A time will come when your customers will start talking about you or your brand using online social media ranging from Facebook to Twitter to Yelp, you’ve got to expect some negative comments in the mix. The question is what do you do when it happens? I would propose the following survival guide for when social media attacks.
It’s not that bad reviews and negative discussions are the norm, as a matter of fact a recent survey shows that six times as many small to medium businesses find reviews impact their business positively (24%) as negatively (4%) — some 31% aren’t sure of the impact.
Recent Nielsen research indicates that 70% of consumers trust reviews posted online. This statistic is slightly above recommendations from people they actually know.
At some point in every relationship things can “go south”. Maybe your company messed up an order, or maybe situations or factors beyond your control happened, like weather or system failure. Or maybe someone just had a bad day and you were the best target at the time. No matter what got you to this point in your use of social media here are some suggestions for damage control.
1. Listen. There are some great free tools for monitoring and listening to your customers and potential clients about you and your brand. Think of it as the Distant Early Warning System of the Cold War era, where the US and Canada kept constant watch over the sky for missile strikes and enemy planes.
2. Converse. Engage in the conversation. This can give you the upper hand in gaining control of the flow of discussion. It also shows the unhappy customer you are willing to accept their criticism and are willing to work to resolve the issue.
3. React Quickly. In tandem with participating in the conversation, actually fixing problems is the key happy clients. And remember, while solving a problem in a phone call creates one happy client, solving a problem on social media can spread good feelings to thousands of followers or fans.
4. Stay Engaged. Even if you cannot provide a solution at that very moment, it’s important not to sweep things under the rug. Keep people informed that you are working on the problem.
5. Recruit Some Cheerleaders. Involve employees and others who are supportive and positive about you and your brand to be part of the conversation. Positive input and statements can help balance any negativity. Just be clear that everyone is honest about their identities and affiliations.
6. Be Prepared To Go Beyond Social Media. If things get really ugly, it may be necessary to find another way to tell your side of the story to more traditional forms of media such ad radio, television, and print. An online presence in the form of a web site stating the facts may be a good idea.
7. Be Crystal Clear About the Resolution. Don’t think you can acknowledge the issues and say you are sorry and that is the end of it. You may need to follow-up and reassure people of exactly when and how the problem will be resolved.
8. Have A Point of Contact. Even if your company doesn’t have a social media marketer, you need an articulate empowered representative to speak for the company, and prepared to respond to any public relations issues that crop up in social media. As well as a policy of how your associates and employees refer issues and questions to the proper places.
Even with all of these things in place there is no way to know for certain you will be able to overcome critics and issues that crop up with the use of social media, keep this in mind; most of the time the positive impact of social media far outweigh negatives.