Social Media: Feel the fear and do it anyway

Social Media: Feel the fear and do it anyway

Social media for small business can be a blessing and a curse. The same immediacy that makes social media so effective for connecting with customers is exactly what can work against a brand if things go wrong. Couple this with the traditional media’s (print, radio and TV) glee at reporting “social media fails”, you can understand why some Irish businesses are still apprehensive about social media. This apprehension affects everyone from small mom and pop operations to large multinational corporates.

While social media, like all communications channels, does have its pitfalls, the positives far out way the negatives. It allows you unparalleled reach, it’s relatively inexpensive and it allows you to communicate directly with your target customer. However, what happens when things go sour and you find yourself on the receiving end of negative attention? Do you ignore it and hope it will go away? Do you respond? How do you respond?

Here are my top tips on what NOT to do:

  1. The “Ignore them and hope they leave you alone” approach: A technique favoured by many a page owner, especially those not that familiar with social media, is the “Head in the Sand” approach. As a small business owner this is an approach you must avoid. If a customer was at your place of business with a complaint or called/emailed you with a complaint would you ignore them?

  2. The “Delete and hope they don’t notice” approach: As far as I’m concerned the only thing worse than ignoring a negative comment is deleting it.  It only serves to anger the customer more and give them a reason to make a bigger deal out of their complaint by telling ALL of their friends how awful your company is. Remember, that here in Ireland the average Facebook user has 280 friends and we really love telling our friends about our bad experiences!

  3. The “Two can play at that game” approach: Here is one I’ve seen a lot of from Irish businesses. You can see a lot of classic examples on Trip Advisor from irate hoteliers responding to reviews from unhappy guests. Here’s a scenario: You get a customer who leaves an angry complaint on your company’s Facebook page and you feel it is totally unjustified. It makes you angry. You respond with an angry or defensive comment. This is an absolute no go. People who see this comment may come away with a wrong impression of you and your business. The key thing here is to remember that the complaining customer is not the only person who will be able to see this exchange; all their friends can see it in addition to the wider internet community AKA everyone!

From my experience, advising companies of all sizes and from all sectors when it comes to negativity in social media, dealing with it boils down to the following:

Offer an apology AND a solution. Remember that fans who have liked your page are already interested in your company. They’re naturally on your side. Oftentimes they complain because they genuinely expect more from your company. I’ve found that nine times out of ten people who comment with negative feedback are just looking to be heard. When you take the time to go back to them, acknowledge their complaint and deal with it they become very grateful. I’ve managed pages where we’ve turned our most ardent critics into some of our strongest advocates by listening to them and communicating with them in a personal manner.

Don’t just take my word for it though. I’ve asked some of Ireland’s leading community managers for their thoughts on dealing with the negativity of social media.

Laura Murphy (@lollimurphy) who has managed social media accounts for some of Ireland’s leading brands. She has worked on Guinness, Smithwicks, Argos and is now working in Google creating customised advertising campaigns for a host of retail and technology brands. When it comes to dealing with negativity on social media she offers the following tips,

“React quickly and effectively. Always address errors, and when an issue or crisis arises always try and update fans as much as you can. Where possible, try to move issues off the page with private messages, emails and DMs. Always try to give individual responses – don’t copy and paste a stock answer!”

Seán Earley, (@seanearley) Digital Manager at Slattery Communications, advises brands to heed the following advice,

“Never delete or ignore unfavourable comments on your social media platforms. Social media is all about people expressing their opinions for good and bad and it is not about saying how awesome you are all day, every day. Work with your client to develop a response strategy and find a way to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome within a reasonable time (24hrs max). On the flip side, be careful not to feed the trolls, the real trick in this game is figuring out the difference between the two.”

Gavin Coffey (@GavinCoffey) is the Social Media Manager in Pembroke Communications working across all consumer and corporate based clients. His advice is simple and succinct.

“Every fan is entitled to voice an opinion. Only censor where 100% necessary (abuse/language).  Answer all complaints directly and quickly.”

Donna Spellacy (@DonnaAtDoneDeal) is Community Manager for Ireland’s leading classifieds website DoneDeal and she has managed social media for the company since it was launched. The page now has over 12,000 Twitter followers and almost 100,000 fans on Facebook. Donna’s advice is,

“Be honest and learn from it. If you cock up and your costumers let you know, own it and learn from your mistakes. If you’re listening to your costumers, working close to them, you won’t go far wrong.”

Well known community manager Darragh Doyle (@DarraghDoyle) outlines the following steps:

  • Respond to acknowledge their complaint.
  • Is there actually an issue? Resolve it. Apologise.
  • Can’t be resolved? Explain why.
  • Let them know when to expect a solution.
  • Thank them for letting you know.

In his experience, people want the following:

  • To know they’re being listened to
  • To find out what’s wrong
  • To have it explained or resolved
  • To be thanked for their time.

“Ultimately, in most situations, you, as Community Manager for whatever company, benefit more from them letting you know there’s a problem (if there is one) than they do. Remember, they didn’t have to tell you. Final piece of advice? Kill them with kindness.”

Image credit: Flickr, zeevveez

Martyn Rosney

Martyn works as an Account Manager with Wilson Hartnell, Ireland’s leading public relations agency. His work centres on reputation management for a cross section of leading Irish household names in the corporate and technology sectors. You can follow him on LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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