“I’d love to use social media, but what if someone says something bad about me?”

“Oh yeah, I have a Facebook page for the company, but no one can comment on it. What if they said something nasty?”

As an Indianapolis social media company, we at Roundpeg hear these statements all the time. These are literally questions at every social media seminar I have ever given. So let’s get real, and talk about the possibilities of the different types of “negative” posts that might show up on your social media platforms–and how to deal with each one.

1. The justified complaint. No matter how good your company is, you’re  going to make a mistake. Most clients will try to fix mistakes or air grievances with you in person or over the phone–most save social media as a court of last resort when they feel they aren’t being listened to. So when they do take their complaint to social media, listen. Acknowledge their complaint, apologize and offer to correct it. Usually, it looks something like this: “So sorry you had that experience. Send me your number and I’ll call you to discuss.” Hopefully, they’ll take you at your word and you’ll have a chance to learn about a problem, take steps to correct it and turn a bad experience into a great one. Everyone makes mistakes–it’s how you fix it that counts.

2. The troll. In online terminology, a troll is someone who likes to stir up trouble for no reason. This is where your disgruntled employee, your arch rival competition or your random lunatic fit in. If there is someone who persists in posting negative comments about you after you’ve reached out and made good-faith efforts to solve the problem, you have a few options. On Facebook, if the messages are posted on your fan page, you can simply delete the posts. Isn’t it a better idea to delete a few offensive posts than disallow all posts–even the ones saying how great you are? If the posts are on Twitter and you’ve done your best to defuse the situation, block the person and ignore. There’s nothing else you can do. You can’t make them stop tweeting, but you can stop giving them attention. And eventually? They’ll go away. Promise.

The most important thing to remember is that not having a social media presence doesn’t make negative comments go away–it just means you lose the chance to respond. If I can’t post my complaint on your Facebook page, I’ll post it on mine. If I can’t @ your Twitter handle in my tweet, I’ll just use your brand name and bad mouth you that way–and you’ll never know. You can’t run from or prevent negative social media comments–but you can respond to them in a way that’s classy, customer-service oriented and polite. So stop hiding behind locked Facebook pages or thinking that not using social media at all solves your problems. It doesn’t. Get out there and be smart.

 Roundpeg, an Indianapolis social media firm helps small business owners develop proactive social media and marketing strategies.