You can’t help but wonder how social media has become the monster it is today when you consider how young it really is. Billions of people are now connected over a growing number of social media platforms with no end in sight. The pop-culture reference of 6 degrees of separation is now almost irrelevant when you share 20 mutual friends with the stranger who is wedged between you and the train door.
Now you can have anyone from a family member to an acquaintance providing a passionate opinion piece on your post about a rabbit wearing a scarf.
Haters gonna hate hate hate and bam, comments are deleted.
However, do the same rules apply when you’re managing a corporate business page?
One study has shown that 63% of millennials stay updated about their favourite brands through social media. It’s no wonder 78% companies (I’m sure it’s increasing as you read this) have dedicated their time and money on their social media channels.
Companies tend to overthink the Dos and Don’ts on how to handle their social media pages, especially when it comes to feedback/reviews. It doesn’t take a genius to show appreciation for ‘likes’ and positive words – if they can take 10 minutes of their day to write a compliment, I am sure you can take a few seconds to Like and comment Thank you – but facing the threatening dark clouds of negativity is a skillset that needs to be perfected professionally.
Knowing how to handle criticism, negative comments, or even trolls is necessary because your every move online is being watched.
Here are the top 3 tips to keep in mind to maintain a healthy social media environment:
People are going to leave negative comments and give feedback that is not constructive. Trolls do it for their own entertainment. The temptation is to ignore the small complaints or the ones that seem without merit and, indeed, sometimes it’s not worth your energy to respond.
However, ‘Ignorance is bliss’ does not apply on social media. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for any potential negative situations that could harm your brand. It takes time and energy for someone to reach out to you, so it’s worth at least a look to check whether a seemingly small complaint might be hiding a deeper issue that your organization isn’t aware of yet. Engaged clients are a good thing, pay attention and take them seriously. The effort will be worth it!
2. Learn when to take things offline
Replying to negative feedback can quickly get out of hand. It is important to get all your facts and information lined up first before formulating an appropriate response. The key is to engage quickly to show the public you are on top of the issue and then move the conversation offline for one-to-one service recovery.
Last year’s social media revolt from Lavastone Steakhouse is one of many examples of how quickly things can get out of hand if you’re not careful. Demanding that a customer explain their negative review, is not a winning proposition. Instead, thank them for their feedback, ask for more details so that you may improve your services and invite them to reach out to you directly (i.e. not on a public forum).
You want the truth?
Fun Fact: If you do not proactively provide a pressure relief valve, your clients will create their own, giving you no recourse or control whatsoever.
3. Find a (long-term) solution
You may not see this at first, but sometimes negative remarks represent wonderful opportunities for your brand. Look past the immediate issue and craft a better solution that can benefit all your clients, not just appease the person who happens to be complaining at this particular moment. It’s a great way to prevent future complaints and even improve your overall client experience.
Last year, one of our clients was caught up in what could have been a potentially serious crisis situation through no fault of their own. Around the time that our client was organizing the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, there was an ongoing controversy raging about live music being banned at the annual Thaipusam festival. Tempers were heated and somewhere along the way, the comparison was made between Thaipusam (a “local” festival) and St. Patrick’s Day (a “foreign” festival). Needless to say, this was a gross oversimplification of the issue, but none of that mattered in the heat of the moment. We were caught in the middle of a PR storm!
So what did we do? First priority was to find the source of the initial complaint. While we were doing that, we put out a factual history of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in order to highlight, in a non-confrontational way, that this seemingly “foreign” festival had deep local roots. Once we found the original poster, we took things offline and invited him out for a beer and a chat. Result? He quickly understood that he was barking up the wrong tree and stopped disseminating false information. Simultaneously our St. Patrick’s Day history was circulating among discussion boards until the whole firestorm simmered down and disappeared. Score! #PRWIN
Here are the top 3 things to avoid doing on social media:
1. A template answer
“Dear Ms. Lim, Thank you for your feedback. Have you switched the computer on and off again?”
A template response only shows a lack of authenticity and sincerity that will annoy the person you are responding to and draw blood that is likely attract sharks (i.e. trolls) from every direction. Instead, try putting yourself in that person’s shoes and respond accordingly. It may mean the difference between being showered in compliments and a flame war.
Let’s take San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit’s customer service response for a train breakdown as an example. We can definitely learn a thing or two about being truthful and sincere.
2. Taking your time
Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. Reply to complaints as quick as you can (after you’ve taken the time to do your research and gather your facts). If need be, send a quick note to say you’re looking into the matter and promise to reply at a later time.
Pro tip: make sure you reply by the promised time if you don’t want to annoy your customer even more.
The faster you address an issue, the quicker everyone moves on and forgets about it. People generally don’t like to wait too long, especially when they are upset. Living in a fast-paced world, you have to think of a solution that will not put you in a corner. Because….
3. Be the hero
Like any other crisis management protocol, online and offline, learn when to take a step back and get your bosses to take the punches before things escalate. The last thing you want is to be caught in a brawl between the customer and your boss.
Let’s face it, if you’re just an employee managing the social media pages, 1) you’ll get fired 2) no more social media for your mister. If you’re the boss, well… you probably need some social media training…
Call me. Maybe?
Always, always keep all employees up to date and aware of any major issues. After all, your employees represent your organization and thanks to social media, anyone can be thrust into the limelight. Having a social media policy also helps so employees know the appropriate way to respond and know who's enquiries should be referred to within your organization.
Haters, be gone!
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to find out more about what you can do with your company’s social media pages.