The power of social media is undeniable. From sparking political and social justice movements to unraveling a missing persons case, a lot of good can come from the masses.
At the same time, this power can result in negativity and hate. For cannabis brands using social media, harnessing the good and fending off the bad can be a challenge. This is especially true if you’re in a controversial or restricted industry like cannabis.
Check out a major cannabis organization with a large following and you’ll likely see inflammatory comments about:
- Cannabis legalization
- Customer service
- Frustration with products
The trouble comes from the business perspective. The best thing to do for your brand’s reputation is to respond to ALL comments you receive on social media, both positive and negative. 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 should be to make the individual feel heard. Respond to comments in a timely manner, which is why it’s important to monitor your social media presence regularly. People don’t want 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 the instance of a negative experience with your cannabis brand, be prepared to apologize sincerely. Acknowledge the customer, apologize, and explain how you plan to do better and/or prevent the issue from happening again.
Know that sometimes, you’re going to have to give a little. When you back up your response with a discount, for example, don’t just tell them you understand. Show 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.
Never copy and paste your responses to negative comments. While templates can be useful, people can easily spot that when you’re replying to comments with the same message.
Be sincere and authentic. Take 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 be more personal is to sign your name and role at the end of your response. The commenter will see that a real human is making the effort to reach out to them.
Don’t be afraid to use humor.
Although you should do this with caution, your cannabis brand can find success by handling negative comments into a positive experience. You’ll find this approach is most popular on Twitter, but we encourage you to stay professional yet (light hearted) to humanize your brand.
Here are some great examples from Twitter:
Take the conversation offline/private ASAP.
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 made a polite public response, move the conversation to private messages, email, or the phone. This is where you can understand more about the customer’s unhappiness and try to make it right.
Remember that people can take screenshots or make more posts about your business. Be sure to carry yourself professionally at all times.
Stay true to your values.
Your cannabis brand’s values are important to keep in mind when addressing comments on controversial topics. Such comments tend to appear during social justice campaigns or events, including:
- Pride Month
- Black Lives Matter
- The War on Drugs
- Cannabis legislation
Be prepared for negative comments on your stance. Don’t backpedal. Depending on your brand awareness, you can take a more bold approach like Ben & Jerry’s often does. For most cannabis companies, we recommend simply re-stating your position. Don’t get into an argument online.
Here’s an example of a humorous response that went viral when a user challenged the Post Office News’ LGBTQ+ Pride Month campaign:
When Not to Respond to Negative Comments
No matter the context, you may find you’re dealing with internet “trolls” – those who spam your posts with negative comments because of a grievance. In this case, it’s okay to block the account or delete/report inappropriate comments.
Another situation where you shouldn’t 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:
- Random attacks that don’t make sense
- Cultural slurs
- Racial bias
You have the right to delete anything you feel shouldn’t be on your social media page.