By @TheMarkDalton

Social media has give us all the potential to have a voice. If you run a business or brand on social media then you will more than likely be aware by now that this will have an ugly side as well as a good one. People now publicly and aggressively attack your brand online in front of hundreds or thousands of viewers with the ability to say things they may not say directly to you. 

If you are a business owner on social media then you are going to run into negativity at some point. Many people say that if you want to survive online you need to have a thick skin. That is true to a certain degree, never take it personally no matter how nasty people become. Behind the safety of a keyboard and computer screen, people will get pretty brave.

It can be hard for business owners to deal with this especially at the start. Do you ignore it? Do you respond? What do you say? You need to know how to navigate this mine field of trying to keep people happy and make sure you don’t get involved in a scrap that could tarnish your brand’s reputation. Below are some tips on what to do if you start taking heat on social media.

Should I respond?

Let’s start with the most basic question, should I respond? A social media manager at a top company once said to me that you need to choose your battles at times on social media and that some people you just don’t respond to. Trolls for example.

I took quite a bit of time to ponder this point and some time ago I concluded that I didn’t agree with what he was saying. Unless you encounter a pretty blatant troll who you 100% know is only there for the reaction, you should be responding to negative and difficult comments. You may want to crawl in a hole and disappear, that won’t make those comments go away. Your goal is to make your business appear transparent, open and approachable online. That means you need to have a two-way dialogue with customers even if they are being pretty rude.

Respond quickly so that the customer knows you have seen their message and you intend to act on it in some form. Don’t get into a scrap online, for particularly difficult people online just make your voice heard but don’t drag it out. For many of these conversations the best move is to drop the conversation on their terms instead of jumping in for more because that is when things can start to get messy.

However, don’t ignore people no matter how difficult they can be.

Speak like a human.

Remember, you are not a robot so don’t talk or act like one. When customers are upset and frustrated, there is one thing you can guarantee is going to make them worse – a canned corporate response. You thought they were mad before? Wait until you see the reaction when you send them a copy and paste response from your handbook.

Talk like a person, communicate in a friendly tone, show empathy and compassion. Introduce yourself by name from the start. When customers show up they are yelling at some nameless faceless company, however if you start the conversation by saying something like:

“Hi, I’m Ashley and I’m really sorry for the trouble…”

Suddenly the pendulum can swing as the angry customer now realises that they were not yelling at some corporate giant, they were yelling at Ashley. Make it personal and you will get a personal conversation in return.

Make your apology sincere, offer to put things right.

Make your apology sound sincere or don’t bother apologising at all. Again, this is where corporate responses and corporate apologies will not go down well. Think of the generic, “We’re sorry you feel this way…” response that we see on social media every single day of the week. Most businesses are guilty of throwing this one out a lot. Compare that to something like this from Jeff Bezos.

You don’t have to go to lengths like this for every customer but it makes all the difference if you say something like, “This is positively unacceptable…” or “This is nowhere near good enough from us…” instead of the same generic thing we see over and over again every day of the week.

Then, offer to make things right again. How do you intend to fix a problem and win over the critics? We all make mistakes, we can all apologise, however the way you fix those mistakes is what people will remember.

When you get negative feedback, apologise and then offer something in return. If you are a restaurant for example and someone has a really bad meal then get them to email or call your business and offer them a free meal or a discounted coupon. These gestures are what people remember more than any apology.

Do I delete nasty or negative comments?

No.

The only time you should delete nasty or negative comments is when someone posts something truly disgusting or heinous to your page or profile. You will have to decide where you personally draw the line when it comes to this content.

However, when it comes to negative feedback from customers, leave it all there. Remember, transparency – you want to have an open dialogue on your platform. If you go and start deleting all your negative comments then people will question your credibility and you will be known as the business that can’t take feedback of any kind and deletes anything that does not conform to what you want.

Trust me, that is not a reputation you want to have. If you are succeeding in business and customer service, which you hopefully should be, then the positive feedback should massively outweigh any negative feedback.

Finally, remember that you are representing a business or a brand. Anything you post on social media can attract media attention, so think before you post!

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