If anyone is unaware of Mark Zuckerberg's cash cow's influence and prominence, it would be your Great Aunt Ida, who still calls it "the Facebook."

Other than that, it's pretty universally understood that Facebook is a dominant, influential force throughout the world. 

Like many massive entities that are such integral parts of the societal fabric, the online platform has faced its share of public scrutiny.

Whether it's fear over bots or accusations of political biases, this is merely the price paid for being an iconic, transcendent media brand.

The more Facebook creeps into the general public's everyday life, the more vital it is to acknowledge, adjust, and leverage its power.

While many marketers and advertisers are focused on capitalizing on Facebook's reach, they don't necessarily take the time to understand how it can work against them...

Facebook as a marketing and advertising platform

As the world's collective town center, the strength of Facebook as an advertising and marketing tool can't be overstated.

There's a reason why Statista reports that Facebook has more than 9 million advertisers using their platform in Q2 2020. 

Unfortunately, many of those in the marketing industry only see the dollar signs and profit margins. They fail to understand that this exposure can be a double-edged sword if not managed properly, of course.

With the ability to reach audiences at a resounding rate comes the chances for that very same audience to sink the ship, so to speak. 

It's troubling to imagine that an ideal target market can be the ones who damage a product or brand irreparably. This idea seems to fly in the face of the principle that the customer is always right. 

More than ever, consumers can have their say on how they feel they've been treated by a company and about its products. There's also a matter of social responsibility and overall public perception.

If a given organization doesn't tick all the right boxes in an age where social media reigns supreme there's a heightened chance for backlash. 

The era of online feedback

This blog is highlighting Facebook but note that the majority of these talking points apply to other feedback platforms. From scathing Google Reviews to hostile Tweets, negative feedback has a highly detrimental effect on sales.

Acknowledging the negativity bias

Before moving onto a more detailed breakdown of the hampering effects caused by less-than-flattering feedback on Facebook, it's worth glancing over the negativity bias.

Two psychologists, Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman, point out that people gravitate toward negativity in all aspects of life. People tend to remember tales of despair instead of those of triumph. 

It's something of a bleak notion, but many of the facts discussed in the list below lend credence to the above psychological theory. 

Naturally, the human condition is prevalent in consumer behaviors, so Rozin and Royzman's ideas apply to products, services, and brands.

With that said, read on to examine the multitudes of ways negative comments can impact sales:

Negative is more enticing than positive

There's research suggesting that people are 63% likelier to click on something negative instead of positive information.

Meaning, the bulk of audiences/consumers aren't interested in finding out how Jim won the race. Instead, they're more intrigued about how Jim fell at the finish line because he celebrated too early.  

Keep in mind that the savviest minds are behind Facebook's algorithms responsible for reaching audiences. These people will know to maximize the signals of negative information to generate optimal engagement.  

If someone has said something disparaging about a company, there's a considerable chance a large number of eyes will be privy to the complaint. 

Potential buyers take negative feedback seriously

Maybe there's an element of the negativity bias that relates to the old adage of not being able to peel one's eyes away from a train wreck.

Humans are generally attracted to morbidity, but that's not the only reason consumers focus on the negative.

We're living in the information age. People want to know they're spending money wisely, with a reputable company that will treat them correctly.

Therefore, it's fair to assume that part of the reason for any negativity bias is to avoid feeling jilted or bilked. 

It should then come as no surprise that negative reviews stop 40% of buyers from spending money with a business.

Plus, 86% of potential customers will be hesitant to shop with an organization with negative online reviews.

This leads to the kind of delay that can extend a sales cycle and opens consumers to researching rivals and competitors, who might have superior reviews.

Bad feedback is more impactful than positive messaging

One piece of negative feedback has such a detrimental impact on a brand that 40 subsequent positive reviews are needed to undo the damage. 

It seems unfair that a business could, for the most part, do right by its customers and have it all soured by one squeaky wheel. 

But consumers are careful with their associations and where they spend their money and rightfully so. It's a base-level expectation held by many individuals that businesses offer, at least, competent customer service.

As such, the one mere instance of negativity speaks absolute volumes when compared to a bunch of positive fluff. In the minds of the public, that singular tale of woe reveals the true nature of an organization.

People will associate poor feedback with a brand's values

Any negative feedback on Facebook is generally smack dab right near its advertising and marketing, just through positioning. 

Advertisers and marketers must put themselves in the shoes of an audience seeing this all play out on Facebook. On the same profile page, there's a company trying to bolster its image with a heartwarming paid ad, contrasting with bad reviews railing against the organization.

The message this scenario sends to consumers is inconsistent and causes further damage to sales and revenue.

It's then worth pointing out that 15,510 people (47% of survey respondents) see feedback appearing near a brand?s advertising and marketing as being indicative of the organization?s values.

