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Social media3 min read 7 tips for handling negative social media comments

Negative social media comments happen to even the best hospitals. Here are some things healthcare marketers should keep in mind when responding to them.

June 10, 2020

The Coffey Team

When your hospital or health organization launched a social media presence, you were likely hoping for engagement: People liking, retweeting or sharing your posts; commenting about great care they received; or asking a question about your services.

By now, you know that social media engagement also means a complaint or negative comment from time to time. It happens to even the best hospitals and health organizations.

It's important to be prepared to respond to these comments. Addressing concerns or complaints helps show your commitment to customer service and quality care.

In the best case scenarios, the right response could turn a dissatisfied patient into a raving fan. But even if you can't satisfy the person who complained, your response will be visible to a broader group, and that can affect how they view your organization.

Listening for—and responding to—feedback also gives your organization a chance to discover new opportunities to improve the patient experience. It also gives you the chance to change the hearts and minds of your most important customers.

7 strategies for successful social media responses

There's no one-size-fits-all solution to responding to negative feedback. But these tips give healthcare marketers a good foundation for responding effectively to all manner of online comments:

1. Put together a team. You may take the lead—but an ideal social media response team should reflect the makeup of your facility. For example, find a doctor or a nurse who would be willing to participate. Having multiple voices is OK as long as you make sure that your tone and style, and messaging are consistent.

2. Craft a plan. Creating a detailed social media response policy for your hospital will help ensure that your team members all know when and how to respond to comments. Your plan should make it clear what each person's role is, so there's no confusion about who should be part of responding to a given comment.

3. Respond promptly. Consumers expect things to happen quickly online. They'll likely be frustrated if they post a comment or question for your hospital and don't hear anything for days. Others who see or comment on the thread may end up with a negative impression of your organization as well. By responding as soon as possible, you can shape the conversation and prevent further negative comments.

Social media doesn't take the weekend off. So make sure someone is monitoring all your hospital's social media accounts daily and that comments are addressed soon after they're posted.

Pro tip: Unless a comment is profane or incredibly offensive, don't delete it. Taking down negative comments can inflame an already tense situation.

4. Stay positive. Try to strike a balance between friendly and professional in your responses. Never respond with anger or defensiveness.

5. Address negative comments directly. Be straightforward and address complaints or concerns without skirting the issue. You want your community to trust you, and honesty is key in building that trust.

6. Take the conversation to a private channel if necessary. Generally, if a follow-up discussion is needed to resolve a question or problem, it should happen privately. Invite the commenter to contact an appropriate person or department at your organization. If possible, give the specific name and direct contact information of the person who can help. Then make sure to send along a heads-up about the incoming call, message or email.

7. Respond to good feedback too. Responding to compliments shows you're listening and engaged with your online community. Even a quick "Thank you, we are glad you enjoyed your visit!" shows you care.

Need help creating a social media response plan?

Our team can help with all stages of a social media plan, from planning to execution, from listening to responding. To get a quote for social media services for your hospital, call us at 888.805.9101 or email us.