5 ways to make a bad review online work for your business

5 Ways to Make A Bad Review Online Work For Your Business


Content manager at Brand24 | Writer & Host of #SocialRecap

As business owners, it’s important to realize that we have more power over a bad review online than we think.

The key is to find your bad reviews and respond to them – before other potential customers see them!

The most efficient way to find each bad review online for your business?

Social listening

Hopefully, you already know exactly where each bad review online that your customers give your business can be found:

  • Online review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Happy Cow, TripAdvisor, Yahoo! Local Listings, Google My Website, Better Business Bureau, Bing Places, Facebook, Epinions, Foursquare, G2 Crowd, HomeAdvisor, Hundredx, OpenTable, Glassdoor, etc…
  • Your own business retail website
  • Your own business Facebook fan page
  • Your customer’s Facebook timeline
  • Your customer’s Tweets on Twitter
  • Your customer’s Instagram posts
  • On personal blogs
  • And, without a doubt, the hardest one to track down: online mentions where your business is not tagged, but your customers are talking about you and giving you bad reviews.

Hopefully, you’re not wasting your energy looking for bad reviews of your business manually, on all of these platforms.

That would eat away a hefty chunk of your time.

Which is why I recommend taking advantage of social listening tools – and Brand24 is a good option for this.

What is social listening and how can you use it to find a bad review online?

When online conversations are monitored for mentions of select keywords or key phrases, that’s called social listening.

The keywords that you monitor can be related to anything: from your arch nemesis or industry heroes, to standard mentions of your business and product, as well as your competitors.

To find a bad review online with social listening, all you have to do is monitor mentions of your business or product and then apply the sentiment filter. Like this:

How to find a bad review online with social listening:

  1. Think of all the ways people could be referring to your business and product, and enter them as keywords.How to find a bad review online with social listening
  2. You’ll be taken to your Project Dashboard which displays all your mentions. Set the Sentiment Filter to Negative to find negative mentions of your keywords. How to find a bad review online with social listening

Your dashboard will now display all negative mentions of your keywords. And that’s it!

In just 2 steps, you’ve found every bad review online for Shake Weight.

Create a free social listening project for your own business and handle your bad reviews before potential customers see them.

Now, here are some impressive and effective ways that businesses have been making their bad reviews work for them:


As the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Snowbird took this to heart and they owned the bad review online that a customer gave them by featuring it in a beautifully designed advertisement.Find your bad review online & own it


I’ve heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute and littered with tree walls. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not fun!

Is it a tough mountain? Yes.

Does this make it unique? Yes.

Is it not for beginners or the meek-hearted? You bet your sweet *ss.

With a cleverly featured bad online review, one customer’s nightmare slope became another customer’s adventure in Wonderland.

Nice work, Snowbird!


Trend alert: restaurant owners have not been shy about standing up for their businesses against unfair bad reviews left by their customers.

This is exactly how Broadway Oyster Bar handled this bad review online from one of their patrons:

Read Mary S.‘s review of Broadway Oyster Bar on Yelp

Mary left a bad Yelp review complaining about the sub par customer service that she and her party had received at Broadway Oyster Bar. She enthusiastically recommended another local restaurant for a “fabulous” dining experience.

Broadway Oyster Bar’s owner, John J., felt the bad Yelp review was unfair and that readers deserved to hear both sides of the story.Find your bad review online and defend your business

This is the most dangerous way to deal with a bad review online.

Tread carefully, as you risk losing a customer for life – and potentially their friends, family, and any readers who sympathize with the customer’s side.

When is this method least risky?

When the customer who left the bad review online is not your target audience.

How do you know if they are?

Look into the customer’s profile. Read the other bad reviews they’ve left and see what kind of establishments they visit.

If they typically frequent quaint little cafes that are loved by tech and hipster crowds, and they gave your loud and proud dive bar a 1-star review, you might do like Iron Horse and mention this little factoid in your response.

Do your research and decrease the risk of potential blowback.

Why is this approach worth it?

It’s a bold way to go – but boldness can get people’s attention.

Mary’s bad Yelp review for Broadway Oyster Bar above received much more engagement than any other Yelp reviews for the same establishment.

A lot of people heard about the exchange, which significantly boosted awareness for Broadway Oyster Bar.

The conversation got 152 votes for being useful, 1900 for being funny, and 137 votes for being cool.

A typical Yelp review gets 2-8 votes.

Naturally, a response like this isn’t suitable for every bad review online. Do a little research and try to look at the situation from your customer’s perspective first.

And if you still feel like you’ve been misrepresented and your other (potential) customers deserve to hear both sides of the story, don’t be shy – stand up for your business!

This is your business after all. If you don’t defend it, who will?


Does your customer make a good point in their bad review online? Are you listening?

The owner of Alpaca Direct lets his customers review their purchases directly on his retail website.

Very risky business!

