Recently, I wrote a post that recommended, "Don't be afraid of fake reviews," to help business owners know how to respond to an angry post in social media. To make a long post short, my advice was to always treat angry reviews as legitimate (not assuming it is faked by a competitor, for example), because responding that way is best whether the review is fake or not.  That advice was questioned by one correspondent, who asked, "How deeply do you respond in public?" What he wants to know is how to practically manage a conversation in social media, which is a very good question.

My original advice was addressed to those who take the extreme approach of ignoring the social media review because they suspect it is fake. My questioner wanted to understand the nuances better. Clearly, a breezy "We're working with this customer offline" might not be all that's needed, but having the complete unique customer discussion online might not be right either. What is right?

It's a question without a cookie-cutter answer.

While each customer situation might be different, there are a few things that you want to keep in mind for your goals. You want to leave the best possible impression with that customer, but more important, with all of the onlookers in that very public social media venue. To do so, it's usually best to move that customer situation offline if you need details about the situation that would be uncomfortable to discuss online, for you or for the client.

So, the answer to how much goes on online depends on the industry. If you are providing medical care, personal care, or financial services, you don't want any client-specific situation anywhere in public. Not only is it a disservice to your client, sometimes it is against the law.

But if your industry isn't so regulated and doesn't cross any privacy boundaries, what you do in public is a judgment call. If you can't provide a detailed but reasonable answer in a single response, you can invite the aggrieved party to make contact offline.  If they accept, you look good in public and you can wrestle the customer's problem to the ground in private. Of course, if you can solve the problem in public, that's even better, but it's riskier.

If you can't solve the customer's problem in public and you can't get them to take it offline, then you need to go back to the original post about fake reviews. Your goal at this point is to look the best you can in public while praying that the rest of the folks in the venue will take you off the hook. Just be as reasonable as you can be, and if the customer remains unreasonable, you're at least doing the best that you can.

Originally published on Biznology

November 1, 2011

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


I make a judgement call based on the what the customer is looking for. Can a short, online response do the job or will I need to engage in some kind of back and forth with them? If I think it's going to develop into a full blown conversation, I usually invite the customer to contact me via email or phone.

I agree! Fake or not there should always be some sort of response and it should be from the heart.

Amen. Too many businesses are so worried about someone saying something negative that they fail to realize how great an impression they can make on the masses by providing visible customer service.

More often than not, you can capitalize on a customer's negative emotion, turning their experience positive. While this clearly is going to lead to a long-standing customer relationship, doing this in a public form has an ancillary effect on all others watching the interaction. It truly is a goldmine that's left relatively untouched out of nothing more than unfounded fear.

On of my clients at Stevenson Ridge had this issue arise after a open house event at their wedding venue. The person had some complaints, and posted them on facebook. She responded how most would not and replied cordially and responded to the answer as best as she could. Other facebook followers also chimed in and helped out the cause in favor of the venue. She could have just deleted the response and moved on but she chose to take the higher road. I appreciate this in a business.

Great example, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing that with us. I suspect that your reaction mirrors most people's, where they appreciate a business who will listen and respond to feedback.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > How deeply do you respond to customers in public?