The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Responding to Social Media Reviews

A Note from Kimberly: I am so excited to introduce you to our newest team member, Madison! She is a content genius and helps our team tackle their SEO and blogging needs. So naturally, her blogs for you all will be filled with tips and tricks to help you do the same for your business. Without further preamble, please enjoy her first, of many, blogs:


As a business owner, you want to do everything possible to provide your customers with a positive experience. There’s the old understanding that if a customer leaves happy, they’ll tell 3 people. If they leave unhappy, they’ll tell 10. Well, thanks to online reviews, now it’s more like how about 10,000, 50,0000, and sometimes millions!

With review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor (455 million users on TripAdvisor alone!) designed specifically for customers to share their experience, people are more inclined than ever before to lay it all out on the table. And without the discomfort of having to voice their issues to an actual person, sometimes there is no holding back. Furthermore, Facebook reviews are ever-growing, as are Google Reviews, which will actually ask people to share information about a business based on their location. So not only do people feel more compelled to leave reviews in the first place, but now they’re being prompted to on their smartphones just for being in the same proximity of your business.

We know social media is an essential tool for small and large businesses alike. You share your message, your story, and your products/services on a worldwide scale. And despite your best efforts, you may sometimes leave people disappointed. Sure, those negative reviews can be difficult to read, but encouraging guests to leave positive reviews can have an incredible impact. Here’s our advice when it comes to reviews:

Taking on the Negative

Working in the restaurant industry for over a decade has taught me many things, but perhaps the most important is that you can’t please everyone all the time. No matter how perfect you think your product is, someone is going to have an issue with it. And they’re going to post about it....and ignoring it will only make it worse.

Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, or Yelp, those negative reviews are out there. It’s imperative to not only respond, but to respond quickly. Yelp researchers have found that reviewers are 33% more likely to update their review if they are responded to within a day.

Respond, Don’t React

  1. Remember that you aren’t just replying to an unhappy customer, you are speaking to everyone who reads the review, including future customers. If the review angers you, take some time to cool down and put together a thoughtful response.

  2. Apologize and sympathize. Even if you find their complaints to be unfounded, show sympathy for their disappointing experience.

  3. Insert some positivity! If they hated the product, but loved the employee who helped them, show your appreciation. If the review is entirely negative, point out the many positive reviews you’ve received and that their experience is below your standard.

  4. Move the conversation offline. Provide contact information and ask for more details so you can determine when exactly they purchased from you/where you failed/etc. This also helps to determine the credibility of the complaint without appearing distrustful.

  5. Once you’ve learned more about the customer’s experience, you will be able to determine how, where, why, and what went wrong. If it is determined that you failed your customer, asses this information with your team, address what changes need to be made, and counsel employees if necessary. If possible, provide the customer with a refund or invite them back for a service on you. If they accept, ask them to reach out to you when they plan on returning so you can apologize in person. This will allow you to make a more personal and genuine connection, and your team will be better prepared to provide an excellent experience.

  6. Finally, follow up after the customer’s return. If their experience was better, tell them you would greatly appreciate if they would consider updating their review to reflect that. If not, find out what you can do better. And finally, if they refuse to come back, tell them you are sorry to lose them, but understand. You can’t always win the customer back, but most people appreciate the effort to correct issues, and potential customers will see that you take feedback seriously.

Keeping it Positive

Responses aren’t limited to negative reviews; your fans deserve a shout-out, too! Not only is it the polite thing to do (you’d say thanks in person, wouldn’t you?), but you can also appeal to the potential customers reading your reviews by showing you care and appreciate feedback. Responding also gives you the opportunity to throw in some additional marketing. If they mentioned they loved the live music at your bar, let them know about your happy hour specials too. If they complimented a member of your staff, remind them to ask for that employee next time they come in.

By responding to your customers on social media (whether the review is negative for positive), you are creating dialogue...which is exactly what you want to do if you want to be seen on social media!

The Basics to Review Responses

  1. Timeliness: Respond quickly, but take the time you need to craft a careful response. Remember to double check your spelling and grammar!

  2. Stick to the Facts: Be honest, but don’t go overboard. The customer doesn’t need to know every behind-the-scenes detail.

  3. Tone: Be sure your response expresses a tone in line with the mission and values of the company. Keep it respectful and concise.

  4. Respect: Always respond with gratitude, appreciation, and respect...whether or not the person responds the same way. Don’t stoop to a negative level, but disengage if it comes to the point of being unreasonable to further conversation.

Have any other tips and tricks you use to respond to social media reviews? We’d love to hear them in the comments!