Elena Shalashnikova
Elena Shalashnikova 7 August 2013

Comments that a company that should never respond to

So, let's have a look at some types of comments, which companies don't have to or mustn't respond.

 “What do you do with online comments on your company?” And you can get any answer except for “I do nothing”. Doing nothing to the online feedback is a shame nowadays. Ignoring Internet users’ opinions may have far-reaching consequences, especially in cases of negative feedback and/or comments. Meanwhile not all negativity should be responded, and moreover, there are comments that must be left unanswered.

So, let’s have a look at some types of comments, which companies don’t have to or mustn’t respond.

The reference to the brand on the occasion.

The author mentions the company or the brand, but his message is not about them. In this case, the tone of the message does not matter. The author of the comment will be very surprised if the company responds to the message. The reason is simple: the author did not address the brand and did not invite them for a conversation.

The discussion thread already has one or several responses from the company.
This applies to challenging issues involving the company reputation and information issues. If the company has already provided the information, and has nothing to add to it, there is no need to reply to the entire thread of the discussion. And more so, the company should not rush to respond the comments which are obviously biased and prejudiced. The company customers’ responses to such comments will be more convincing.

Comments on consistent, systemic issues which the company is not going to solve.
This is a disputable item because it’s not so obvious as the previous two. Consistent, systemic issues, contrary to local ones, repeat every other time. First of all we determine how big the problems are, by monitoring online comments and reviews about the company and defining their tone as well as the topics and by tracking the dynamics.  Having the comments collected, there are two questions to be answered:

  • What to do with the problem within the company?
  • What to write in response to the comments?

The answer to the second question depends strongly on that to the first one. If the decision is to work on the problem, the response to the comments is clear: the company recognizes the problem and provides the plan of the solution. Gradual decrease of discomfort has a greater influence on audience satisfaction than a state of complete comfort. But what to answer if the company decides not to work on the problem? When it comes to systemic issues of big business, such decisions could be economically justified, although they are mostly connected with the complexity of decision-making inside the company or some personal interests. In this case you should have one official response to the situation, which is best to be placed on the official platform (a website, a page on the social network, a blog). It would be perfect if the official statement showed that the company understood its customers’ interests, but the unpopular decision is taken and there are certain reasons for it, and the company is ready to take full responsibility. Such a position will win the audience respect, at least. However, if the problem causes multiple claims online, it would be better for the company to leave them unanswered. And not because they do not matter, but because if you think about all the consequences of such communication, silence will be the best option of all possible responses.  The thing is that the company has actually nothing to say. And the worst it can do is to explain to the customers that the issue is really not so big or that it just doesn’t exist. That is the difference between a local issue and a systemic one – the latter affects a larger audience and has a tendency to repeat again and again. 

Competitor attacks.
A lot of large companies suffer from negativity produced by their competitors. Such comments are easy to recognise – the competitor is always mentioned. Of course it’s unpleasant to see negative comments about your company online, even if the competitor engagement is evident, but actually it’s not that tragic if you leave them without a response. Firstly, discussing your company and attracting attention to it, your competitors actually bring grist to your mill. Secondly, it’s more worthwhile to work on what’s left in people’s mind than on a webpage. Contemporary users are competent enough to decipher real reasons behind such comments.  

A troll referring to a brand, or personal PR.
the more famous the brand is, the more likely its name to be used for personal PR by beginner marketers and consultants. It’s easy to criticize a company for its marketing strategy, naming, approach, etc., much easier than to place your family name next to a brand name. Sometimes a wave of negativity comes as an unpleasant surprise for no apparent reason. When you are criticized by a recognized guru, it’s understandably much more difficult to refrain from some reaction. But if your reviewer does not have any serious audience, be sure to keep silence. Your response will attract those people who otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention to the situation. And the worst thing is that you are working for your opponent’s benefit, which means your response will trigger his answer and the discussion will never stop. 

Trolling is different from personal PR by its goal. This is typically placement of challenging messages to provoke an angry negative backlash. While in the first case, the author is waiting for his professional rating to rise, the second author is attracted by the process of negativity spread itself. Trolling is often seriously reacted only by those in who it is directly addressed. Absurdity of far-fetched allegations is usually quite well seen with the naked eye.

Well, here is the list. Вот и весь список. And this means that all other different online comments and reviews should be, or even must be responded. To put it more clearly, let’s single out 2 types of comments which a company must react to, if it wants to maintain its commanding lead in the market against its competitors.  

1.    Comments, caused by some local client issues.
Local, minor issues are quicker to solve, contrary to consistent systemic ones. When such situation occurs, the client just lacks information to solve it himself. Worth noting that the company should react to such local issues not only on its sites or the sites it considers important, but everywhere. If you work according to the principle “we read here, and we don’t read there” creates an image of some work being done on social networks, but it doesn’t achieve the business goals set.

2.    Comments as requests for information.
These are questions about the product or service – usage, advantages and disadvantages. Leaving such a request unanswered could be dangerous but not because the person won’t be able to find the necessary information himself and thus won’t be able to make a decision (it’s not difficult to find information in the contemporary world), but because this person will get the information from others. And the benefits may be understated, and the disadvantages – exaggerated.

To sum everything up, starting handling online comments and reviews, it’s better to set priorities by the types of comments but not by Internet platforms. To be on the safe side a brand should track all the comments and reviews about it left online. It’s always cheaper to know than not to know. But responses could be prioritized. It saves time on decision making (responses usually should be often approved), and at the same time allows to keep abreast of new social media trends and saves from negative outbursts.


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