From a dissatisfied customer to a disgruntled employee, all of these people have something in common: they can create a negative impact on your brand. Since the early days of the internet, consumers have continued to speak their minds when they are unhappy or disappointed. Social networks are now the platform for reviews, commentary, and feedback on services or products from a company.

Consumers sharing and posting content are helping to push that content to gain exposure and potentially go viral. More and more consumers have been taking to the social media space to share their experiences and thoughts on anything and everything. When a consumer shares a bad experience on social media, this initial impression has the potential to create negative buzz around your entire brand. All it takes is one unhappy consumer and the negative conversation will continue to gain momentum and can turn into a never-ending cycle. The concept of negative buzz within social media is not going away anytime soon. Consumers will continue to use their voice on social networks and give their opinions. While consumers continue to use their voice, as a brand it’s important to listen and become aware of their concerns.

Identify the negative buzz

Before developing a strategy it’s extremely important to identify what the issue is and who is talking about it. By identifying the issue we are able to recognize whether this is high priority or something that is important but not extremely urgent. After identifying the topic of discussion, the next step is to identify the users who are creating negative buzz. Your audience members are the very of heart of your social media presence, honing in and listening to what they are saying is critical. It’s always important to be able to decipher negative buzz from a real concern. Below are types of users who have the potential to create negative buzz.

  • Troublemaker/Heckler– This type of user does not have an actual concern and is trying to create more negative conversation by bad mouthing the company. It’s best to take this conversation away from a public social network and try to deal with it on a private platform like email or direct message. You may also want to try to set up a suggestion box on your website to allow for angry consumers to vent. A troublemaker may be a former employee or someone who holds a grudge. They also may be a potential competitor.
  • Genuine Complainer- This is a consumer who has an actual complaint; the user is genuinely concerned and has a problem. The consumer will usually make valid points, have truth to their complaint and have an issue that can actually be solved. This type of user can be contacted publicly or privately. With a genuine complainer it’s important to set up an escalation strategy so that customer service issued can be pointed in the right direction and always addressed.
  • Engaged Critic- This is a consumer who always offers suggestions and responds intelligently to feedback. An engaged critic is someone who usually identifies themselves as a fan of your brand. You can contact this user publicly or privately. It’s good to follow up with someone like this because they provide important feedback. A long-term strategy for this type of user would be to set up a private community for brand advocates to further provide suggestions.



If you’re going to be in social media, you have to have thick skin. You’re not going to be able to control everything. You don’t own the conversation; you’re just part of it. The sooner you realize that the better off you’ll be”

– Rick Wion, head of US social media for McDonald’s

Fully understanding that you don’t have full control over the conversation is important when creating your strategy. Make sure to realize that your feedback will be interpreted differently throughout all audience members.

Create a social presence

When dealing with negative conversation on social media there should always be a plan in place before moving forward with reaching out to your audience and responding. Regardless of the sentiment, users will talk about your brand on social media, it’s bound to happen. If your brand does not have a social media presence it’s imperative that you begin to create one. According to eMarketer the top two reasons a user interacts with a brand is to seek an actual response from a company about a service or to praise the company for great service. Having a presence on social media helps brands be able respond to a situation in the same place where the negative buzz is occurring.


When employees work together it helps to split the work load and provide a quicker response time to dissatisfied consumers. Collaboration can be extremely helpful to make sure no commentary is missed and that everything is being constantly monitored

Escalation process

There should always be an escalation process when dealing with negative buzz. There should be employees within your company who are responsible for specific type of responses such as functionality issues, FAQs, customer service, or mission statement of the brand. This process will help divide the work load and make it easier for employees to provide significant feedback to audience members.


During the execution process it’s time to implement the strategy you’ve prepared and make an effort to communicate with your audience and potentially minimize the negative conversation. Negative buzz can range from day-to-day to serious issues. Below are four categories by Rebecca Davis that cover a majority of negative situations that a company will come across during the execution process

  • Negative Reviews and Comments: Every company must deal with unhappy customers. Brands should have a plan in place, as part of an overall social media strategy, to deal with or respond to these complaints.
  • A Growing Movement: If enough individuals have similar negative experiences, or one in particular has found a group of advocates or supporters, the company must determine the best time to step in and respond.
  • Mainstream Media Involvement: Often, situations that originate on social media spill into mainstream outlets. For instance. The FedEX video about the employee who was damaging packages during a delivery was played on “Good Morning America,” reaching a new and very large audience, while FedEX’s media team, located in Memphis, Tenn., in the Central Time zone, was just getting to the office. In such situations, social media can supplement more traditional media outreach.
  • A Full-Blown Crisis- In dealing with more serious situations- accidents and spills, recalls and safety issues- social media can play a role in informing consumers and the media, and is becoming a bigger part of crisis communications.


Almost in any scenario people expect a response right away, this is the same case with consumers in the social media space. Your audience wants a response as soon as possible. When dealing with negative conversation on social media make sure to try and respond back to your audience as quickly as possible, the sooner the better. In doing this you are showing to your audience that you are listening and show concern with the issue at hand. According to eMarketer, the expected response time for a question or complaint posted on a company’s Facebook page is 16% within 30 minutes, 13% within 2 hours, and 22% of users expected a same day response.

When responding it’s also important to make sure to realize that different social networks sometimes require different responses. Different social networks often take different roles when there is negative conversation taking place. Twitter often takes the lead because most users post their updates public and more frequent. The nature of Twitter usually encourages a quicker response from brands. Twitter also allows users to easily mention a brand, drawing attention from company audience. According to a study from Market Force Information, Facebook was the most popular site for users to post negative comments on. According to a May 2012 survey, more than 12,000 social media users in North America had posted negative comments at one time or another. Facebook was by far the most popular site for posting negative feedback, with 71% of respondents saying they used Facebook. When responding on Facebook, a company is able to provide a more in-depth response as opposed to Twitter that can only fit 140 characters in a Tweet.

Be human

When responding back to users on social media it’s helpful to put a human face on the situation. Instead of posting from the company Facebook or Twitter page respond directly from your work profile. Consumers respond better to hearing from an actual person and it doesn’t have to be a top executive. Anyone from the company who is able to provide feedback will work. When a human responds back instead of a company account it can help defuse some of the tension around the negative buzz.


There are several social media tools to help monitor the conversation. Below are a few that will help with monitoring and responding during your execution process:

  • HootSuite- this has features to help your team collaborate their efforts and identify questions and concerns.
  • Meltwater- Platform offers monitoring, engagement and management. This tool is helpful to monitor traditional media and find articles about your brand.
  • Radian6- Tool for monitoring and social engagement that has a dashboard that can help for interpreting results.


Once the negative conversation has subsided make sure to evaluate your performance and create a follow up process. If this situation was a major crisis you may require rebuilding your brand reputation on social media. Make sure to take a step back and acknowledge the situation rather than jumping in with no plan and beginning regularly posting. After going through a negative experience with a brand consumers are not as open to marketing or advertising. Make sure to ease into the regular routine by following up with your followers to make sure everything is running smoothly. Periodically check in and make sure everything is ok. Continuing to engage with your followers is important, ask what they are interested in seeing on your page can help provide content your followers will be interested in.