I once went to the wedding reception of a college friend. Everyone I knew in college was there. The evening was going well as we enjoyed wonderful food, great wine, and dancing.
Halfway through the night my friend’s uncle decided a toast was necessary and staggered up to the DJ’s station. While dancing awkwardly to Men Without Hats the entire crowd stopped to listen in horror as my friend’s uncle gave the most brutally honest toast imaginable. Unlike my friend’s uncle, negative social media comments can’t be tackled and dragged off the dance floor.
Likewise, businesses are no longer dictating but rather listening and conversing with their customer base. By opening your company up for this conversation you also leave the ability for consumers to complain – loudly and publicly. What should you, as a company, do then? Below are five ways to turn that negative feedback into a positive experience.
Being able to identify the intent of the negative comment should be the first step. Does the commenter have a legitimate complaint about your service or product, and is he/she looking for a solution? Perhaps a suggestion in the form of constructive criticism is how the commenter decided to express his/her concern. Last, there are individuals that have no legitimate reason for complaint and have decided to troll or spam their message through the social media venue.
Try understanding where the commenter is coming from instead of deleting or being overly defensive. Humanizing the response adheres to the guidelines that social media is a conversation first and foremost – rather than a way to espouse misplaced hostility. An understanding response takes the wind out of the criticism and gives you the opportunity to spin the comment in your favor.
It is always necessary to deal with a straight forward problem. Whether the message is highly personal or a general friendly clarification depends on the scope of the problem in the public’s eyes.
Conversely, others may perceive the way your company does something a certain way as a problem. This should still be addressed with an explanation of why those actions are done in that specific way. A customer pointing out a suggestion through constructive criticism should always receive a response. Although you usually can’t implement the proposed suggestion, letting the customer know you are listening is the key.
The only time a response is not warranted is when an individual leaves a trolling (unseemly) comment. These people are not actively looking for a response to a problem nor have any ideas on how to improve your business. By replying you will only manage to fuel an ongoing slanderous fire.
The ability to promptly address a problem serves two purposes:
1) It shows the commenter that you are attentive to their needs.
2) It lessens the time in which the commenter can continue to complain without any response from the company’s side. A great way to quickly and efficiently follow any and all mentions of your business is to set up a reputation monitoring dashboard using Google alerts. Marty Weintraub has laid out the ground work to monitor your social media by showing you how to make an excellent monitoring dashboard.
Involve your Audience
The best defense is a good offense. Allowing your customer base to address their concerns directly to you can stop many complaints through public social media sites. Sending out surveys to a small group of individuals within your customer base and creating white papers from the data will serve as reference points that customers and you as a company can use to confront problems and questions. This new approach goes one step past the frequent questions and answers and makes the customer feel more involved.
Do not delete
Finally, it may seem very tempting to sweep all the negativity under the carpet, but your customer base will notice that trend far quicker than you may think. Depriving your customers from being social on a social media site seems rather pointless, does it not? Learning to embrace negative comments and turning them into opportunities to show customers that your company cares can’t be accomplished by deleting and pretending the comments, and the problem, never existed.
As social media continues to improve and define the way in which we interact with each other, both in B2B and B2C, people will have to adapt and learn how to best approach problems in such a public forum. If you have any additional advice or stories of how you combated a negative comment I would love to hear about it.
Jordan is the new kid on the block not to be confused with Jordan Knight, original band member for NKOTB. He, apparently, enjoys early 90’s boy bands and obscure awkward humor. Jordan is also a fan of social media and Search Engine Optimization. He continually tries to give us articles about 80’s cartoons and, oddly enough, unicorn fan art. Since he’s our new social media strategist we tend to just keep the articles dealing with Social Media, SEO, SEM, Web Design, and any other fun things that actually pertain to the internet. He’ll get it eventually, we’re sure of it. He works with us at Nurelm, Inc. a growing Internet software and services firm that develops easy-to-use Web-based tools for non-technical business professionals. Check out www.nurlem.com for more info or say hi to the new guy at firstname.lastname@example.org