Social media is about sharing and feedback. And sharing feedback. It gives "power" to those who previously felt powerless.
We see this all the time in customer service, both in the real world and online. When someone has a less than desirable experience, they threaten to tell the world. And with social media, now they can — very easily.
When you're dealing with someone in person or over the phone, your advantage is that you are already having a one-to-one conversation. You have a good chance of resolving it and making your customer happy. That's within your power; whether you choose to do so is your decision.
But when the "feedback" is online, it's no longer a one-to-one conversation, it's a one-to-one-in-the-presence-of-many conversation. In essence, it's often an attempt to shame an organization into meeting one's expectations.
The good news is organizations can use these moments to show they listen, are responsive and want to make "it" [as in whatever set off the comment] right. This usually works. The commenter wants resolution more than attention — and you just gave both to them.
Of course there are times when the commenter really just wants attention — where they thrive on the "in-the-presence-of-many" part of the equation.
That's when you need a social media escalation policy to clearly outline how to deal with comments that have an agenda of their own. The escalation policy is a ladder of response mechanisms that are aimed at satisfying a customer, resolving the issue or neutralizing the comment.
There is no single response escalation policy one can point to — the specifics must be discrete to each organization and its culture, brand and public persona. But it is essential to have that conversation within your organization so that you are ready the next time a social media bully pays a visit.