How to Respond to Negative Comments About Your Business

January 29, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other. Sure, it’s great that we can connect with long lost friends on Facebook, or instantly share “what we’re doing” with Twitter followers across the globe, but Jeff Pearlman on CNN today (“Tracking Down My Online Haters,” January 21, 2011) made a very strong case for how anonymity and the power of a “warm keyboard” are destroying etiquette and making it very easy for people to jump on the negative bandwagon when they post an online comment.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Anyone who’s read the comments following a news article, blog post, or other online piece knows that negativity reigns supreme in these forums. If you’re like me, I sometimes catch myself scrolling down to the comment section for some online rubbernecking. Posts about superhero or science fiction movies are the best. I’ll laugh myself silly reading what the geeks unleash (particularly because I’m one of them) and wonder where people find the time to worry about such things. Then realize I’ve wasted a half-hour just reading this stuff.

But more often than not I avoid these comment sections. And unless it’s a helpful article related to writing or publishing and the discussion is civil, I never post a comment myself.

As Pearlman says:

Now, with most online publications allowing readers to comment beneath stories, and with Twitter boasting an estimated 175 million users, and with a phony e-mail address a mere click away, readers can easily lash out. The filter that was a pen and paper has vanished, replaced by the immediate gratification of negativity. The concern for a writer’s feelings? Ha. What feelings?

The Consequences for Your Business
Now that marketing is more about engaging with prospects and customers, particularly via social media, it’s nearly impossible for businesses of any kind to avoid the cross hairs (yes, I used those words) of negative commentators. It’s inevitable. People are going to say mean things about you.

So how do you deal with negative comments? If someone is blasting your product, your business idea, or your general right to exist on this Earth, what should you do?

Don’t Switch to Attack Mode
I can’t claim to be an expert on this. But I have an opinion. I think the absolute worst thing to do when responding to negative comments is go on the offensive. You don’t always want to ignore what they say, but as soon as you start attacking the people writing about you, you may as well throw napalm on the fire.

They will eat you alive. They will critique every word that you post and find a way to put a negative spin on it. It’s a battle you just can’t win. Last week, a publisher I interviewed went on a writer’s forum to defend a contest she was running. She lashed out at her detractors. Even called some of them cowards. What resulted were pages and pages of harsh reaction. Other blogs picked up on the discussion. There were countless tweets. Sure you can argue that any news is good news, but when these discussion forums start popping up on the first or second page of the Google results for your company, I find it difficult to see how that will help you in any way.

Turn the Other Cheek
Imagine that you’re experiencing these negative comments in person and that the person(s) making the remarks is in front of you wielding a metal baseball bat. Are you going to confront this person head on or are you going to try to diffuse the situation?

For your own business safety, I recommend that you stay gracious. Take the high road. Thank them for their comments, agree that your business will always make adjustments (as all businesses should), and explain to them how much you welcome feedback of any kind. Show them that you’re human, but not too human. You’ll be astonished by the results. As Pearlman points out in his article, his detractors quickly wanted to befriend him when he paid attention to them. The same might work for you.

I’m not saying that you have to do what they say or dole out virtual hugs, but before you utilize the power of your own warm keyboard, ask yourself if you’re about to react emotionally to the negativity or in the best interest of your business. And if you’re completely unsure of how to respond-just don’t. Chances are, other people are going to give these comments far less thought than you do.

Now let the negative commenting begin!

Wolf Hoelscher, the founder and owner of Pubmission, has 14 years of experience in the publishing industry, most of it as a senior editor or acquisitions editor at both print- and web-based companies. He’s also a writer well-acquainted with the challenges posed by the submission process. As he has been on both ends of the slush pile, he is well-aware of how inefficient, unfair, and frustrating manuscript submissions are for writers, agents, and editors.

Check out http://www.pubmission.com to see the future of the slush pile and manuscript submissions.

Article Source:

http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Wolf_Hoelscher

Wolf Hoelscher - EzineArticles Expert Author

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