How Social Media Can Damage Your Business (And What You Can Do About It)
Updated on May 2nd, 2016
Social media is a great tool for small businesses. It allows us to connect with our customers, influence prospects and present ourselves as responsible and reliable companies.
Due to the tremendous potential that social holds, we encourage businesses to pursue active social media strategies to maximize their impact. We all love it when things are going our way – people are favouriting our tweets, our follower count is increasing and we receive glowing reviews from clients.
However, when faced with irate customers, social media can quickly become a burden.
Here are a few ways to handle tough critiques while keeping your brand intact.
Be quick to respond and offer solutions
Quick response time is crucial on social media. The last thing you want is to leave a critical comment unanswered for long. That will convey unprofessionalism and a lack of interest on your behalf, which will not only further incense the customer, but will also create the wrong impression on others.
Customers are far more forgiving when their problems are acknowledged and solutions offered pronto.
Be prepared for criticism
Regardless of whether businesses intend it to be that way or not, customers will approach them on social platforms with their complaints because it is often the easiest way for them to contact companies. You don’t really have a choice if a follower on Facebook posts about a poor experience at your restaurant, or if someone complains about slow delivery service.
Miffed customers can be scathing in their criticism, too. Some may even take delight in painting your business in a bad light. When unflattering posts come your way, have a strategy in place to deal with them.
- Acknowledge the problem.
- Apologize for the inconvenience.
- Ask for clarification to determine the root of the problem.
- Try to find out facts regarding the problem – did your business drop the ball or is this just a subjective opinion?
Here is an example based on my own bad experience with a large American retailer. I wrote on their Facebook page in detail regarding their botched up delivery and installation, but they did not bother to respond, much less offer to fix it.
However, scores of other followers on the company’s Facebook page read up on my ordeal and as a result many openly stated they will not have anything to do with the company anymore and would choose the competitors instead!
This is only part of the entire post, which included 15 points in total. But you get the picture.
Here’s a snapshot of the responses it elicited:
I would not want any of my customers to undergo a remotely similar experience with my company.
Moral of the story? Respond. Acknowledge the problem. Offer a solution. Do this without delay!
Try to get the customer on the phone
Not all problems can be quickly addressed on the spot, within the space of 2 or 3 tweets/posts.
If there is too much back and forth between the customer and you, threads become hard to follow in addition to being an eyesore for others. Do your best to prevent a public spectacle.
When a situation begins to unravel, do everything you can to get the customer to contact you by email or phone. Focus on calming the customer down first, and ask them to share details with you via a direct message, email, or make an offer to ring them to discuss the matter in detail.
Customers usually don’t have a problem with this. Their aim, after all, is to get a customer service representative to talk to them and fix the issue.
Always keep a respectful tone
Good customer service and engagement is at the heart of social media relations between businesses and customers.
At no point should those in charge of responding on social media lose their cool, become defensive, sarcastic, or worse, hit back. This might sound like an obvious thing to state but even big companies have been guilty of this.
Never, ever argue. Refer to the previous point if you feel a conversation is getting too lengthy. Keep the tone polite and respectful. The consequences of not doing so will result in the loss of more than one customer, as well as a blow to your credibility as a business.
However, if the poster becomes abusive, politely ask them to contact you through another channel and bring the social conversation to an end.
Don’t take things personally
It’s understandable that business owners become defensive about their businesses and bristle at unsavory comments.
Keep in mind that someone rating their experience at your café has nothing to do with you. Don’t confuse the problem by bringing your emotions into the equation, no matter how much you love your business. Customers have a right to complain, especially if they have paid you and don’t feel they received their money’s worth in return.
Also, it’s important to understand the difference between objective and subjective criticism. If a company has been accused of selling a faulty part or messing up a delivery, it can be fixed. If a customer says they just don’t like you, or are making personal attacks without good reason, there’s little for you to go with. Those in charge of responding to comments on social media need to understand this difference.
We are human, after all, so if a comment gets on your nerves, take a small break and gather your wits. Respond with a calm and clear mind.
Remove critical posts after the issue has been addressed
It is still your platform and a business is within its rights to remove critical posts.
However, discretion is advised.
Leave critical comments on for a day or two so that other followers can also see how the business responded to and handled the situation. When this is done the right way, it is reassuring for customers, as well as prospects who may be following the conversation.
However, once the issue has been addressed, there is no reason to continue hosting those conversations on your profile. You can remove them when things have moved on – or you may choose not to, but you do have the right to.
The good, the bad, the ugly – People notice everything
Social media is a double-edged sword. It can work in the favour of a business, while also bringing it down.
Don’t cower from criticism. You will face it at some point, especially as you grow and become popular. However, devise a strategy to deal with it. Train your employees in the art of responding on social media, even when they are not specifically dealing with customer complaints.
Word spreads fast on social. Followers (and their friends) see everything and are constantly making their minds up about businesses. They also have a lot of choice. So don’t give them a chance to complain in the first place by offering the best customer service you can, and if things go wrong, nip them in the bud with these strategies!
Michael Georgiou is the CMO and Co-founder of Imaginovation, a full service, turn-key digital solutions company serving Raleigh, NC and Charlotte, NC. He’s a dynamic business professional with proven success in creative strategy, online branding, project management and communication projects. Follow him on Twitter at @MGeorgiou22.
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