During a recent MarketingProfs Webinar on managing your online reputation, C.B. Whittemore said that “negative stuff isn’t all evil.” She cited a study that found that 64 percent of people trust social media more when there are both positive and negative comments.

This makes sense. I’m more likely to value reviews when there’s a mix of good and bad. First, the mix gives me context. Second, I have some faith that the company didn’t just flood the channel with its own evangelists.

So why are so many companies afraid of negative comments on their Facebook page, on a blog post, or in other social outposts?

Here are four reasons to embrace negative comments:

1. Negative comments can alert you to a problem (real or perceived) that you might not know you have. Embrace the learning opportunity.

2. Negative comments give you a chance to explain or clarify your position. For example, say 50 people are carping on Facebook that you won’t extend a promotion. What would happen if  you said “sorry you missed this one” and offered them a code to sign up and get advance notice about your company’s next promotion?

3. Transparency builds trust. It’s okay to disagree with a customer, a client, or a prospect. We’re not clones.

4. A concerted campaign of negativity can energize your evangelists to come to your defense. (First, of course, people have to trust you.)

When I was president of my condo board, there were a couple of co-owners who didn’t like to take no for an answer. They’d call me up and state their case. I’d listen, and then politely explain why what they wanted wasn’t feasible. Then they’d come to the public meeting and ask the same question. My response: “As I told you when you called me earlier…”

If this were online, would anything have changed? I don’t think so.

Photo by Stefan Cloo (Flickr).