Leveraging Negative Comments into Powerful Marketing Tools


January 3, 2013

The other night I woke up with a start. Frightened screams were coming from my 8-year-old son’s bedroom. I rushed downstairs, picked him up in my arms and asked what the matter was. Between trembling sobs, he explained that he heard something moving in his closet. For a split second, my mind grabbed onto a terrifying thought—what if there is really something in there? Then, of course, reason set in and I pulled up my Daddy pants and bravely inspected the closet.

I intentionally exaggerated a thorough inspection, pulling back clothes, making sure books and toys were securely positioned on shelves and assuring him that the scary noise was likely the result of a box of Legos that had slipped from the shelf. By taking his fears very seriously, responding immediately, thoroughly inspecting the source, and providing detailed explanations and solutions, I was able to satisfy his worry and help him get back to sleep quickly.

How would my outcome have changed if I had ignored his terrified screams? Worse yet, what if I had, upon hearing his screams, put in my ear plugs, rolled over and gone back to sleep, pretending I hadn’t heard anything? If I remove the problem from my consciousness, it goes away, right?


With the evolution of interactive mediums and social media, most business owners and marketing directors have the challenge of dealing with negative comments expressed by users on Web directories, blogs or other social media assets such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Many such comments are as irrational or fearful as the noises in my son’s closet, yet the typical resolution tends to be a violation the very essence of the new mediums – the delete function. If you remove the problem from your public assets, it goes away, right?

Think again.

Such attempts at controlling organic mediums, with user-generated content, could be compared to trying to bark at a dog to get him to stop barking, or trying to put out a fire with dry wood. It’s simply not wise practice. In fact, instead of pulling up their Daddy pants and bravely approaching the issue, they ultimately miss a golden opportunity to publically demonstrate customer service, responsiveness and brand value.

Take the example of a homebuilder who deletes the following comment from his Facebook page because it makes his company sound bad:

“Moved into my home two months ago and my back deck is sinking.”

Consider the missed opportunity if, instead of rolling over with ear plugs in, this same builder responded with the following:

“So sorry to hear this. The good news is we offer the best home warranty in the market, and your deck is completely covered. We want to make it right as soon as possible. Please call our warranty office at (888) 555-1234 and ask for Marge. She’ll get you taken care of.”

What a difference an immediate, detailed, and solution-oriented response makes. With the right strategy in play, most negative comments can be leveraged into valuable, credible opportunities to promote services and build trust – and everyone involved will sleep better at night.