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Handling Negative Comments on Social Media

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How to Handle Getting Called Out On Social Media

Social Media has taken the world by storm but many business owners still fear the consequences of opening their business up. What do people fear the most about social media?

The three things that I hear most frequently are:

  1. I’ll be opening my business up to complaints,
  2. I’ll lose my privacy or I’ll be stalked, and
  3. It’ll take too much time.

In this article, I’ll outline the components that make up a good response if you get “called out” on social media in a less than favourable fashion, on those rare occasions when you deserve it. In other words, I’ll look at those times when you’ve messed up and someone takes to social media to let you, (and anyone else on the planet that happens to be lurking there), know all about it.

A little Friction on Facebook?

For a little added fun, I thought I’d use a real life example to illustrate the point. So, I’ve picked a little slap on the wrist that Bloggertone’s own Community Manager, Niall Devitt, recently administered to me on Facebook. I was late with my blog post this month, and when Niall asked me when I might be able to submit it, I made a promise that I didn’t keep. I won’t bore you with the details of why that happened, but Niall called me out on Facebook, see below.

Now, Niall is a friend of mine, (at least that’s how I see it), but he was making a valid point, and probably wanted to make an example of me. It wasn’t a heavy duty call out, but it was one nonetheless. (If this comment is still in the article, we’ll know Niall concurs, because he has full editorial control!)

Bloggertone's Niall calling Helen Out

Time Out

Nobody likes public criticism, however well intentioned. I raised an eyebrow when I saw that comment on Facebook, and initially, I was slightly miffed to be honest. If you are called out for real, by a customer or colleague, you are likely to be upset or annoyed. Knee jerk reactions are ill advised, as they are likely to be full of steam or an emotional response.

The important thing to remember when formulating a response on a social media forum is that you are primarily writing it for visitors to the forum and not for the person who made the comment in the first place. When advising clients about making responses to negatives on Trip Advisor for instance, I suggest they take time out, until they are no longer “steamed” or else ask a friend tor colleague to compose a response on their behalf.

Components of a Good Response

If you have dropped the ball, and probably even if you haven’t, here is the structure of an answer to any form of criticism on social media:

  1. Thank and apologise
    Don’t whine and don’t make excuses. Just apologise, and thank them for their feedback if specific details have been cited.
  2. Outline what you are going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again
    Your customers would like to know that this won’t happen again when they use your product or service.
  3. Outline what you are going to do right now to rectify the situation
    It’s always best to do something to show that you are sorry. Be careful about openly offering any kind of compensation though, as you may be flooded with bogus complaints if you do that. Provide an email address or work phone number where you can be contacted to rectify things, or make some kind of offer.

A Sample Response

Here’s mine – what do you think? Have I answered Niall’s call out appropriately?

Bloggertone Call Out Response

Helen Cousins, a chartered accountant by profession, is a business mentor, trainer and consultant for a wide range of Irish SMEs, often working under the auspices of state agencies via her company Xcel Business Solutions. In a successful career spanning more than 25 years, Helen worked in accountancy practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and worked in Financial Controller and senior management positions in manufacturing industry, before starting her own consultancy for small businesses. Helen is also a self catering entrepreneur, operating her own self catering holiday home business in Wexford. She is a director and former Chair of the Irish Self Catering Federation, and she works closely with the tourist industry in Ireland.

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  • LOL, Thank you, Helen for bringing a big smile to my face! I am of course delighted to publish your wonderful post and Yes, I think you handled Mr. Devitt perfectly. I think he was aware of that when calling you out! 😉

  • It has occurred to me that I have set the bar high for myself in 2012 and I daren’t risk being late with a post again after this…
    Mr Devitt is in fact a good sport. Cool 🙂
    ~ Helen

  • Your comment rounds off the post nicely there Eamonn, well put. Thank you!

  • Guest

    I was expecting an actual ‘call out’ here – this, rather, was neither a call out nor criticism, just a tongue in cheek comment in jest…#disappointed, heheh 🙂 

  • Your post is smart, but the example you use sorta bothers me, though I can see it was tongue in cheek. If it had been a real call out, then I would have questioned the one who chose to take it to a public forum when they could have dealt with you privately. This is a HUGE problem in social media, since people seem to skip over etiquette and taking issues public which need not be. I have found the reason is not usually honorable, but manipulative. I could give you story after story of people who have “called people/companies out” in public without even attempting to handle the problem in other ways. Some say it is because they get a faster response, but I hold attempting to give a person/company a bad mark publicly first is wrong. Your response was good leaving all egos in check. 

  • Hi Del
    I’m not sure why the example I used bothers you, but I didn’t want to focus on a real complaint and potentially embarrass a business owner. As you say, the example is tongue-in-cheek 🙂
    Yes it’s true that people do a “knee jerk” call out on Social Media now without attempting to resolve the issue with the business first. This is the world that we live in, so businesses have to deal with that. Many of my clients are in the tourism sector, and have to deal with poor reviews on Trip Advisor, and the 3 components of a good response are derived from dealing with actual complaints there, some of these complaints being justified, some not. As I say in the article, “The important thing to remember when formulating a response on a social media forum is that you are primarily writing it for visitors to the forum and not for the person who made the comment in the first place.” How you deal with a complaint says a lot about your business, and that is what matters in the end, rather than the complaint itself. I’m  Thanks for adding to the post Del. 

  • Liz

    Good example.   I don’t like public call outs – I think it should be done privately – but this was a good example nonetheless.  In fact, depending on the feel of the facebook account and culture of the company, it might have been very appropriate.  

    I thought your response was good, and the fact that you already submitted two posts to complete the year rather than saying you ‘are going to submit’.  You were pro-active and proved it.

  • Good Post
    Being caught with your pants down either on or off line and understanding how
    to deal with it boils down to people skills. There is such a thing as allowing
    yourself to be taken advantage of, and many people fall into this trap, I’ve
    done it myself. “The Customer is Always Right” is a nonsense generalisation
    that needs to be removed from business practice. “The Customer Can Always
    Have What They Want- At The Right Price” is a more suitable axiom. In my
    view it’s all about understanding the difference between the “being taken
    advantage of” extreme and giving the customer what they want. The other
    extreme is being arrogant and inflexible. These are two ends of the same
    principle- people skills. Being caring, genuine, respectful and empathic but
    understanding when to say no is important. When you come from a place of self
    awareness and assuredness you can deal with the ebb and flow realities of
    dealing with people and find a solution to suit everyone’s needs. You might loose a customer of two but you will have a reputation for being fair.


  • What a great competition!!
    It’s been a mad month, trying to keep up with all the BizSugar “RockYourBiz” entries, but wonderful posts, and great content.
    Well done Anita, Heather, Niall and the team for pulling off a great event, and huge congratulations to all the winners and my fellow sponsors.
    I know they will get great use from the super prizes!

  • ElliStGeorgeGodfrey

    Congratulations to everyone! Lots to learn as well as great reminders!

    Kudos to the BizSugar team for running a great and very useful contest!

  • Hi Rebecca,

    You’re spot on! Engaging in a race for fans or followers is entirely limiting when you really consider that each one is a human being. Hope you enjoy the report & thanks a lot for the comment.


  • Tina – Compare Hero

    Thank you so much for the opportunity Sian. And yes, you are right it is risky so one must really think twice before investing, also they should be financially secured so whatever happens to the investment they still have something to hold on and start with.

  • susanpayton

    Great list, Keith. I’d add “no marketing or business plan.” A lot of people have no idea why they’re in business, so of course, they can’t achieve those nonexistent goals.

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