By Mary Lou Denny
Companies that engage customers and prospects through social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook often profit greatly from the experience. It’s not unusual for them to bask in the glow of unsolicited customer compliments and sincerely flattering appraisals. When these comments are read by other social-media users, they become wonderful company endorsements.
However, social media is a two-sided coin. It can provide a way for customers to throw bouquets but also gives them ample opportunity to hurl brickbats. The latter doesn’t have to threaten your business reputation. Companies adept at using social media know effective handling of negative feedback can burnish an already gleaming company image.
One note of caution, though: Social media is a new phenomenon, and it comes with its own distinct set of expectations and rules. Using traditional public-relations and customer-service strategies to combat negative comments may do more harm than good. You’ll want to bring a different kind of tool set to the task of dealing with social-media negativity. Start with these simple tips.
Monitor what’s being said. The only way to know if your company is garnering criticism in social media is to monitor what’s being said. Tools and services abound to help inform you when your company is being talked about online—in good or bad terms. Listening is the most important part of communication, so “listen” to what’s being said about your company.
Capture the moment . When you notice negativity about your company on a social-media site or even your own website, use a screen capture to ensure it’s not lost. The individual advancing the criticism could delete or change the comment, and you want to retain evidence that the negative view did in fact exist.
Resist the urge to respond in kind. It’s a very human reaction to want to respond to criticisms aimed at us with criticism in return. This is an instinct you must resist at all costs in social media. Blasting the critic will make your company look childish and unprofessional, not only to the person serving up the criticism but also to every customer and prospect who may see it. Take the high road and avoid even an initial volley in what could become an angry exchange.
Keep the tone positive. After you’ve resisted the urge to respond negatively to negative comments, set the tone. You can help defuse a potentially explosive situation by deliberately taking a positive, lighter tone, and even using touches of humor when appropriate.
Dealing with negative feedback isn’t the time or place for sarcasm or a smart-aleck attitude. You want your satisfied customers to be inclined to rise to your support. They will if you handle social-media negativity correctly.