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Responding to Criticism Online

Responding to Criticism Online

The Kenyan online scene is getting busier and with it the problems associated with social media like negative reviews about brands and products, and greater commentary about experiences – good and bad.

This post today helps to teach Kenyan companies how to react to negative comments posted about them in social networks.

You cannot please everybody and for those who are dissatisfied with you and who decide to take their fight online, lets examine the dos and don’ts in responding to criticisms online.


  1. Listen: The first thing you need to do as a business is to listen actively online for mentions of your name. A simple way to do this is through use of listening tools such as Google Alert and Social Mention. Setting up alerts for your name allows you to receive emails whenever your company name or brand is mentioned online. This will give you the chance to acknowledge the mentions that portray you in good light and mitigate those that attempt to shed negative light on you and your business.
  2. Respond: Though responding is important, sometimes discretion on whether to respond or not should be exercised. In some instances, a company may not need to respond because their loyal clientele base or customers come to their defense and do a good job in defending the company. Your role in such an instance will be to thank your customers for clearing your name and/or image. But in other instances, especially in situations that threaten to go out of hand very quickly if not addressed, you need to be steadfast in your response and continuous engagement in the thread. Note however that these responses should add value in terms of explaining the misconceptions, they should acknowledge liability where liable and apologize, and should not appear dismissive. This response by a KDN employee on an attack on the company at the Wazua Forum elaborates this trait best. Effective Response
  3. Turning it: Most negative comments online should be viewed as opportunities to turn perceptions, to explain a misconceptions, to clear your name, and even admit liability and promise better services. Listening will allow you to know and get on top of things before they get out hand. Monitoring the tone of the threads is also as important because this will determine the response mechanism you will opt for. Any response mechanism should address the issues that are raised in the comment sections of your blog or a blog addressing your company/brand/you in such a way that you do not alienate further already pissed off customers or clients. Keep the language clean, the tone moderate, and the intent that you wish for them to continue associating with you clear.


Having said that, there are those things that you do not do when handling criticism or negative comments online and they are as follows:

  1. Edit/Delete Negative Comments: Social media is not always a rosy affair. Someone may have had a bad experience with your product, at your office, with the customer care lady, or even the watchman who eyed him suspiciously, it happens. Such a person may feel offended and decide to vent off on your blog or on your Facebook Fanpage. Let them. Unless the comments are insulting and lewd in nature, let them raise these issues and respond to them as they arise. Editing a comment to make it sound mild will only serve as admission of guilt and will give those commenting more ammunition to put you down. Just ask the Wazua Forum moderators who changed the heading of a thread from “KDN Worst Kenyan ISP” to “KDN, just another Kenyan ISP”.Don't Edit Sentiments
  2. Feign to be a happy customer: In many forums and review boards, many companies have logged into them using fakes names and gave themselves tones of praise. When I mentioned these review sites to a friend recently, his first instinct was to ask friends to flood them with positive reviews. But this will not work for a couple of reasons. First, bloggers are some of the smartest people you will never meet. They will know a genuine review from a fake one the moment it is posted. Again, the KDN staff who feigned as happy customers are our example. Here is the comment outing them. Secondly, many review websites like Yelp have great algorithms behind that primarily serve to block out fake reviews. And the thing is, when people find you guilty of this, you will be in a bigger sh*thole.Wazua -  KDN Employees
  3. Do not be rude, arrogant, mean, or insulting. React in a cool, calm, and reasoned yet firm tone even when the heat has been turned on against you. Address the issues that are raised as they are raised without getting into a pissing match.

What insight do you have with regard to responding to negative comments online?