Combatting Negative Reviews on Social Media

How to Turn Negative Reviews on Social Media into a Positive Selling Feature for your Small Business



If there is one hot topic with our clients it’s, “What do we do about negative reviews on our social media?” At Chatter Marketing, we look at negative social media reviews as an opportunity. Allow us to explain…

It’s true. No one likes to find a negative review about their business on Facebook or customer review websites, but unless you're perfect, it will probably happen. So, when it occurs, how do you deal with it?

We live in a world where everybody has a voice. An opinion. And often times, those opinions can wreck havoc on our businesses. Your customers have the ability to talk, take pictures, interact with others, and create positive or negative buzz about their experiences with your business. And worst of all, it isn’t all necessarily true.

Take a look at Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, or any social media site and within seconds, you can read opinion after opinion about your business. Many are likely positive. So…how do you respond properly and turn a negative review into a positive selling opportunity?

  1. Don’t take it Personally—Yes, yes. We know. How can you NOT take it personally, right? After all, your business is YOURS and that makes this very personal. But, in actuality, it’s not personal. The reviewer is responding to their experiences with your business just as they would with any other business. So, put on your business big girl/boy pants, and remember that it’s not a reflection of you as a person.
  2. Always respond—If there is one rule we have about negative complaints, it’s that you should ALWAYS respond. You have to find time to make it right where angry customers are concerned. If you’re running your business well, it’s likely that only a few negative reviews are coming in, but it’s important to address each one. If you don’t have time to respond, hire a company that specializes in social media that will respond on your behalf.
  3. Respond Appropriately—It’s understandable that you might want to challenge the reviewer, but that’s a sure-fire way to compound the damage. Nobody likes a hothead, so DON’T DO IT! And yes…we need to follow the rule that the customer is always right. Even if you don’t believe it in a certain case, your response should indicate it. 
  4. Restate the Complaint—Most of the time, the negative reviewer is annoyed. And, when people are upset, they want to know that they were heard. Make sure that you restate the complaint. For example, if the person is mad that their food took too long to get to their table, start your response with, “I’m truly sorry that it took an hour for you to receive your dinner.”
  5. Nobody Likes to Hear Excuses—You’re first reaction is typically to give a reason why. Why it happened isn’t their problem so don’t risk an excuse sounding like an attempt to pass blame to others. Instead, say something like, “this was uncharacteristic of us and we would like to make it right.”
  6. Highlight your Strengths—The complaint is negative. Turn it in to a positive. “We’re truly sorry that our sales associate was unfriendly. We’ve been in business for more than 15-years serving thousands of customers per week but each customer is important to us. We would like to offer you…”
  7. Resolve it—Sometimes, your response to angry customers will say more about your business, and you as an owner, than the positive reviews you receive. Regardless of who is right or wrong, do your best to resolve the issue. We understand that this is nearly impossible because there are those you simply can’t make happy. But, it’s worth a shot and people looking at reviews will see you went over and above to make it right. If it was a dining experience, refund their check. If it was a product, offer to take it back with no questions asked. Whatever price you have to pay, it’s a way to show your potential NEW customers that you value your business and your customers. Think of it as advertising at a discount.
  8. Make it more Personal—It’s understandable that you don’t want your whole conversation with the disgruntled customer to be online. In that case, don’t put that in the public response. Tell them to call or email you to discuss further. You’d be happy to take care of them. And, potential customers reading the review will be impressed by the fact that you wanted to handle on a personal level.

Now that we’ve given you a few tips for how to handle a negative review, there is one area that we want to address separately. The DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE. (Insert horror film music!) Yep. We ALL have them. And, it’s no doubt that those unhappy, past employees will be one of the biggest thorns in your side on social media. 

At Chatter Marketing, we deal with this sort of negative review for clients the most! So, what do you do when an employee has been fired or laid off—and they are upset? YOU RESPOND, of course. 

Most of the time, these employees will go online and bash your business and give personal information about the inner workings of your organization. And it’s never pretty. But, don’t fret! Our advice to you is to respond in a positive way…

“We’re sorry Sally for your negative work experience with our organization. We assure you that hiring the best-of-the-best is of utmost concern for our organization. We wish you well in all your future endeavors.” 

If the disgruntled employee continues the conversation with an argument. Don’t respond. Other customers reading reviews can sense anger (and sometimes crazy). It’s not your job to defend yourself. Just let it go after the first response. Your silence speaks volumes to the reader.

We would like to conclude by saying, don’t sweat the bad reviews. No one expects a business to be all roses and rainbows. If you receive a few bad review, simply make it right and show everybody that you care about your business and your customers. And, watch your reviews for consistency. If multiple people are commenting negatively about your business, you may need to take a closer look and address the concerns. Negative reviews may have a sting to them, but they can also provide valuable feedback you can use to build a better business.


Chatter Marketing, Inc. is a full-service advertising, marketing, branding, public relations, and social media agency located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Chatter Marketing team has been creating BUZZ, or “Chatter,” for small and medium-sized organizations since 2013. They use their expertise and strategic skill to identify the client’s most unique selling point(s) and give audiences...something to talk about.