Cyber Bullying Vs. Constructive Criticism: Spotting the Difference

by My Web Writers

Social media is a platform for discussion, sharing opinions and learning from others, so it’s no surprise that this also brings a mix of positive and negative comments. For a business, this open and welcoming arena for customer feedback is a way in which you can learn some very valuable information. Even if you receive the occasional complaint or concern, it’s a prime opportunity to address it publicly allowing other customers to also see your level of responsiveness and care for their opinion. But what if a negative comment becomes more than just constructive criticism?

Cyber bullying is a real and growing issue on social media and businesses are not immune. If you feel like you’re being harassed via social media, you’re not alone. Here are several critical ways in which you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and cyber bulling and handle each situation with class:

Constructive Criticism:

 Construction Criticism is most commonly provided by the customer with the intent to alert you to a problem and allow you the opportunity to address it. This may be in the form of a question or an opinion, but in either case it should encourage and allow for your response.  For example, a comment such as, “I don’t like the new WordPress homepage because it requires all users to sign in before they can browse blogs. Is there a way around this?” is indeed negative. But it states a valid opinion and asks an open-ended question encouraging the company to chime in. A comment like this can easily be addressed in a positive and kind way by the company.  Even if the answer you provide isn’t exactly what the person wanted to hear, simply how you handle the complaint can be the difference between keeping and losing a customer.

 How to Handle the Situation:

Always acknowledge the criticism. Sure, social media accounts provide you with the power to delete posts as you wish, but deleting constructive criticism from your network is like hanging up the phone during a customer service call – only worse.  Chances are at least a few other people will notice that you took “editor’s rights” and not to mention how it will only anger the person who shared their opinion more.  Whenever you receive constructive criticism, address is quickly and honestly. Make the response personal, not canned, and always give the customer some way to reach you if they want to talk person-to-person. You never know how many other people have the same complaint and by answering one you are actually addressing quite a few potential customers. Plus this speaks volume for your level of customer service!

Cyber Bullying:

Cyber bullying differs from constructive criticism is that its intent is not to seek a solution to a problem or solicit your input, but is more malicious. Posts might contain inaccurate information, invalid claims or offensive language. When this happens, the customer’s feedback has shifted from constructive to destructive. Another sign to look for is that the same complaint or claim is posted again and again (even after addressed) and begins to take the form of harassment. In any of these cases, the feedback serves to damage you or your business and must be handled carefully so as not to aggravate the problem or cause negative consequences.

How to Handle the Situation:

Sometimes even cyber bullying can be addressed with a direct reply offering a solution or the opportunity to discuss the issue. But in cases where the “bully” simply does not want an answer, only the right to rant, an alternative approach might be needed.  If any of the content contains offensive language, this is grounds for removal. You can send the customer a note letting them know why it was removed and encourage a more professional conversation. If the content isn’t outright offensive, but is invalid or untruthful, reply directly with accurate information so that the rest of your network can take note, as well. Finally, don’t give in to back and forth bickering. Attempt to diffuse the situation in a positive and professional light and then let it go. Even if this cyber bully isn’t likely to ever change his opinion or become a future customer, addressing the issue and putting an end to the negative posts is critical in maintaining the integrity and reputation of your business.

Of course, if you’re going to humorously rant on a business’ Facebook page like Richard did with Bodyform, it is fair game for the business to use your words in its next publicity slogan. Check out the below video that Bodyform created as a response.  It’s gone viral.

Where do you draw the line between constructive criticism and bullying?




Filed under Business Strategy, Reputation Management

2 responses to “Cyber Bullying Vs. Constructive Criticism: Spotting the Difference

  1. Shauna McGee Kinney

    Great article! I feel a *prompt* response is important too – even if it’s an offer to speak to the manager or department that might be able to handle the issue.

    I think one of my frustrations working on a social media community manager side is when the managers hesitate for days before crafting a response. I’ve had the same frustration as a customer when my complaint sent by the ‘Contact Us’ form goes unanswered for many business days.

    Another good resource for customer service ideas — ZenDesk (the help desk software company) has some great InfoGrahpics and tips on how to respond to complaints.

  2. Pingback: How to Sway Negative Sentiment through Social Media | My Web Writers - Website Content & Editing Ideas

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