What are the most typical kinds of comments that quick-service restaurant brands get on their social media ads? And how should brands deal with them? Having a plan of attack in place before launching your next ad campaign will help drive positive recall and higher conversions.

Social media is a major advertising channel for restaurants, with 63 percent of restaurants advertising on social platforms. It’s not surprising that this is an important avenue for restaurant brands to reach Gen Z customers, given that only 8 percent of them find out about new menu items from TV advertising.

With huge paid social budgets and rising costs of Facebook advertising (following changes in the News Feed algorithm to de-prioritize publisher content), it makes sense to think about how to protect this ad spend and ensure it generates returns.

Many quick-service brands already have in place highly-trained teams covering organic engagement. Meanwhile, engagement on unlisted ad posts often goes unnoticed, attracting not only interested customers but also a lot of negativity. These negative comments have a direct impact on sentiment toward the brand, as well as conversion rates.

Here are the most common types of negative comments brands get on their ad feeds and how to address them, based on an analysis by BrandBastion of over 20,000 comments across ads from 11 quick-service brands:

Feedback on Ad Creative

The analysis found that people were more negative about the ad creative (32.7 percent of all negative comments) than the actual products itself (27.2 percent of negative comments).  The comments ranged from criticizing the ad’s lack of humor to its “inappropriate”-ness and “false advertising.” Meanwhile, creative done right drives a whopping 79.8 percent of all positive comments left on quick-service brands’ ads. 

This trend is distinctive for the quick-service restaurant industry. In many other industries, criticism or praise tends to be higher for featured products than the ad creative itself.

What can be done? Schedule regular reviews of negative feedback in the comments to better understand what creatives are working and what aren’t, and adjust to maximize your ad spend. Keep in mind that while Facebook’s relevance score tells you if your ad is being engaged with, an ad can generate a lot of engagement for all the wrong reasons.

Complaints About Products

The second biggest type of negative feedback was about the product (27.2 percent). The study found that brands are 21 percent more likely to hear about it when customers hate their products compared to when they love it.

What can be done? Listen to what people are saying about products they hate or LTOs (limited-time offerings) that they want as a permanent menu feature. Use the insights generated from tracking such comments to make informed, data-driven decisions that will show your online audience you are listening closely to them.

Criticisms Related to Health issues

Fast food has a reputation of being unhealthy, even though many fast casuals have already shifted to more wholesome menus. Yet a brand in this industry may still come under attack for causing “diabetes” and “clogged arteries.” In fact, 12.9 percent of all negative comments analyzed referred to health issues or the ‘”fake” or “frozen” quality of the products. Another 2.2 percent of negative comments related to questionable food safety.

What can be done? To show that a brand is committed to an issue and to avoid the spread of misperceptions, it is important to not ignore such comments. Instead, respond proactively, providing links to more information and thanking users for engaging.

Based on experience, this stops the spread of negative sentiment and increases positive sentiment. Responding in an open way has been shown to reduce comments about controversial issues by up to 74 percent.

Criticisms of Company Practices

Another 13.4 percent of negative comments related to corporate practices (4.9 percent), poor customer service (4.1 percent), and general complaints about the company (3.2 percent), and negative claims by current or ex-employees (1.25 percent).

These include comments containing:

  • References to horse meat in burgers,
  • Criticism about the use of styrofoam,
  • Accusations of unfair treatment of farmers,
  • References to statements made by high-profile CEOs,
  • Claims by ex-employees about “dirty” or “disgusting” work environments.

What can be done? Just like addressing comments about health issues, such comments related to company practices should not be ignored. Tackle them head on with information to counter inaccurate claims or accusations. Often, when a brand engages with customers, many loyal fans often jump in to defend the brand as well, lending even more credibility to the brand.

The Impact of Engagement

When negative comments are left unattended, they tend to attract more negativity. When it reaches a certain tipping point, there is also the risk of going viral with a PR crisis.

On the flip side, when brands engage, it drives significant positive ad recall. This leads to:

  • Increased sales as hesitant customers are convinced to give the brand a chance when they see a brand correcting misperceptions and providing more information; and
  • Increased customer loyalty as users notice brands taking customer feedback seriously.
  • How prepared are you to deal with an onslaught of nasty comments in real-time? Having a plan of action in place and specific, detailed response guidelines will help with managing such comments.

It may not be realistic to read every single comment received on an ad on a daily basis. The good news is there are now tools available in the market that combine automation and human moderation to help you classify comments that need attention while protecting your brand from harmful comments on ads around the clock.

Crystal Cha is the Marketing Manager at BrandBastion, a machine learning and artificial intelligence-based platform that protects ad performance and reputation on social media 24/7 for some of the world’s top brands including Netflix, TechCrunch, and DealDash. A journalist by training, marketer by profession, and writer at heart, Crystal is passionate about helping brands drive success on social media and discovering new ways to communicate a message with this medium. Contact Crystal at sayhello@brandbastion.com.
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