To respond or not to respond – that’s the question 


As a former journalist, the introduction of comments on the bottom of online stories was a move which helped to thicken my skin, writes Kirsty Green.
It is hard to read people’s views of your work, sometimes with merit, sometimes misinformed, and not take it personally. 
But, when you are a business, should you respond to every negative comment or complaint made on your social media account? 

I’ve been in offices where there were blanket bans on replying to any negative comments.  This kind of edict is often based on previous bad experiences – a response to try to resolve the situation had actually added fuel to the fire. 
Then I’ve been in situations when every complaint was responded to, quite often with the same stock phrase. Unsurprisingly this raised the hackles of already disgruntled clients who felt they’d not received personal customer care in the first place. 
So, what is the answer – to respond or not to respond? 

As you’d expect, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. The only rule is to judge each comment on an individual basis. 

However, there are a few things to take into consideration to help you decide whether you should respond. 

1 What’s your circumstance? 

Firstly, can you respond? You must consider what staff and time you have to dedicate to your social media. There is no point replying to every message one week and then not having any resource the following one, you will only create expectations that you can’t meet. Make sure you can be consistent in your approach. 

2 How bad is it? 

Any negative comment can be upsetting but take a step back and consider if it is really damaging to your company. 

Is it a one off or are lots of other people saying the same thing? Have they said anything inaccurate or damaging about your product or service, or is it just personal taste? If it’s just one person’s taste, there’s nothing you can do to change it, so there’s unlikely any point in trying to write a response. If you’ve inadvertently offended a whole section of your audience – you need to rectify the situation. 
3 What is the issue? 
So, you’ve read the comment, and it is damaging or inaccurate – do you post a reply now? 
Before you do, check you truly understand the comment. Do you know who the person is, what their experience has been, why they feel the need to comment on social media? Is their comment well founded? There is no point wading in with a reply if you don’t know the why. An innocent reply saying “Sorry to hear you’ve had this experience, please email so we can resolve this” when you haven’t done your homework to find out that they’ve emailed 10 times already won’t help your cause. 

4 Can you resolve it 
Once you’ve understood the comment, you should hopefully now know if you can address it. If someone has received a customer service which is below your own standards, what are you able to do about it? If the answer is nothing, promising something you can’t deliver on social media will only damage your brand further. 

How do you respond? 

Once you’ve considered the above, done your homework and decided to respond – how do you make sure you do so without worsening the situation? 

1 Keep it personal 

Sometimes people forget that there are real people at the other end of a business’ social media account. By responding in a personal tone, addressing the points made in their original post, you will help remind them you are a person too, who does care, and it may help take the sting out of the tail. 

2 Sympathise 

The original comment may be inaccurate, or misplaced, but saying that bluntly won’t give the right impression of your company to other customers – something you clearly think you need to do if you’ve decided to respond. Make sure your response shows an understanding of what led to their complaint, and then respond with facts. 

3 Move it offline 
In most cases you’ll want to avoid a to-ing and fro-ing on social media. If you need to gather more information to be able to respond properly, you won’t want all the dirty washing aired publicly. A sympathetic response which asks for them to email so you can properly address the situation may be called for. 

Also, if you are trying to investigate their issue but it is taking some time, you may want to respond to the comment to tell them you are looking into it and give them a point of contact so they can follow up if needed. This stops it looking like you don’t care and prevents further complaints about service in the interim. 

Preventing the comments 

While some people will make social media their first port of call for complaining, others only feel driven to comment negatively by a post your company puts on social media in the first place. Making sure you get the tone and content right of your posts can ensure you avoid negative comments. If you need help with your social media, contact us on

More Blogs

Other Blogs We Think You'll Like

Get in Touch

Penguin PR is based in Derby, but our happy feet take us to wherever we’re needed – we’ve got clients in Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and across the East Midlands.

If you would like to find out more about us or discuss a PR project that you have in mind, please feel free to ring us or drop us an email!

Our Media Centre

Our Latest Media News

Please feel free to browse our stories to see the range and depth of the news we produce. Every story on our Media Centre has been sent out to a journalist but we upload them to this site to give our clients an extra outlet for their stories and they even get a backlink for their SEO.