Opening Pandora’s Box: Dealing with Negative Social Feedback

One of the most frequent questions that I’ve gotten when talking to promoters about using social media is the fear that they’re opening themselves up to very public negative feedback. It might seem pessimistic to be so concerned with negative feedback, but I know from firsthand experience that criticism and complaints – from racers, fans, employees, etc. – make up the majority of the feedback that promoters get.

Maybe this is your biggest concern. Or maybe you’re working with decision makers who have that concern. Either way, it’s a reasonable argument. So what do you say to someone that is afraid to use social for fear that all of the complaints they get in person will get blown up online?

The reality is, if you start to build a community online you will encounter a few bad eggs. But not showing up for that reason is like not putting on a race because you’re afraid of wrecks. 

They’re going to happen.

That it’s not always a bad thing, though. Here’s why:

Instead of fighting the racing grapevine – the rumors that will get spread without you being able to right them – you’ll have the opportunity to dispel tension publicly and handle it professionally.

You’ll also give supporters an opportunity to argue your case for you, so that you may not even have to get involved at all. Race fans are passionate – some critical, some extremely supportive. You’re giving them both the opportunity to give you feedback online

And that leads me to my last point. I got much more negative feedback as a promoter in person – mostly people trying to bully you into doing what they want – than I did online. And I got much more positive feedback online than in person.

If that I’m making that equation confusing, it all adds up to this: less negative feedback and more positive support than what you’re probably used to.

If you’re not reassured, that’s okay. Here are a few practical tips on how to handle negative feedback or problems online:

First, be there to respond. If you’re not there at all, you can’t defend yourself or your business.

Second, handle it the same way you would in person or at the track. Or, at least, what you’d say or do at the track in front of a crowd.

Someone has a problem? Consider whether it even deserves to be acknowledged with more than an ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’

Is it something that you can control? Is it something you’re planning on fixing? Can you make it right for them? If so, then do that. And do it publically, if possible.

If it’s a complaint not worth addressing – “I would come to your race track if only the cars turned right!” – then stick to something brief and positive.

Same theory goes if there’s a problem or decision that was made at the track and you need to defend it.

And if you make a mistake? Apologize. And do what you can to make it right. If you said something you shouldn’t have, take the offending post or tweet down, and leave the apology up.

I’d encourage you to take a minute and think before you respond to any negative feedback online. Be brief and courteous, and firm if you need to be, just like you would be in real life.

Because the internet, in fact, is now real life.

I hope that helps. As always, shoot me any feedback or questions you have, or post them below in the comments.


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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.