Putting a Positive Spin on Negativity

By Allison Laflamme

As financial institutions venture into the realm of social media to connect, engage and establish trust with current and prospective customers, they must learn to set aside fear of vulnerability. Although intimidating, having confidence when using a public channel to maintain open communication can distinguish your brand as real and relatable. Social media has flourished as people have flocked to platforms where they can voice their opinions to the masses while still shielded by a screen. The downside is that not all opinions are positive, and some use the anonymity of these platforms to express harsh and negative thoughts. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that people are two times more likely to voice negative opinions than positive opinions, causing a widespread reluctance of traditionally conservative financial institutions to engage and acquire customers via social media. To those who are apprehensive, note: although negativity is a real issue, there are ways to gracefully rise above the naysayers and use their criticisms to leverage your brand.

Negativity comes in an assortment of styles, ranging from downright offensive to slightly bothersome, and absolutely uncalled-for to justifiably frustrated. The spectrum is significant, but comments tend to fall into one of three major categories:

  1. Spam: Frequently recognized for littering inboxes, spam is now populating social media. These random and likely irrelevant comments distract your audience from your central message. The quickest way to quash this nuisance is to hide or delete the comment and then ensure spam filters are adjusted in your security settings. If spam becomes repetitive, you have the ability to block certain words from appearing on your Facebook timeline. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent spam from appearing. The best way to manage it is to monitor accounts habitually to guarantee these comments are addressed immediately.
  2. Trolls: Similar to the mythical beasts that exist for the torment of others, trolls post controversial comments that use divisive or offensive language, and are aimed to spark further debate. These convoluted commenters specifically take to social media networks to stir up trouble. The larger your following, the greater the likelihood that you will be targeted. Those familiar with these commenters will ignore them, but others will fuel the fire, using your platform as their battleground. In most cases, trolling comments that do not pertain to the financial institution directly should be removed, the culprit blocked/banned and security/profanity filters updated. Similar to spam, the best way to control these comments is to catch them early and address them on the spot. The longer the comment is visible, the more likely it is to cause damage. The good news is that these types of comments are common, so users are learning to ignore what they realize are bids for attention and will give you the benefit of the doubt when someone is using your platform as their outlet.
  3. Concerned Customers or Community Members: This category is the most important to your brand and should be addressed with care and humility. These individuals have legitimate concerns and often express their feelings with strong emotion in anticipation of a hasty resolution. These should be given the most attention and addressed with urgency. Research shows that it takestwelve positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience, but resolving a complaint in the customer’s favor will make them 70% more likely to do business with you again. The path is clear: it is in your best interest to salvage the relationship with a dissatisfied customer in a public setting where it can be made known to others that you are dedicated to ensuring quality service and customer satisfaction. In the event that a solution cannot be addressed publically, a response is still valuable to bring attention to the fact that a solution is in the works. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when putting together a response.

Responding to Negativity Cheat Sheet

  • Avoid using the same cookie-cutter response for everyone. You’re not a robot! Show some personality and be as authentic as possible.
  • Address the individual by their name to create a personal connection.
  • Don’t dance around the issue or make excuses. Recognize the situation at hand and then move on to how you will make it right.
  • Manners matter. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Attempt to move the conversation off-line when necessary.

Regardless of the type, negativity can take a toll on your goal to uphold a positive image online where thousands of customers and potential customers are actively attaining information. To little surprise, negativity and criticism are most likely to catch the eye of feed-scrollers, and could make a lasting impression. Developing a response protocol can be helpful in gauging comments and deciding when more serious action should be taken, such as reporting or blocking an individual. Set parameters for what is acceptable and what is not. What is not acceptable or response-worthy can be removed or reported immediately so that it does not taint your image or social presence, or provoke further negativity from other users. Negativity from concerned customers or community members is what most often warrants a response. While these comments can direct attention to weaknesses, they are also opportunities to highlight your strengths and create a personal connection. Instead of viewing negativity as a setback, view it as a springboard for your brand. It may not be an ideal conversation starter, but any occasion to be social on social media is valuable.



Allison Laflamme is an Interactive Account Executive at Pannos Marketing, based in Bedford, NH. Pannos Marketing is an award winning, full service communications firm specializing in strategic marketing, public relations, social media, e-commerce and website solutions for financial institutions. Pannos Marketing has been helping clients find opportunities to gain new customers and adapt to ever-changing markets since 1994. Email: [email protected]; LinkedIn: Allison Laflamme