By now, everyone in the business world recognizes social media’s importance as a tool for brand promotion and marketing. But finding ways to harness its potential is a trickier matter, and when problems arise, dealing with unhappy customers in this causal public domain poses a massive challenge for many companies. If poorly handled, complaints can stir up PR nightmares, and some even have the potential to go viral and snowball into massive public outcries. So for any company trying to run an effective social media campaign, understanding online damage control is essential. Here’s how to brace your business for social media complaints:
• Avoid a Scene
The best way to handle social media complaints is to avoid them altogether. You can do this by always providing clear instructions for dissatisfied customers, directing their complaints to a specific email address and/or phone number. Install a widget on Facebook or include a footnote in your Twitter bio, for example, to redirect disgruntled clients to a more private forum.
• Be Swift and Visible
But whenever someone does leave a negative comment on your fan page or tweet something derisive about your company, it is essential to respond quickly and publicly. Don’t delete the comment, ignore it, or try to suppress it. Address it directly before it has a chance to gather steam and worsen.
• Accept Responsibility
If the complaint is reasonable, admit fault and attempt to make amends. Show the online community how you value customers and respond to their concerns. Sometimes a freebie, a coupon, or a refund will be appropriate. Other times an apology is needed. And often you may just need to tactfully defend yourself.
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• Social Professionalism
No matter how you choose to respond, always remain professional. But this doesn’t mean you have to be straight-faced and officious. Just don’t stoop to insult, personal attack, or indignation. Always remain levelheaded and give a measured, thoughtful response.
• Identify Opportunities
Always look at a social media complaint as an opportunity for good PR. It is a chance to demonstrate your company’s core values, impress those in your network, and demonstrate the personalities behind your corporate façade. Often, online complaints take the form of witty or ironic jabs, and it is quite common for users to poke fun at businesses on their own pages. So remember who you are talking to when you reply: wit is the best way to respond to wit, and ironic remarks deserve ironic replies. Learn to speak the language of your community (without violating the boundaries of professionalism), and you can’t go wrong.
The most important thing to remember is that––while social sites are fundamentally casual forums––businesses must always maintain a strict policy of professionalism, even when the discussion is lighthearted. At the end of the day, business is business; and negative comments can cause serious problems for any company. So never ignore angry customers, and always reply in appropriate measure. Sometimes, with a bit of tact, you can even manage to benefit from the bad press.
What social media strategies do you implement for your online business? Do share your opinion in the comment section, we”ll be glad to hear from you.