So someone’s said something nasty about your brand online. They might have posted to your Facebook wall, sent you a Tweet, or commented in a forum.

What should you do?

Well before we look at what you should do, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do. You should not ignore it, delete it, reply half-heartedly or reply in an angry or defensive manner. Unless you have the magic powers of Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, you won’t get away with it.

What you should do is respond, publicly, as quickly as possible. The quicker you deal with the grievance, the less chance of the complaint going ‘viral’ and causing real, lasting damage to your brand’s reputation.

So how should you word your response? You should be polite, personal, and apologetic. You should also provide a solution.  Something like this:

 virginair

But I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong!

If you’re unsure whether your company has actually done anything wrong (i.e. a customer is complaining that their goods haven’t arrived, or they’ve sent X amount of emails to which no one has responded) then explain what you’re going to do to put things right for the aggrieved customer in question.

For instance: you will investigate the matter and contact them personally to discuss a means of remedying the issue.

On the other hand, if it’s plain and clear that the company is at fault, not only should you provide a solution to the customer concerned, but you should publicly outline precisely what you will do to ensure the situation doesn’t occur again.

The more severe the issue however, the bigger the steps you need to take in order to limit the damage caused.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re a national restaurant chain, and a video of an employee doing unspeakable things with a customer’s meal has been released online. Something like this is going to spread, and fast. There’s not a great deal you can do about this. But what you can do is get your voice, and your say on the issue, out there as quickly as possible.

If you can try to ensure people are hearing your side of the story before they see the offending video, the harm caused should be reduced, as should the time it takes for your brand to recover from the incident.

What will happen if I don’t do anything about bad publicity online?

There’s no way to say for sure; this depends largely on the size of your brand and the severity of your offence. However it’s safe to say that you should never just brush a negative comment under the carpet.

You might get a few customers who, when researching your brand, see these comments and decide to use one of your competitors instead.

You might have an aggrieved customer write something like this.

You might inspire someone to go on a Twitter rampage about the incompetence of your customer service team.

Or, you might have something hit the national news within hours of it appearing online.

Think of it this way – even if you lose just one customer, it’s one customer too many. Yet the bigger the brand, the more customers an adverse comment in the online sphere is likely to lose you.

You can never be sure how something will escalate, so nip it in the bud before it has a chance to cause real damage. As they say, you’re better safe than sorry.

Monitoring your brand online:

Okay, it’s all well and good telling you to monitor and respond to what people are saying about your brand – but how do you do this?

While you can manually check your social media channels for anything untoward, this doesn’t cover the countless other possible sites on which people could be talking about you.

Here are a few social media monitoring tools it’s worth taking a look at:

Google Alerts: this free tool monitors all Google indexed sites for your chosen search query, and emails you either ‘as it happens’, ‘once a day’, or ‘once a week’.

Trackur is a pretty neat and not too expensive tracking tool for people who want to take it up a level.

Raven Tools is what we use here at Boom. It’s not cheap, but it offers a really well rounded set of features for monitoring and reporting on your movements in SEO and social media.