Dealing with Negative tweets


By Sarah Kershaw

So, with the march of twitter we are now enjoying the power to connect with prospective customers and clients, engage with industry professionals and build a brand based on personalities. We have the opportunity to tweet, favourite, reply and retweet businesses that may not have given us the time of day in the past. We can introduce ourselves, suggest solutions and ultimately start to build relationships that (hopefully) will result in increased sales, visitors and registrations (which in all honesty, is why we are on twitter in the first place). This is all fantastic, so why does there have to be a problem?

Well, with this increased communication, there is an increased vulnerability to hear things we don’t want to hear, get feedback we don’t want, and to be publicly questioned and humiliated!

Negative tweets can be sent in a number of ways, so before we talk about how to respond, here’s a summary of who can see what on twitter:

  1. If you have been tweeted directly, e.g. “@BusinessA Why won’t you answer your phone?”, this will appear on the sender’s profile page. It will also appear in your home timeline if you are following the sender. Also, anyone following both you and the sender will see it in their home timeline.
  2. If your handle appears in the tweet, e.g. “When will @BusinessA answer their phone?” then this will appear on the sender’s profile page of public tweets. It will also appear in your home timeline view (not on your profile) and on the home timeline of anyone who is following the sender. This is much more visual and will give others the opportunity to join the conversation, e.g. “yes, we waited 15 minutes last week to speak to @BusinessA #badcustomerservice” – which will be visible to all of their followers too, and so on and so on.
  3. If the tweet also includes a hashtag, “When will @BusinessA answer their phone? #eventprofs #annoyed #wasteoftime” then you are even more vulnerable as everyone who follows or searches that hashtag will see the tweet.

So, how do we deal with this problem?

Option 1: Ignore them

If we don’t respond, they might just leave us alone! Risky strategy this one! If you monitor your twitter reach you’ll be aware of how many people might see their tweet and given that as a nation, we are more likely to tell someone about bad customer care than good customer care, we should assume that a lot of people might end up seeing this.

If we think about the situation in real life, if a customer walked into our business / office / event and made a complaint face to face, we wouldn’t be able to ignore them. We also wouldn’t have time to prepare an answer carefully, so really we should count ourselves lucky that at least we can prepare an appropriate response.

Ignoring is rude, and as your mother probably told you, no one wants to be friends with rude people!

Option 2: Delete them

Really? As if ignoring isn’t bad enough, deleting is worse! Ok, so you might be able to hide the evidence of a bad remark or comment, but this will only anger people even more and who knows how they will react. Rather than just tweeting you directly, they might open up their tweets to a wider community giving you a bad name, and costing you customers.

Option 3: Challenge them

If their complaint is unjust, unfair, wrong or simply annoying, you have to remember the old saying, “The customer is always right”. You may be angered by their complaining tweet, but by responding aggressively or defensively will not help matters. You might be reading this blog while quietly thinking that there’s no way you’d be rude on a tweet, but when you have been repeatedly asked the same question, time and time again, and when you are up against a deadline, it can be a little too easy to reply “LOOK ON OUR WEBSITE – IT’S THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE!”. I don’t have to spell out how bad mannered this might appear to someone who has just stumbled across your twitter handle for the first time and was genuinely interested in finding out the nearest tube station to ExCel. (Even if it is on your home page, boxed, highlighted with a flashing title).

Option 4: Placate them

This is the “I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this, let me look into it” approach. Although it’s the best option so far, it’s a little hollow and most people will agree that anyone, even the work experience student helping out on Hootsuite over the summer holidays will be able to apologise for something they don’t know anything about. It doesn’t really cut it.

Option 5: Respond by email or by telephone

This is always an option, especially if you have their email or telephone number, or you can trace it through their website. If the complaint is quite complex, there’s a good argument that you need to respond without the limit of 140 characters, so you may choose to reply on Twitter with a simple, “I’m sorry about this, let me email you now so that we can rectify quickly”. Then whatever you do, make sure you do email / call them straight away or you’ll be adding fat to the fire and there’s every chance they’ll continue their complaints publically.

This option may satisfy your customer / complainant, however their complaint was public so it would be a good idea to ensure that there is a public resolution published too. If you can achieve it that they tweet some form of thanks for your quick attention, or for resolving the problem, then that’s definitely a successful outcome.

Option 6: Offer an apology and a solution

Really, this has to be the best option. Be honest, say sorry, and offer a solution as quickly as possible. Taking this high road will give you the opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into a customer who feels looked after, and by offering a solution, they’ll be tweeting your praises all the way to your event and beyond.

A recent exhibition team saw an outbreak of tweets while on site complaining about the appalling catering. The complaints started to outweigh the show highlights and the twitter feeds were getting clogged up with thirsty, angry visitors and exhausted exhibitors. The organising team handled the situation fantastically responding quickly and individually with a personal tweet and then by giving general updates. This reaction showed that they were aware of the situation, that they cared, that they wanted to rectify it, and eventually that they had solved the problem.

To manage a situation like this, you must firstly remember to ensure you are monitoring tweets. It’s very tempting to focus on the content you are pushing out, rather than receiving. By using a tool like GleanIn, event teams are given the advantage that tweets with negative words (e.g. delayed, avoid, useless, ashamed, queue, disappoint and so on) are tagged in a filter allowing you to prioritise these tweets, to reply immediately and keep on top of the conversations.

In summary, I think we can draw from the above points that the best way to handle complaints via social networks is the same as you would if they were face-to-face. You’d never ignore someone, walk away from them or apologise without offering a solution would you? By genuinely apologising and offering a solution you are showing your social community that you care about your customers, you care about their opinions and you want them to get value out of your event (or product). When all is said and done, you have the opportunity to turn a bad situation into a positive one gaining you more respect than you had in the first place…. and it hasn’t cost you a penny!

If you have any examples of complaints you’ve had and how you’ve dealt with them, we’d love to hear from you. Please email

Great content every Thursday!

Follow us

Latest posts