Social media is a way you can show the human face of your brand to the world. It lets you connect, build trust, engage and inspire your customers. But as well as a forum for debate, discussion and loyalty-building, social media can also be an arena for conflict, complaints and negative comments. There are no two ways about it, even when it’s constructive, criticism hurts. Negative comments on social media are unpleasant when it’s personal; when it’s about your business it can cause serious damage to your long-term reputation. There are many ways you can deal with a digital dissing; some methods can turn you into a hero, others have the potential to cause a PR nightmare.
Here are a five ways you can respond to criticism in a public forum – and perhaps even turn a complaint into an opportunity for further brand consolidation.
Don’t leave a customer – or their comment – to stew. The longer you leave a complaint unanswered the more its power increases. You’ll appear unresponsive, or at worse avoidant and secretive. Respond fast. Most Facebook and Twitter users will expect to see some feedback within a couple of hours. With social media, it sometimes pays for your response to arrive fast rather than for it to be 100% accurate.
2. With humility
Make your response sincere and human. Talk to your customer like they are a real person and if you have cause to apologise use language that’s open, natural and jargon-free. Say sorry and sound as if you mean it. Then take steps to make sure the mistake you made will never happen again.
3. Head on
Your instinct may be to hide away from criticism; but it’s crucial that you tackle it in an upfront and in-control manner. You’re the boss. Make it your business to actively manage comments on your social media. Take ownership of your channel. Politely counter comments that are clearly untrue. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake. And don’t forget that you call the shots here; it’s well within you rights to ban a member who continually breaks the parameters you’ve set out n your user guidelines.
Avoid all temptations to dive into arguments. If two of your customers are engaged in a heated online debate, don’t wade in. Wait for a suitable point in the confrontation to intervene, particularly if the situation is volatile. If you are the unfortunate target of customer rage, allow them the opportunity to express their anger before responding in a confident and clear manner with your proposed solution. Try not to let their comments get under your skin, you’ll only appear sensitive and weaken your authority.
Ignore – or worse still, delete – negative comments from your social media and you’re heading for trouble. Burying your head in the sand won’t make negative comments go away. You would never ignore a customer who walked into your store with a complaint; don’t ignore them on your social media. It’s shocking to think that some social media managers out there actually use this approach. But that’s not the worst complaint-handling technique. Delete them and you’ll antagonise your customer and provoke them into escalated action. Don’t forget that if a customer complains on your page the issue is contained. If they complain on their own page, all of their friends will know about it. Friends who could one day have been introduced to your brand through positive recommendation. You’re effectively losing a potential customer base before you’ve even had the opportunity to shake hands.