Facebook is increasingly being used as a review platform. It is one of the simplest ways for someone to voice an opinion. It’s also the platform with the largest audience - over 2.01 billion monthly active users as of June 30, 2017.

That’s terrific when someone leaves a positive review or comment on your community's Facebook page. But what about negative feedback? Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but a negative comment can have harsh effects on your community if it is not properly addressed.

Before the world of Facebook, a disgruntled family member, friend, or even resident might call your location with a complaint. Or, they might even write a letter. On occasion, a particularly bad issue could make its way to a courtroom. They sought justice, but it came at the cost of high legal fees and a battle.

Times have changed. Now, with only a few keystrokes, the world can know their side of the story. And that’s exactly what a negative review or comment is - one side of a story.

Your first reaction to seeing a negative comment might be to rattle off the other side of the story in a follow-up comment. I’d encourage you not to.   

Should You Delete Negative Facebook Comments?

One possible solution to handle negative feedback is to just delete the offending comment. This essentially shuts down that annoying voice that you might believe is spreading a falsehood. However, we all know what someone who feels ignored does… they start talking louder.

A negative comment, which can be deleted, can quickly turn into a negative review, which cannot be individually removed. My suggestion is to never delete a comment unless it contains explicit language or personal details.

It’s also a best practice to add a message to the “About” section of your Facebook page that you will remove comments with vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, explicit content or details not suitable for a general audience.

So if you can’t delete them, how should you appropriately handle negative comments?  

6 Keys to Defusing Negative Online Comments

Respond Quickly

Don’t think that a situation will "diffuse" itself over time. I’ve heard someone say, "if they were really bothered they’d call." It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Act quickly. Other people can see how quickly you engage, so try to respond within an hour if the comment comes in during normal business hours. Up to 48 hours is acceptable if the comment comes late at night or over the weekend. Assisted living facilities operate 24 hours a day, though, so be prepared for people to expect responses sooner than normal.

Set up alerts to notify you when your page is mentioned or receives a comment on a Facebook post. A great tool for this is the Facebook Pages app for your smart phone.

Take Ownership

Your followers are looking for you to address the resident or individual who left the comment and his/her problem in an attentive manner. Don’t call them out for lying or accuse them of anything. Use compassion in your response.

Do they cite something that really is a problem? If so, let them know that their voice is heard, and that you’re actively working on a solution. Social media can be a great way to remind people of your high standards, how you aim to reach those standards, and how sometimes you might fall short.

It’s okay to admit a shortcoming. Your audience will appreciate the candor.

You Don’t Have to Explain Everything

The true story behind a negative comment is typically pretty complex. For example, someone came to visit their grandmother, they noticed a problem, this particular staff member said something they shouldn’t have, etc. Maybe the comment your staff member made was simply taken out of context.

While it may be tempting to type out all the details of your side of the story, I caution against it. It opens up the door for a response in the comments section. Instead, address the situation and give the commenter a way to discuss the issue in a direct conversation, like an email address or direct phone number.

Keep details to a private conversation.

But Don’t Sound Like a Robot

A successful assisted living community will show the human side of their community. They’re perceived as real and approachable.

How can you do that online if every message sounds exactly the same, and your response feels disconnected from the original comment?

Make sure you read the negative feedback, and determine the heart of the issue. Then, have a toolbox of 4-5 templated responses that you can customize based on the situation. There are several ways to tell someone that you’re sorry a situation happened to them, and you want to see what you can do to fix it.

By varying your responses, you’ll come across as more human and less robotic.

Say You're Sorry, Without Saying "Sorry"

It’s important to take responsibility that the situation is not up to your usual standards, but don’t bend over backwards to apologize for a problem that might not be your responsibility or fault in the first place. Simply put, you probably need more information than what's in the social media comment.

For example, instead of saying “How embarrassing. We’re so sorry this happened. Clearly we messed up.” say “Hi (insert first name), we regret that your experience didn’t meet our high standards of providing the best care possible. We’d like to hear more about what happened so that we can be sure to address the situation appropriately. Would you mind emailing our support team at (insert email address) with additional details?”

Take the Conversation Offline

See in the example above how I asked the commenter to email our support team to discuss the issue directly? My best suggestion is to get the conversation off of the internet.

Tell them to contact you, give them a direct line to reach you, or a platform where you can discuss the problem away from social media. It shows you care, you’re trying to solve the problem, and you don’t want to waste time. Let the responsibility fall on their shoulders though. You did your part and responded. Many negative comments are just frustrated rants, and as long as you address is issue head-on, the matter settles itself.

Facebook is here to stay. Instead of hiding your comments, get out there and interact with your followers. Others watching how you handle the situation will appreciate your willingness to right the wrongs.

Learn more about how you can use your digital marketing efforts to help residents and future residents in our eBook, available for you to download.

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