The scenario below is becoming more and more common in different industries. A local restaurant goes about its business with a steady flow of customers every night. Then, suddenly, demand drops significantly with no apparent reason. The restaurant owner sees a regular customer in the street and asks why he hasn’t come in lately. The response is, someone gave the business a bad review online about the food being rotten. When the business owner finds the given website, he is shocked; multiple posts are spreading across the Internet that the local restaurant uses food after its expiration date. The restaurant owner is both frustrated and shocked at how to respond to what he feels is a blatant lie.
Negative posts on social media and real time commentary sites are becoming, unfortunately, the norm in local business life especially. This is because consumers often use the Internet to determine if a local business is worth using or not. So those commentary posts on Yelp and similar really matter at the local search level. A malicious attack is a true nightmare for many operations who rely heavily on word of mouth for reputation and customers.
The first thing a local business should do is avoid getting into a comment war and lashing out online. Unfortunately, as tempting as this may be, consumers expect business owners to be far more professional. Getting emotional only makes the situation worse. Instead, it’s better to record or print all the various posts with any kind of identification information, if possible. This will come in handy later on.
Next, consider the posts actually made and if anything is accurate or true. If in fact the business does have the described flaw, then it needs to be fixed. If one customer posted about it, it’s probably a given that 20 customers also experienced the same thing. If it’s not true, then the business owner should find concrete information that proves that’s the case.
If the posts are lies or obvious mistakes and can be easily proven with information or photos, the business should focus on generating new posts that counter the one negative opinion. This can be done by asking satisfied customers to post their opinions on the specific website that is causing a problem as well as other social media sites if possible. This could be incentivized by offering good customers a percentage discount on their next transaction just for providing feedback via a post. Just as influential as one negative poster can be, positive opinions can sway readers as well. The more posts that provide detailed responses countering the negative comment, the more likely readers are to ignore the one bad comment.
If the negative post is true, the same posting response method can be used, showing that as a business, a response was made to correct the problem, and it’s no longer an issue anymore for customers. Just be careful not to get into a ping-pong posting war with commenters. Post once with a good, detailed response and be done with it.
In any case, avoid creating fake consumer accounts to comment back at malicious posts. These often get discovered, and then everyone is aware that the business has a potential problem and lies about its identity. Now the problem has become twice as big in terms of reputation damage.