Six Steps For Dealing With Detractors

by Jason Falls |

Dealing with detractors is perhaps one of the biggest pain points for companies just starting and even well entrenched in social media marketing. “What if someone says something bad about our company?” is often asked by brand managers, executives and more when opening their websites or even Facebook pages to conversations and interactions with consumers.

There are many examples of companies engaging detractors that can illustrate why you don’t have to be quite as worried about the complainers and combatants as you think. But only through experience can you develop your own tested processes of handling the various types of detractors. Having advised a number of companies on how to deal with the negative online, plus having to dig myself out of a few incidents where my sense of humor has gotten the best of my sense of decorum, here are the six steps I take in dealing with detractors:

  • Acknowledge their right to complain
  • Apologize for their situation, or your mistake (if warranted)
  • Assert clarity in your policy or reasons (if warranted)
  • Assess what will help them feel better
  • Act accordingly
  • Abdicate (Sometimes a turd is a turd)

Forrester originally classified the different types of detractors as legitimate complainers, competitors, engaged critics, flamers and troublemakers. I like a bit less formal designation in my list. I think you deal with offended publics, disgruntled stakeholders, competition, trolls and turds. The difference in a troll and a turd is that a turd identifies him or herself with a name and/or email address. They’re accountable, but still being a pain in the ass, mostly likely just because they like being a pain in the ass.

Identifying which you’re dealing with will make using the system easier. But then again, you have to dive in and do it to really learn what works best for you.

Is how you handle detractors off-line different that how you would handle them on-line? Do you do something differently than what I’ve suggested? Add to the knowledge by adding a comment below.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).