The biggest concern I field from clients – be they nonprofits or small businesses – is their fear of being flamed in social media. They understand that social media is out there for all to see but they want to accentuate the positive and avoid the negative.
I counsel them to view potential negative comments as opportunities to improve their brand. No matter how great you (think) you are there is always the chance you’ll make a mistake. For those times you need a plan of reaction.
That plan should NOT include this.
According to that recent article in USA Today, a British couple was kicked out of their hotel in Blackpool because they published a negative post on the social media site TripAdvisor. Never mind that a whopping 59% of the posts about that hotel were negative – management decided the couple was not welcome.
The fat target here is that this particular hotel exhibited an extreme overreaction to a consumer complaint. The lesson lost was that they missed an opportunity to correct a problem and make their business better. Clearly, they do not have a plan of reaction.
As you embark on your social media adventures it is absolutely critical that you know how you will respond to negative posts about your brand. Here are 3 things to consider when developing this plan.
1) Speed – Consistent monitoring must be an integral part of your overall social media strategy. Whether the negative comment is posted on your Facebook wall, on Yelp or – as in this hotel’s case – TripAdvisor – it is imperative that you see them as quickly as possible. As a rule of thumb you want to spot and respond to negative posts within 24 hours.
2) Evaluation – Not all negatives are created equal. Some are about service or the product and can affect the overall customer experience (like the example above). Others are merely about letting off steam. (I work with a local music club and someone posted that the music was too loud. I’m not making this up.) There is a big difference between a complaint about a rude employee or inferior product (a core issue) and one about not being able to find a close by parking space or that the performance started late (a secondary issue). Recognize the importance of the comment so you can plan your response accordingly.
3) Respond – Your response is a strategy and not necessarily an action. Sometimes, you need to respond directly (and publicly) to the post. Other times you can let the community respond. (In the above club example, we waited to see if anyone else had the same complaint. They didn’t so we ignored the post.) Even other times you may want to take the conversation off-line and deal with the person one-on-one.
Social media gives the power back to the people. Everyone is watching and listening. That is why it is hyper-critical that you have an effective plan of reaction.
How you treat complainers – more importantly: how it is perceived that you treat complainers – will form a big part of the perception of your brand. In any situation like this, your fans and followers will almost always identify with the complainer – whether they agree with the complaint or not. In a transparent social media setting talking to one is like talking to all. From the customer’s view, how you treat ‘them’ is how you’ll treat ‘me’.
Negative comments are inevitable. They are also easier to make in the comparatively anonomyous world of the Internet.
Negative comments can also be a source of information. They can function as ‘free’ market research. Your fan base is potentially one large focus group. Listen to them.
The best strategy I can offer is to embrace the positive but prepare for the negative with a well thought out plan of reaction.
Social Media Specialist