Potential solutions to this problem

Facebook feedback would be a non-issue if it were at all possible to avoid negative reviews altogether.

Unfortunately, an organization's board members could be made up of Mother Theresa and a group of Buddhist monks and still find itself subject to negative feedback on Facebook.

Bad reviews are the nature of the beast.

At points, there are unforeseen issues that can hamper even the most accomplished, customer-friendly companies with out-of-this-world products. Somebody could be having a bad day, there could be a hiccup with a delivery, or "gasp" a customer might just be a bit of a jerk.

The inevitability of negative Facebook comments doesn't mean businesses should roll over and throw their arms up when faced with such adversity.

It would be much wiser to follow the advice below to mitigate any possible damage such comments might cause:

Be proactive against bad feedback

The worst thing a company can do is have a Facebook page without a clear plan to deal with a situation gone awry.

Being reactionary in this scenario can send a brand's image down a slippery slope: 

In some instances, the more inexperienced Facebook marketer might take an indignant, adversarial approach which will only stoke the flames of negative publicity. This stance will create an image of an uncaring brand that puts customers' needs low on its priority list. Whether the customer is right or wrong is irrelevant.  

Alternatively, some decision-makers might panic when reading scathing commentary about their business. In which case, they could end up giving away too much to soothe any wounds. 

In the above scenario, being too compliant could devalue the brand because it displays the ability to get walked on.

Being proactive with a strategic plan to deal with poor feedback will limit the brand-bruising these comments can inflict. This way, there's a framework to guide marketers, advertisers, and customer service reps that offers a sense of confidence and calm.

Respond to all criticism

The reasons businesses should respond to any, and all complaints are twofold:

  1. Failing to respond to a customer's negative experience shows that their support is not valued. It causes a cascading effect because the public will see that nothing has been done to rectify the situation.
  2. The feedback can provide insights into where things went wrong, helping avoid running into these problems down the road. Also, there's a strong chance that taking the time to resolve the issue will show the aggrieved consumer the dedication they're looking for. What started as a complaint can feasibly turn into a lifelong business relationship.  

Thoroughly investigate each complaint

Not only should each piece of negative feedback be addressed on Facebook for the public to see, but it should be examined internally.

In the previous suggestion, it was already mentioned that looking into what happened could address potential big-picture weaknesses. Without feedback, these issues would have otherwise been unknown. 

Beyond that, while complaints ought to be taken with the utmost seriousness, not all feedback is authentic or viable. There's no point in cleaning house or reassessing every single operation if a customer is lying or plainly being difficult.

The truth could also exist somewhere in between - where a customer was being slightly unreasonable, but the situation could be handled better. In which case, a measured look into what happened will still help deescalate similar instances in the future.

Resolve every complaint

In the everyday hustle and bustle, it's possible to start resolving an issue and then let it fall by the wayside. Even if a complaint seems minor or ridiculous, it's something that must be handled.

Here is where having a process in place for dealing with negative comments comes into play. It is much easier to lose track of a pending complaint without an ingrained process to guide the resolution.

Anything that ends up in the wind could lead to further negative feedback since the customer in question will feel slighted. 

Hide the comments

Using a savvy tool that removes brand-crushing comments from the public eye offers time to handle and deescalate the situation. 

As has been hammered home in this blog, negative Facebook comments carry vast power. Consumers are more than happy to use the magnitude of their voice to hurt brands if they feel wronged. Thus, making it vital for companies and their marketers/advertisers to protect themselves from that damage. 

Ensuring that harmful content is unseen is a robust first line of defense against potentially punishing outcomes.

Still, the other solutions discussed should be imparted even when hiding negative Facebook comments. Because the truth does eventually come out. 

And it serves businesses to do right by their customers. Even when the power of their word-of-mouth has been deterred.

What does customer service have to do with advertising and marketing?

Much of this blog is directed toward marketers and advertisers on Facebook. For a business to function optimally, all aspects must work in unison. If there's a breakdown in how an organization handles complaints and less-than-stellar feedback, it's terrible for marketing and advertising. 

Think about it:

Creating authentic campaigns that resonate becomes increasingly challenging when a company's reputation is in the toilet.

Marketers and advertisers should look into the processes of handling feedback and comments, to be on the same page as primary decision-makers. 

Take these insights and strengthen your Facebook presence

One way to mitigate negative Facebook feedback is by not having an account on the platform. But in the year 2020, that's not really a plausible option for most businesses. 

To compete successfully in any industry (unless it's B2B), Facebook is an absolute must. While this offers organizations a wealth of opportunities, there is an array of pitfalls that must be artfully dodged.

Following the suggestions provided in this blog while respecting the impact that negative comments can have is a significant step in the right direction.

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