The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How to craft a social media response for every situation

how to respond to a review

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How to craft a social media response for every situation

It’s Monday morning after a long weekend and you’ve just sat down at your office desk with a large coffee on one side and your lengthy to-do list on the other. Your first task of the day is to check out your company’s social media pages, so you log on to Facebook. Right away, you start going through notifications when you notice a customer left a nasty comment on your page (not what you wanted to see on a Monday morning!). Fearful of the negative review hurting your online reputation, how do you respond? Or do you respond at all?

The power of online reviews and how companies respond to them

Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business, and 89 percent of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews. In today’s digital world, you can’t afford to ignore online comments about your business. Whether it’s a positive or negative review, consumers’ purchasing decisions rely heavily on online feedback and the way businesses respond to it. Online reviews are a powerful tool (for customers and businesses) and it’s up to you to determine the end results.

This takes us to an important question: What do you do when your company receives an online review (good or bad)?

Helpful tips when responding to a review – whether positive or negative

how to respond to a review
  1. Implement a strong customer service strategy for social media.Embrace it: social media is here to stay, so be sure to develop a strategy that includes guidelines for language, response time and clearly designates who is responsible for execution. Additionally, be sure to establish a cadence for reviewing your online presence including social media reviews and responses, and customer engagement.
  2. Keep your social media response rate in mind. Social media response rate is the time it takes for your brand to reply to comments, messages or reviews on social media. Consumers expect companies to respond quickly, but just how fast are we talking? Today, more than 80% of customers expect a reply within 24 hours after posting on social media. To make it even trickier, 42% of customer service responses on Facebook happen in the first 60 minutes and 78% of Twitter users expect companies to respond within an hour. Meeting to discuss every well-worded response to mitigate a crisis isn’t an option, so you need to be prepared (see tip No. 4), and working with a company well-versed in crisis—or shall we say code-red—communications is a major plus.
  3. Treat online reviews like your cell phone. Although social media has been around for some time and will continue to grow, some companies still haven’t quite grasped the importance of staying active online. Ask yourself this question: “If your cell phone rings, would you answer it?”  When I receive a phone call from an unfamiliar number (usually an 800 number), I don’t answer it because I know it’s more than likely a spam or robot call. Hence, if you knew the online comment was from a robot, would you bother answering it? Most likely, no. Unless you know it’s a spammy review, the golden rule is to always answer social media posts (good or bad), even if it’s just to say, “we heard you” or “we’re sorry.”
  4. Create pre-written responses for general inquiries. Think like your customers (especially the not-so-happy ones) and draft responses to questions you think they’ll ask. Be sure to ask experts from within your organization for input, as they add valuable insight into how customers may react. Then, take those pre-written responses up a notch by personalizing with their name, addressing exact questions (when possible) and asking additional questions as needed so your customers don’t feel like just another number.
  5. “We heard you and we’re working on this” is an appropriate response. If you don’t have an answer right away, respond to the customer to let them know you’re working on resolving the issue. Be sure to provide a timeline, share contact information of someone who can help them further with their questions or give them your direct email or phone line to contact (it’s a lot better than ignoring them!).

Respond to positive reviews like a pro

how to respond to a review

Positive reviews show you who your most loyal customers are. They’re the ones who rave about your company and want to tell everyone about their positive experiences. You want your loyal fans to keep leaving positive reviews and that’s why it’s important to respond to them! If you’re not responding to positive reviews, people are less likely to leave them (which can result in your company drowning in negative feedback.).

Want to turn your customers into brand ambassadors? Here are some tips to keep in mind when responding to positive reviews:

  1. Acknowledge the customer by name. This one’s a given but be sure to personalize your response by using their name. It really is the small things that make the biggest difference.
  2. Thank them for their feedback. When consumers take time out of their already busy day to leave your company a positive review, you need to thank them!
  3. Use keywords to make reviews SEO friendly. Staying away from keywords is important for negative reviews, but you can easily promote positive ones by including keywords in your replies. Business names, addresses and categories are important to include to rank high in search engines. Here is an example to get you started: “Thank you so much Nikki! We’re so thrilled (business name) is your go-to place to shop for (services/products) in (city/state).”
  4. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to promote your business. Remember that reviews and a company’s replies will be read by others, so sweeten the deal by adding some services or products that they don’t know about to your response. Or, entice others to look into your business by offering a discount. For example, you can include in your answer, “Remember to take advantage of our ‘buy one get one half off’ sale starting next month!”
  5. Build a customer relationship. Let customers know you love them and look forward to seeing him/her in the future. It will make them feel appreciated and excited to come back.

