How to deal with negative comments on social media

No matter how amazing your school is, I guarantee you will receive negative comments on social media at some point in time.

While it might not be your direct responsibility to manage those comments, I recommend coming up with a plan to deal with them before they happen and while everyone is calm. Then, as soon as your school receives negative feedback, your team will know how to deal with it.

Here are nine tips to help you and your team manage negative social comments or reviews effectively.

  1. Don’t take it personally. We all tend to take negative comments personally, especially when it’s about the school we love. In actuality, though, it’s crucial to remind yourself and your team that it is not personal. The reviewer is reacting to their experience, or perception of their experience, just as they would any other school or business.

  2. Respond in a professional manner. It’s too easy to get defensive in these situations. But a challenge will just compound the issue. Even if you are certain things didn’t happen the way the complainant says they did, it’s always best to calm down and respond professionally rather than react defensively.

  3. Always respond, no matter how busy you are. It’s important to respond to every complaint or negative comment as quickly as possible. You don’t want the issue to fester, and you don’t want the person who is upset to start posting on myriad other platforms. Nip it in the bud and take care of it right away.

  4. Restate the complaint. Restating the complaint will help the complainant feel heard. For example, if a parent is complaining that they just haven’t been able to book a time to see you. Try to find out what was said, who said it (maybe your assistant was legitimately having a hard time finding a slot in your schedule) and respond accordingly.

  5. Highlight your school’s strengths. Respond to a negative complaint with a positive response that highlights your school’s strengths, such as, “We’ve been operating for over 50 years, serving hundreds of students. Every family is important to us. We would like to extend xxx to you …”

  6. Take it offline. In the scenario where the parent feels they are being put off by your office, have your assistant or marketing team direct message the parent and ask if they can call them right away. They should then get as much information as they can and find the right person to address the parent’s concern. You don’t want to get into the details of the situation in a public forum. As quickly as possible, move the conversation to a private or direct message, email or, even better, a phone call.

  7. Be appreciative. All feedback is valuable. Appreciate that someone took the time to share their feelings, even if it seems harsh. Even negative reviews can be a way to retain families. To make that happen, be sure to let the complainant know how you will be addressing the situation and express your appreciation for their feedback.

  8. Take appropriate action. If there needs to be a correction, be sure to communicate your response to the parent. Take all negative comments seriously, at the very least until you are sure you have gotten to the bottom of the situation. Use what you learn to improve things, even if it’s just to create a new policy or internal procedure.

  9. Focus on getting more positive reviews. Encourage parents who are thrilled with the education their child is receiving at your school to write positive reviews so that, in effect, you are drowning out the negative one(s). A good time to do this is right after parent-teacher conferences.

You can also encourage the negative reviewer to update their review once the situation has been resolved. Every positive review you receive will help take the sting out of a negative one. Ten negative reviews against 100 positive ones aren’t such a big deal.

Remember that a negative comment or review is an invitation for you to listen and gain a deeper understanding of your school’s parent experience. It gives you an opportunity to respond with empathy and transparency. It may not be much fun to handle a negative complaint but reacting in a positive and friendly manner will go a long way toward earning you a stronger audience and devoted families in the long run.

Brendan Schneider is the Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy in Pennsylvania USA, and a leader in the field of inbound marketing for schools. He is also the Founder of SchneiderB Media, a digital marketing agency specialising in helping schools use inbound marketing. Podcast:

SMJ Brendan Schneider

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