In my first post I discussed Nestle’s social media meltdown and left one begging question unanswered: What is the right way to handle negative comments?

First, realize that negative comments about your company or brand will be posted elsewhere on the Internet and you can’t delete them. So, taking them off your corporate blog or Facebook won’t take care of the problem. Take advantage of the fact that you can respond, sympathize and react to those comments on the sites which you do control. On your site you know your side of the story will be there, and stay there. Show your audience and customers that you care. Show them that you’re willing to have open and transparent conversations with them. As Joshua Titsworth explains in his post on what Nesltle should have done, unless the comments are truly obscene, don’t delete them. Sometimes people will post spam, or unrelated information, on your page. In this case, as John Hayden explains, it’s also acceptable to delete or mark these posts as spam.

Of course it’s understandable to respectfully exit the conversation if it starts getting ridiculous, or ask for further discourse offline. But remember that social media is about conversation and engagement. You started your blog or other online media platform to provide service to your organization’s customers, and they expect you to do just that. So, take a step back and see that these negative comments are really a way for you to connect with your audience. If you respond in a thankful and calm manner, it could turn the situation positive. In Mack Collier’s post on why your company should embrace negative comments, he claims your response could even boost your online reputation.

It’s basically as simple as that, except …

Remember those other negative comments about your organization being posted all over the blogosphere? You need to be actively engaging in those as well. You can’t delete them, or stop the conversation, so what should you do and when should you jump in? In her post about dealing with negative online comments, Gini Dietrich suggests you not only read what is being said about your brand on the Internet, but engage in the conversation.

Remember those posts on the Internet will be there forever. When people search your brand and a negative comment pop ups, you want your point of view right there underneath it. If you messed up tell your audience what you’re doing to make it better, and why your decision was the right decision. In his post about the appropriate social media approach to customer service, Ed Stivala says all your customers want is recognition and honest conversation; you can give it to them.

In this video four social media professionals share what they believe to be the best practices for dealing with negative comments about your brand or company.

Although some companies still haven’t grasped this idea of interactivity and engagement, others have done a phenomenal job of supporting their customers through social media. One success story in particular … well, I’ll save that for next time.

Remember, negative comments don’t bite … if you don’t let them.