Social media provides an incredible vehicle to market our products, show off cool images, conduct giveaways and communicate with our customers.

Unfortunately – although fortunately in some cases – it’s the perfect medium for irate people to get their point across when they feel as if they are not being heard.

Negative comments are an inevitability if you operate a social media account, and how you deal with that not-so-friendly feedback can make or break your company’s presence on the Web.

Here are 5 tips that will help you not only weather the storm of negativity but allow you to stay on top of your social media game.

  1.     Determine if it’s constructive/warranted

Even if the comment is derogatory, step back for a moment, take a deep breath and research the claim, if there is one. Determine if the poster has a point, and then react accordingly. If his comment is nothing more than a myriad of unfounded put downs, then consider deleting it or contacting the media’s customer service department to discuss that complaint.

  1.     Never spar with your customers

When folks are angry, they can say some downright nasty things. Keep that in mind when you contemplate responding to a negative comment on one of your social media accounts. Piece of advice: avoid jumping in the virtual ring with a commenter. Eventually you will say something you will regret later and that won’t reflect well on your company. Take the high road and as in point number one above, delete a comment rather than getting into a verbal match.

  1.     Respond professionally

Don’t respond to an irritated customer as yourself, instead put on your business cap and converse with your patron as a professional. In other words, don’t take it personally. If you have the temperament, try to respond to every single comment. If you do it with a professional attitude, the vast majority of the time it will work out fabulously.

  1.     Be sincerely apologetic

When it’s necessary apologize. Yes apologizing can be difficult but if you are wrong, own up to it and show your loyal customers that you care. Avoid the “We are sorry for your experience” canned response and instead opt for a personal apology tailored for that specific customer and situation.

  1.     Time is of essence

Allowing a negative comment to sit and simmer on your timeline can be akin to ignoring a bomb with a lit fuse. It will explode eventually. Try to respond to a comment immediately. Express your concern and do your best to turn the situation into a positive. Also keep this in mind: negativity tends to breed even more negativity. So that one unsavory comment may turn into two, then three and then four… Nip the issue in the bud and stop a possible chain of negativity that can turn into a serious issue.