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How to Handle Social Media Criticism Better than NFL Refs

In the wake of some questionable calls, NFL replacement referees felt the wrath of players and fans alike on social media this week. From the first snap of preseason and even after an agreement to end the lockout was reached midnight Thursday, they were victims of virtual mudslinging.

By ignoring the online criticism, the replacement refs probably fanned the flames. (Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang vented on Twitter about the refs after a bad call, and it became the most retweeted post ever.)
In business, ignoring social media criticism is a mistake you can’t afford. More than 70% of Twitter complaints are not responded to, and that’s killing your brand, says PR guru Stacey Acevero. Equally importantly, a good response can also earn your brand a lot of goodwill and buzz. Here are five great examples of different ways to do it.

Zappos responds to negative feedback speedily

Negative comments on the Facebook page of Zappos.com are few and far between. But it’s not like the shoe company deletes everything posted against its brand.

Within 24 hours of a customer complaint about the quality of shoes and poor customer service, Zappos responded. “We’re so sorry to hear that, Brandon. Please send us a private message with your order numbers, and we’ll see to it you’re taken care of right away!”

Even if the solution occurs privately, responding publicly lets others see that you aim to meet customers’ needs.

Sandwich shop serves up sarcasm

After a Yelp user slammed a meatball sub, the unidentified shop that made the sandwich took it in stride and turned it into a marketing tool. On a sandwich board in front of the shop, they wrote “Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life.”

According to Review Trackers, remembering that a single review won’t break a business is key. Focus on your product and how you respond to negative comments and you are more likely to be successful.

Panera makes amends

As people tweeted about missing items and mislabeled online menus among other things on September 26, Panera Bread responded nearly immediately.

After one annoyed customer tweeted about an extra charge and half-full coffee, the company responded, “Hi Dwight. Sorry to hear. Please send details to (us) so we can look into this w/ café mgmt. and follow up w/ you.”

The customer tweeted a thank you to the company for its help.

People use social media to interact with others. Treat customers on social media as if they were speaking to you in person.

Amazon responds thoughtfully

After a company sold digital versions of novels that it didn’t have the rights to reproduce in 2009, Amazon took heat for deleting the illegal copies from its customers’ Kindles. The company had already issued a statement about the perceived invasion of privacy, but it went one step further.

On the company’s forum, CEO Jeff Bezos called the move “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” He added, “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”

The statement by Bezos shows that consumer comments, whether positive or negative, are as good as gold because they provide a blueprint of how to improve.

Smart Car uses a clever response

After a tweeter made an immature comment about a bird totaling a Smart Car with its dropping, the compact car brand used comedy to clear the misperception that its cars were unsafe.

“Couldn’t have been one bird,” the company’s tweet said. “Sounds more like 4.5 million. (Seriously, we did the math.)”

The company included an infographic to further the fun and earned kudos from the original jokester and publicity for its clever response.

How would you respond to the complaints above?

About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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