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How to Respond to Negative Social Media

National Restaurant Consultants has tips for interacting with social media bullies and the why behind the response

By Sarah Ann Noel - August 29, 2018

Last week, we blogged about gender neutral bathrooms in restaurants and opened up a discussion on Facebook. Comments quickly strayed from actual opinions about the topic to attacks on users with opposing views. 

These days, social media is an invitation to differing opinions and, unfortunately, meanness. The anonymity of the Internet empowers debators to interact in a way they might never dare to in person. That said, social media is an integral component of how people--potential customers--consume information. And there is a positive side to social media, as we've shared here and on other occasions. So what do you do when the conversation turns ugly? What do you respond to, how do you respond, and what's best left alone?

It's important to consider your medium. We turned to Facebook to open up a discussion last week. It's not just two-way communication--it's a multi-directional conversation for the purpose of collecting a broad view of ideas. It's important to not guide or silence these conversations (that would be to defeat the purpose); and your followers and customers need to know that you operate with neutrality and transparency. That doesn't mean you leave the way open for unkind behaviors, and so for this specific episode of name-calling, we stepped in and reminded people what information we were after and why they were there. It's important to stand up for people without squashing the headlining commentary. if you participate in the underlying discussion, you could be just as responsible for sidelining the goal.

Things look different on an app like Yelp, however. When you list your establishment on Yelp, you're opening yourself up to review--and that includes bad ones. Sure, you could log on and respond to every negative word, but what does that look like to a potential customer? Our Evergreen consultant recently came across the Instagram account for an upscale restaurant in town. The menu was enticing, the setting perfect, but she noticed the chef arrogantly clapping back at dissatisfied customers. It immediately put a bad taste in her mouth about the leadership of the place, and she chose not to visit. 

If you must respond to negative reviews, you need to do so from a customer service perspective. Someone is disappointed in the service--ask for a second chance with a discount on their next meal. A reviewer didn't like their meal--perhaps mention an upcoming menu change and offer a coupon for them to try. You won't recover every disgruntled guest, but you might get some. And other users observing the conversation will be happy to see that you're the sort of place that values its patrons' opinions. 

There are some times when things are just better left alone. Maybe your restaurant has an Instagram account and a meanspirited commenter criticizes your photography. It's really irrelevant to you, to your business, and to the purpose of your account.

You have to decide upfront how you prefer to deal with these "troll" comments, and then be consistent in your response. Some influencers are of the mind to mitigate comments. They may even say in a post or in their profile, "All negative or mean comments will be deleted." This is a surefire way to ensure that your Instagram is happy and positive, but it doesn't necessarily present the best picture in terms of tolerance and facilitation.

Another school of thought suggests that if you leave these comments up, your supporters will come to your rescue. In the end, the increased interaction on the post will work in your favor, affecting the algorithms, your following, and where your account appears in search pages.

Above all, when you're operating a business social media account, it's important to remember that it is a communication tool, nothing more, nothing less. It is a prevelant means for marketing, increasing visibility, and building both a brand and an audience. Every word typed, every photo posted should be done with a professional air and diplomacy. Consider the whole picture of your business, not just a single incident.

If you have more questions about social media for your business, contact a restaurant consultant today.

Photo by MARVIN TOLENTINO on Unsplash