IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

How to Manage the 3 Types of Negative Comments on Social Media

All negative comments are not created equal, and how you deal with them says a lot about your agency.

If your public-sector entity is on social media, it’s only a matter of time before you receive negative comments from citizens. Recognize that all negative comments are not created equal, and how you deal with them says a lot about your agency.

In my experience, there are generally three types of negative comments on government social media: a complaint about a specific service or situation they encountered; disagreement or dissatisfaction with something your agency is doing; and unhappiness about anything related to your agency. Before you get depressed about all this, know that there are techniques good social media managers use to effectively manage negativity.

Legitimate Complaints

“My water bill is totally messed up!” The first type of negative comment — complaints — is the easiest to address. Think of them as customer service opportunities. Acknowledge the person’s complaint and try to help resolve the problem, or at least point him or her in the right direction.

Get in touch with the right department behind the scenes and understand that timely responses are critical. Ensure that your subject-matter experts know they need to help your social media coordinators to respond quickly. Use every agencywide training as an opportunity to mention how important their back-end support of social media is. Often complaints have private details that would be better communicated offline, so you may need to point the citizen to a phone number or email for resolution.

Comments of Disagreement or Dissatisfaction

“I hate all these speed traps around town lately. Don’t police officers have anything better to do?” While it is harder to manage negative comments that disagree with a policy, program or approach your agency takes, there are still some techniques to consider.

First, does the comment warrant a response? Sometimes you might want to leave it alone and let them speak their opinion. Remember, citizens have a right to speak their mind and it’s not your job to remove opposing views. However, you’ll want to jump in if the comment communicates misinformation that might confuse other people. Correcting misstatements can sometimes be an art. You want to clear things up, but not put the citizen on the spot or embarrass him or her.

Make sure to acknowledge the comment. “Sorry to hear that. We appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us” goes a long way. Many times, you’ve satisfied the commenter because they know they have at least been heard, even if their issue was not resolved. Taking it a step further, you might offer to have them call or direct message you with more details. Most people won’t actually take you up on that offer, but they’ll remember that you extended the invitation.

Your Agency Makes Me Unhappy

“This is so typical of the city. Sometimes I don’t think anyone there has a brain.” This type of comment is the hardest to deal with, because they are gut reactions that reflect a general unhappiness with anything related to your agency.

If you respond with “We appreciate you taking the time to comment,” it might not help and may even come across a bit snarky. And you don’t want to fuel the fire. Do not remove comments like these unless they have foul language that violates your published comment policy. Negativity shouldn’t be a reason for comment removal. Often, these comments don’t warrant a response.

Keep in mind that these comments are designed to get personal, but make sure to avoid getting emotional. If you feel it’s appropriate, ask them to consider joining a neighborhood group so they can help guide the direction of policy — hopefully turning them into community champions down the road. 
 

Kristy Dalton is known as "GovGirl" in the government technology industry. She has been called on as an industry influencer and has a passion for social media, technology and digital strategy. Kristy is the founder & CEO of Government Social Media.
Special Projects
Sponsored Articles
  • How the State of Washington teamed with Deloitte to move to a Red Hat footprint within 100 days.
  • The State of Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) reduced its application delivery times to get digital services to citizens faster.

  • Sponsored
    Like many governments worldwide, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, had to act quickly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support more than 15,000 employees working from home, the government sought to adapt its new collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams. By automating provisioning and scaling tasks with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, an agentless, human-readable automation tool, Denver supported 514% growth in Teams use and quickly launched a virtual emergency operations center (EOC) for government leaders to respond to the pandemic.
  • Sponsored
    Microsoft Teams quickly became the business application of choice as state and local governments raced to equip remote teams and maintain business continuity during the COVID-19 lockdown. But in the rush to deploy Teams, many organizations overlook, ignore or fail to anticipate some of the administrative hurdles to successful adoption. As more organizations have matured their use of Teams, a set of lessons learned has emerged to help agencies ensure a successful Teams rollout – or correct course on existing implementations.