We all like to be liked. Step-by-step engagement on social media can lead to new friends, engaged customers, and happy business relationships, but with such a wide net in the social media and an overload of messaging, you find yourself ignored more often than not. Neutral responses are part of the territory and only mean you need to spend more time with these leads later on down the road. But what about those times when a reaction to your message goes beyond neutral—into negative territory? Customer service professionals are learning how to deal with negative customer comments on social media, but many sales and marketing pros still don’t know what to do when their social media outreach incites a negative response. Fortunately, it only seems scarier than it really is.

Some Perspective

Social media outreach familiarizes leads with you and your brand before you contact them directly. Compare this with other channels like cold calling and email blasts, which are truly unsolicited. 72% of cold calls are hung up immediately, and that’s only the ones you can get in touch with. It takes an average of 4 attempts before a salesperson can reach a prospect. At the end of the day, cold calling has about a 0.6% success rate. (source: Keller Research Center)

Responses to email blasts are only slightly better. Depending on the industry, unsubscribe rates for every email are anywhere between 0.5% and 2%. In fact, 21% of people in the U.S. report marking emails as spam, even when they know they aren’t, and 90% of people have unsubscribed from email lists that they previously opted in.(sources: Vero and ConstantContact)

Even social media has backlash when not used correctly: 35% of people are annoyed by promoted tweets. (source: Mashable)

An Inconvenient Truth

Fortunately, direct messages on social have much more promising statistics, but any marketing campaign or sales message is going to incite a reaction from the audience. At Socedo, we receive over 1,000 direct message responses each week, and 3 or 4 of these messages are “negative,” either asking us to stop contacting the lead or expressing irritation at the automated message. While this is very low in comparison, it means that negativity does still happen. Rejection is disappointing, but it will always go hand-in-hand with sales.

Managing Negativity

Due to its personal, one-on-one nature, a negative response to a Twitter DM can feel more uncomfortable at first than a traditional channel. It’s important to remember that a negative reaction to a message does not equate to a negative impression of you or your brand. If one lead complained to you on the phone or hung up mid-sentence, would you stop calling prospects altogether? Would you suspend all email campaigns indefinitely because one lead asked to be removed from your mailing list? Hopefully not!

At Socedo, when someone replies to an automated DM asking if the message is spam, we follow up with a personalized response explaining our automation process. This doesn’t happen very often, and usually people are polite, or even interested to know that a real person followed up with them. We’ve even seen some of these leads turn into customers.

Negative responses can also be your best opportunity to learn. The two most common reasons someone has an adverse reaction to a direct message are: 1) they are not the right customer to target, and 2) the message felt like spam. Start by using these Tricks for Cutting the “Spam” Factor from Automated Messages, and A/B test your messages to find the ones that start the best conversations. Eliminate bio keywords of customers who do not fit your ideal buyer persona, and continue to refine your search criteria.

The upside is that social media tends to be a friendlier world than email and phone, and most people, even when irritated, can’t help but be polite when you send them a personal message. As for those remaining rude few, you’re better off without them. Trust us, they weren’t your ideal customers anyway.