The power of social media is undeniable. From sparking wide-reaching political and social justice movements to unraveling a missing persons case, a lot of good can come from the masses simply using what’s at their fingertips.
At the same time, this power can result in spaces of negativity and hate. For brands using social media, harnessing the good and fending off the bad can be a challenge – especially for businesses in already controversial and restricted industries, such as cannabis.
A simple glance at major cannabis organizations is enough to see the inflammatory comments about cannabis legalization, poor customer service, those who use cannabis, and so on.
The trouble comes from the business perspective where the best thing to do for your reputation is to respond to ALL comments you receive on social media: positive and negative alike. But how do you respond to negative comments without losing your cool or saying the wrong thing?
Here are some things to keep in mind when responding:
Respond in a timely manner.
When it comes to negative comments, your main goal as a business will be to make the individual commenting feel heard. Be sure you are responding to comments in a timely manner. This is why it’s important to monitor your social media presence regularly. The last thing a disgruntled user wants is to be ignored after expressing their grievances.
Do your best to reply to social media comments and reviews – positive or negative – within a day or two.
Apologize sincerely when necessary.
In instances of a negative experience with your brand, be prepared to apologize sincerely. Acknowledge that you have failed this customer, apologize, and explain how you plan to do better next time and/or prevent this from happening again.
Know that sometimes, you’re going to have to give a little. When you back up a thoughtful response with a discount, freebie, etc. you don’t just tell them you understand — you show them.
Make sure if you do this, it is appropriate for their unique situation, and not a bandaid to appease them. For instance, if they received the wrong product, send them the right one for free rather than discounting their next purchase.
Personalize your reply.
Your responses to negative comments should never be copied and pasted. While templates can be a useful tool for your team, it will become easy to identify when you are replying to unhappy comments with the same message.
Remain sincere and authentic by taking the extra time to personalize your message. This can include finding the user’s name, using their words in your reply, or giving a unique explanation to their comment.
Another way to make it personal is to sign your name and role at the end of your response, so they see that a real human is making the effort to reach out to them and not just hide behind a company page.
Don’t be afraid to use humor.
Although you should do this with caution, most brands have the best success when they can handle negative comments in a way that turns them into a positive experience. You will find this approach is most popular on Twitter, but we encourage you to consider staying professional yet light-hearted to humanize your brand.
Here are some great examples:
Take the conversation offline/private ASAP.
Make it a priority to take your conversation offline or private as soon as possible. This can mean replying to a negative comment with “Thanks for letting us know! We’ve DM’d you to continue the conversation.” or including contact information in your response.
After you’ve covered your bases by making a polite public response, move the conversation to private messages, email, or phone conversations where you can understand more about the customer’s unhappiness and try to make it right.
Just remember that people can take screenshots or make more posts about your business, so be sure to carry yourself professionally at all times.
Stay true to your values.
This is especially important to keep in mind when receiving comments on controversial topics. Such comments tend to appear during social justice campaigns or events, such as Pride Month, Black Lives Matter, cannabis legislation, and so on.
Be prepared for negative comments on your stance and don’t backpedal. Depending on your brand awareness, you can take a more bold approach like Ben & Jerry’s often does. However, for most companies, we recommend simply re-stating your position and not getting into an argument online.
Here is an example of a humorous response that went viral when a user challenged the Post Office News’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month campaign:
When Not to Respond to Negative Comments
No matter the context, you may often find that you are dealing with internet ‘trolls’, or those who spam your posts with negative comments because of a grievance. In these instances, it is okay to block the account or delete/report inappropriate comments.
Another situation in which you will not want to engage or respond is if the commenter is putting things on your social media page that you don’t want to be there. That might include profanity, spam, random attacks that don’t make sense, aggression, cultural slurs, racial bias, harassment, threats, etc.
In this case, you have the right and should exercise the right to delete anything that you feel should not be on your social media page.
Managing Your Cannabis Social Media
Community management for cannabis brands is no easy task, but negative comments do not have to impact your brand reputation or your bottom line if managed the right way.
Cannabis Creative helps dozens of brands build an engaging and reputable presence on social media. Contact us today to learn more about our cannabis social media community management services.