Response to a positive review example:

Hard Rock Café’s CEO German Crespi and his team are experts when it comes to taking full advantage of positive feedback. Not only is this glowing review good for brand reputation, it’s a great way to pass along a kind word (and boost morale) to an employee. As a bonus, Hard Rock’s business manager lets the customer know she is welcome back anytime!

how to respond to a review

The right way to respond to a negative review

You should ALWAYS be responding to reviews, especially if they’re negative! But why? Because any response at all shows that you care. Even if you can’t fix that person’s problem, every other person who sees that review will know that you are listening to your customers. More than half of all consumers expect a company to respond to negative online reviews within 7 days, but 63% say that a business has never responded to their review. No matter the quality of your work or how many loyal customers you may have, you can’t make everyone happy (especially Negative Nancy!), and a not-so-glowing review can still happen. Whether you agree with the negative comment or not, your response can turn a reputation-damaging review into a loyalty- and reputation-building opportunity. Here are a few keys for responding to negative reviews:

  1. Don’t let your emotions get in the way (keep calm and take a breath!). We’ll admit it. It’s tough to stay positive when dealing with an unhappy customer. However, the way you react can either help or hurt your online reputation. Before responding, take a moment to stop and think. It’s never a good idea to respond when you’re angry, so take a walk, discuss it with a co-worker and let your emotions settle down before you respond.
  2. Remember to apologize. Even if it isn’t your fault, apologizing to the consumer can make or break the situation. Acknowledging the negative experience in a professional manner will clear the air and make your customer feel better. You can also word your response carefully to express regret for how they felt (“We’re sorry you feel that way.”) without accepting responsibility for something that may not be accurate.
  3. Clear up any misunderstandings. Sometimes a confused customer may leave a bad review because they don’t understand your products or services. This is your opportunity to provide any information that will help straighten out misunderstandings.
  4. Offer contact information to help move the conversation out of the public eye. Discussing the problem one-on-one can provide you with more details to help solve the issue. Also, some concerns are just meant to be discussed privately (which reduces public exposure).
  5. Provide clear-cut solutions. Resolving the problem right way or explaining it’s going to be addressed gives your customers the peace of mind they deserve.
  6. Don’t forget to thank them. It might be hard to say thank you to a negative response, but letting customers know that you appreciate their feedback is a step in the right direction. It shows that you value their opinions. (“We’re sorry you feel that way, but thank you so much for letting us know and giving us the opportunity to make it right.”)
  7. Turn a negative into a positive. Some bad reviews can be a good thing because it helps companies learn from mistakes. Negative feedback provides valuable insights that help drive improvements. Take your customers’ comments seriously (even if you don’t agree with it!).

Response to a negative review example:

How would you respond to this bad review for an HVAC company? Take a look at how we would have answered:

how to respond to a review

 “Dear John,

We are so sorry to hear about your experience and appreciate your feedback. We have high standards for our technicians and service and would like to make this right. If you could, please give me a call directly at (###) or email me at so we can work on a resolution.



Not only did we address the situation, but we thanked the customer for his feedback (because as a company, you really should appreciate it) and provided contact information to help move the conversation out of the public eye. An honest and well-thought-out response to a negative review can turn it into a positive experience for both the online commenter and the company.

We have one more thing we want you to keep in mind before you reply: Businesses that respond to 60% of reviews see an average .28 increase in their star rating. Letting your customers know you care about them through a carefully crafted social media response will produce positive results for your company. With every online comment your company addresses, make sure your answer aligns with your overall brand, and remember that even a negative comment can be fixed with the appropriate response and solution.

Need help establishing an online customer service strategy that includes guidelines for responding to reviews? Contact Writing by Design today to see how we can help you develop crystal clear messaging for your online strategy.

Headshot of Ciara Powell

Ciara is a recent UW Oshkosh graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Web Management. Her major covers a wide array of subjects, including journalism, marketing, information systems and computer science. Through her education and internship experiences, she has gained hands-on experience adapting to different brands, audiences and channels through extensive research to write on-target copy and create engaging content. Ciara has also developed her graphic design skills by creating content in Adobe Photoshop for online and print use. She is also familiar with researching and implementing social media best practices and has an understanding of HTML and CSS.