But his transparency was rewarded with a 23% growth in sales for items that had customer reviews, even for products that did not receive 5-stars.

This is because he saw each review as an opportunity to get valuable customer feedback. And by listening to his customer’s needs, he could implement necessary changes to truly improve their retail experience with his business.

For example, one customer vocalized a discrepancy between the color of an item displayed and the greenish silver color that they received.find your bad review online and learn from it

Alpaca Direct responded not with words, but with action. They quickly changed the images for the product to more accurately reflect the true colors offered.

I’ve also personally experienced great customer service like this from BetterBody Foods on Amazon.find your bad review online and learn from it

I didn’t get a response from the business in my review, but the next time I ordered, the product came with a mess-free and easy-pour spout. And the company even changed the featured image of the product to one with a mess-free spout. (Thank you!)

See what I mean?

Message received, customer appreciated and company loved.


Use your bad review online* (yes, the bad one) to boost your product awareness.

*Disclaimer: this method is only suggested for businesses that are not already a household name.

If your business is well known, or even just moderately-known, obviously a bad review online can pack a punch and hurt your reputation.

On the other hand, if your company is on the smaller side and pretty much unknown, bad reviews (while still, well, bad) can actually help your business by boosting your product awareness.

People who have otherwise never heard of your product will at least know that it exists.

And, human curiosity is a complex thing – the bad review online may compel them to find out what all the buzz is about.

Which is exactly what happened with the novel Fierce People by Dirk Wittenborn.find your bad review online & benefit from it

A bad review online from the NY Times described the novel as “a whole pileup of humorous incidents that somehow miss the funny bone” followed by “the characters do not have personalities so much as particular niches in the stratosphere.”


Or maybe not.

Sales increased by more than 4X after this bad review online came out.

A lot of people read the NY Times… and a lot of people found the bad review online pretty intriguing.


Criticism may be hard to swallow, but we probably wouldn’t improve as much if we never heard any.

And sometimes, our ideas really do just miss the mark (here’s lookin’ at you, Dove).

We are only human.

Other times, we’ve failed to meet our customer’s expectations. And they leave us a bad review online to let us know “WE EXPECTED MORE FROM YOU!”.

When that happens, it’s time to serve yourself a piece of humble pie.

Apologize, but before you provide any response, remember that you’re not trying to change the reviewer’s mind.

Have you ever gotten into an argument with somebody who kept insisting that they were right? Somebody who wouldn’t let it go until they changed your mind?

And did you change your mind?

(It doesn’t count if you said ‘yes’ just to get them to be quiet.)


Don’t be that guy.

Instead, be like Skype:

A customer tweeted a scathing bad review online about Skype on Twitter. He called it “the most abysmal product I’ve used for a long time. Poor quality calls & the app slows my computer to almost unusable”

Skype was quick to respond with an apology for the user’s frustration.

Do you see what I see?

Mike didn’t tag or direct his message at Skype.

He just mentioned the software in his Tweet.

Because the company isn’t tagged (not even a hashtag!), we know that Twitter did not send any notifications about the message to Skype.

And unless Skype has a gazillion interns who are available to comb through every Tweet in the Twitter-verse for mentions of Skype, the only way Mike’s Tweet could have been found is with social listening.

It’s the only and best way to find mentions of your business when you’re not tagged.

Unless you have an army of interns, that is.

How do you find bad reviews for your business?

You already learned how to find your bad review online earlier, in just 2 steps. (It’s under How to find a bad review online with social listening, near the beginning of this post.)

But what if you have more than just one bad review online?

You’ll want to prioritize the most damaging ones (i.e., the bad reviews that have the most engagement: likes, comments, and shares).

This is easy, and we can find them by picking up from step 2 in the 2-step method to finding a bad review online. Like this:

Prioritize your bad reviews:

  1. Go to your Analysis Tab. This is where you can find the mentions with the most engagement (likes, comments, and shares). To get there, just click on Analysis from the sidebar on the left.prioritize your bad reviews
  2. Now, to see the negative mentions with the most engagement, click on Filter Mentions on the upper right hand corner.
  3. You’ll get a pop-up window. Set the Sentiment Filter to Negative, click on Close, and your Analysis Tab will now display the negative mentions with the most engagement.prioritize your bad reviews

The Brand24 Analysis Tab can quickly show you:

  • Your most popular mentions – essentially a list showing each bad review online that people have been liking, commenting on, or sharing. They need to be taken care of ASAP before anybody else decides to like, comment on, or share them.
  • Your most active sites – list of websites where your bad reviews are most often mentioned.
  • Your most active social media authors – shows you who talks about your bad reviews most often.
  • And more…

To get your own Analysis Tab that will show you even more interesting data for your business (instead of Shake Weight), just set up your own social listening project with Brand24.

Find every bad review online quickly and efficiently through social listening – and get there before your customers do.

Then get creative with the inspirational tips above and make a bad review online work for your business!