Before social media became mainstream, businesses relied on traditional marketing methods like TV and radio advertising to promote their products and services. Even worse, they sent flyers. These methods surely left marketers feeling like they were screaming into the abyss. Then Mark Zuckerberg and his motley crew of tech nerds built a little-known social media platform called Facebook (maybe you’ve heard of it?) and transformed the marketing landscape, allowing businesses to reach their target audience with far less effort.
While social media allows architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms to reach a broad audience and increase their brand awareness, it’s also become a breeding ground for the world’s most despicable creature – the internet troll. A species so loud their complaints can be heard from more than 200 countries and sovereign nations around the world. When their ire turns to your business, and they begin to fill your page with negative comments, it can be especially deafening.
How to silence your haters and protect you brand
When it comes to responding to negative comments on social media, AEC companies should take a measured and professional approach to protect their brands. But they should also keep in mind that even the most highly respected businesses experience internet brand-bashing.
The anonymity that the internet provides can make it an especially volatile place. But, that should not dictate whether you market on these platforms or the content you choose to share. Afterall, where else would you have an audience of 2.93 billion people (Facebook’s monthly active users in 2022), or access to 900 million potential employees to beef up your global workforce (LinkedIn’s current estimated members)?
Your company’s social media strategy is entwined with your reputation management. In an industry where name recognition opens doors to new markets and million-dollar projects, you can’t afford to neglect either. Here are some guidelines for handling negative social media comments:
1. Set community guidelines: This is an excellent preventive measure to help reduce the number of comments that devolve into online bullying. Foster a community filled with meaningful, genuine, and respectful conversations. Establish that all forms of hate speech, talk of violence, and any form of discrimination will not be tolerated. Mute or ban users who violate your community guidelines.
An example: “We will not tolerate user comments that encourage violence or attack anyone based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disabilities or diseases. All users who violate our community guidelines will be blocked.”
2. Generate positive feedback: Encourage employees, family, vendors and clients to interact with your social accounts. Positive reviews will help “drown out the noise” and minimize the impact of the occasional negative comment.
3. Take stock: Is the negative feedback constructive? Can you do something to address the issue and avoid recurring issues?
4. Ignore, but don’t delete: It is not in the best interest of business transparency to delete negative social media comments unless they violate your community guidelines. You also risk upsetting the user who left the comment. They may respond by leaving more negative comments, or calling you out for removing their comment.
5. Respond: When a company responds to a negative comment, it has the opportunity to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one. By addressing the issue and offering a solution, the customer is more likely to feel heard and satisfied with the outcome. More over, it’s an opportunity to build trust. Trust is invaluable in AEC industries because of the complex nature of projects, the importance of long-term relationships with clients and vendors, the potential safety and health risks to employees and the significant financial investments involved.
If you choose to go this route, be sincere and transparent, never argumentative. Lastly, take the conversation away from the spotlight.
An example of a good response: “We would like to hear more about this. Please email us at communications@MyAECcompany.com.”
6. Change your perspective: A negative comment might put a damper on an otherwise lovely day, but in most cases, AEC clients aren’t the ones leaving negative comments. It’s usually the public impacted by your project. Perhaps it’s someone disgruntled because gravel near one of your construction sites chipped their window, or a nail popped their tire (in this case, you can always direct them to the DOT’s claims page). Either way, the occasional negative social media comment will have little bearing on your revenue or reputation. Let it go.
Haters gonna hate
Remember, opinions are like casseroles, everyone in the Midwest has one. If you stand by the quality of your work, how you treat your employees and your business ethics, then you don’t need to sweat Karen from Ding Dong, Texas (yes, that’s an actual place) who thinks you should move your worksite because it made the five-minute drive to pick up her scratch-off lottery ticket unbearable. Just stay the course. Post your project updates, your employee highlights and awards. Share updates on company initiatives. Most importantly, actively engage with your followers so that the positive feedback far outweighs the negative. Be a social (media) butterfly!