Every business owner is by now well aware of the tremendous power of social media to uplift (or more commonly) destroy a company’s reputation. Facts can be skewed, small details can become a big deal, and hoards of potential customers can be unjustly inflamed by a simple negative review. That’s not to say companies are always innocent; surely many a negative review was well deserved on Yelp, Facebook, Google+, or otherwise. So what can you do as a business owner to mitigate the damage of the inevitable mishap of your employees, product, or service? 

Two words: own it.

By now you’ve likely seen countless examples of negative reviews, tweets, updates, and comments where businesses were given a golden opportunity to address legitimate (or less legitimate) concerns. In nearly every case, I’m personally convinced that silence is NOT golden. If you think that ignoring a complaint will simply make it disappear, guess again. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. As you can see from their full report, every star matters!

It doesn’t take much effort to ignore feedback cards left in the company suggestion box you keep in the lunchroom, but social media is an animal you can’t so easily turn your back on.

It doesn’t matter if the negative feedback your company has received is simple or serious, make it a point to address the issue. When allegations arose of abusive labor practices at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, New York University responded with complete honesty and sincerity. It’s easy to criticize such an egregious offense, but an honest response followed by a swift action plan to fix the offense is tough even for your worst critics to complain further about.

So what about those negative comments on social media or review sites that were posted way back when yet still haven’t been responded to? If they have any impact on your overall rating (such as sites like Yelp, Facebook, or Google+), they are still worth addressing. It can be as simple as a short note of apology mentioning you’d still like to make the wrong right. Often times you won’t hear anything back given how long ago the comments were first posted, but how much better does your profile look (case in point: Shipley Energy) to new visitors when they see you really care about what people say about your service?

Just think about your own shopping experiences with various products or services. I know that I often look for reviews on facebook or Google+ to see what sort of quality I should expect before making a purchase. If I see that a company has lots of negative reviews or comments, then I’m surely going to pass on whatever they’re offering. However, if I can see that they took the time to own those negative comments by posting a well-thought response, then I just might give them a second chance.

If you think about it, you really have nothing to lose so long as you approach any negativity with sincerity and honest concern.