_PwYccl-4/SbGDz5ckUQI/AAAAAAAABaY/k1YJUfP90fs/s1600-h/airforceblogflowchart.gif

I've actually taken to using it to illustrate certain points to clients. Hope this helps.

Mr. McDermott! Great Chart! Very useful! Thank you!

@ MM McDermott - Great flowchart - thanks for posting the link.

It's impossible not to get negative comments! You can't please everybody. There will always be someone out there who won't agree with you or won't like what you're offering.

- Nicole

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