There are millions of active users on social media every hour of every day, and unfortunately, some of those users have a negative opinion or experience with a brand and feel the need to publicly get that businesses attention. The reality is, users feel like this can achieve quick results, rather than sending an angry email that could be ignored or avoided.

There are definitely great examples of how NOT to respond to comments online, but what I get asked all the time as a digital marketing expert, is what is the RIGHT way to respond?

I have created a simple method to follow that will ensure any negativity gets diffused efficiently.

The four-step response is simple; HARP.





1: Humanise. Firstly, acknowledge the person complaining by their first name so they don’t feel like you have a quick copy and paste response. Think about how would you deal with negativity in person and be as human as possible when responding. You’re the human replying, so don’t use ‘we’ or ‘us’, try ‘I’ and ‘me’ instead – make them see you as a human, not a brand. Open with a human tone such as ‘Oh no, thank you for bringing this to my attention Stephanie.’

2: Acknowledge. The person complaining publicly needs to feel like they are being heard, so let them feel like they have achieved something by bringing their issue to your attention. Empathise with their situation and try and understand why they have the issue, and why they want to be heard. Research shows that replying with ‘I am so sorry’ rather than just ‘I am sorry’ makes a user feel that you are more genuinely apologetic. Offer to look into it and check back in with them to follow up.

3: Rectify. The issue with public negativity online is that not only will it show up to their connections, but anyone else who is following or checking out your brand may see the comments as well. It’s common for people to highly exaggerate their issue because they feel like it will help get a better result. Don’t accept their exaggerations as fact; make sure you advise them of the reality of the situation in a respectful and polite way so they know that this issue isn’t common. If they have left a negative review and you know they aren’t an actual customer, be sure to respond with the fact you can’t find the record of their order/service and ask if they can provide an order number or provide more details – potential customers will see your positive response and discredit these types of reviews.

4: Pivot. Change the direction of the conversation as soon as you can, you don’t want to end up on trending pages for the wrong reasons. It is important to take the issue away from the public forum and turn it into a private and positive experience. Invite them to your Facebook messenger, Instagram DMs, or even your email inbox. Simply acknowledge the issue and let them know you would really like to know more details about the situation and ask if you could have a chat.


Oh no Matthew, that’s not good at all. I am so sorry that this happened when you tried our product. (Humanise)

I am so grateful you have brought this to my attention so I can get this sorted for you and anyone else who might have this experience. (Acknowledge)

I can assure you that we have sold thousands of this particular product and have not been told about this issue before now. I can see on your order that you used a particular batch that has been tested without issue. (Rectify)

I would love to have a chat with you and get more details about your experience and follow up with you as soon as I look into this further. Could you please send me a quick DM? (Pivot)

It doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to respond to negative comments and reviews. Simply follow the HARP method and you’ll see how quickly you can turn these situations around.