July 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm | 592 Views

Online Reputation Management: Dealing with Social Criticism

Engaging in social media is more than a necessity for businesses to succeed in the online domain (no surprise here). However, it’s important for brands to understand that online media is one versus many. Customers with complaints, gripes, and problems—as well as plain ol’ cyber bullies—often utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to defame companies; while companies have just as much right to do so in return, it’s crucial to be the bigger person, so to speak.

A recent article in Forbes explains some of the errors companies make when responding to social media threats and accusations. The post explains how negative customers are fighting a one-sided battle — after all, what can a company realistically say to fix the problem in public? There are solutions to dealing with individual complaints, and both the consumer and brand need to meet on equal ground behind closed doors to deal with a problem.

The Social Side

Complainers often use social media because they feel it draws attention. They seek sympathy and sentiment from fellow customers with the same problem; maybe it was slow service delivery, a malfunctioning product, or a billing error. Problems happen in businesses big and small every day. Social media is a platform people use to “get back” at a company, but it isn’t recommended to respond to every complaint and virtual abuse using the same methods.

The Corporate Side

Brands with good online reputation management skills realize that not every complaint is the same. However, many of them fit into one of two categories; either a consumer is actually seeking help or is confused about a product or service or a consumer just wants to spark an argument. The article says it’s actually positive for companies to deal with gripes on a one-to-one level. Many of these are familiar enough due to customer feedback reports or with products known to have some sort of technical malfunction. Great — deal with these problems and even consider releasing a public statement about how you are dealing with customer concerns.

On the other hand, it never helps anyone to get into a massive, online shouting match with a customer. If a brand raises its voice, it has already lost (the customer as well as the argument). Research shows that it is more efficient to maintain loyal customers than to smear your company’s reputation trying to win an online battle. If you know anything about online pissing contests, they are twice as futile as real life ones.


As all companies know, the customer is not always right. There are times when it tempting to respond to online criticism, but if you take a look at our case studies you’ll find that negative comments, reviews, and remarks often fade in their own time, with proper management and content creation strategies. Most gripers forget about the problem after a time, and a brand only draws more attention to itself and admits to the problem by reinforcing its online presence. Stay smart, stay professional, and maintain virtual customer and public relations like you would in the physical business world.

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