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Social media has become so pervasive in our daily lives that it is often the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check before we go to bed at night. The average person checks their Facebook page 110 times a day.
This is especially important for business owners like you because social media is often the first place potential and existing customers go to interact with local businesses. It’s your first chance to make an impression with prospective customers. It also gives you the opportunity to continue to engage with existing customers outside of your location, keeping you top of mind.
While social media is fabulous for attracting, engaging and retaining customers, it can be downright disastrous when customers complain. With regular monitoring and the right online strategy, you can use your social media accounts to build and improve your reputation.
The first step to a positive social reputation is to provide valuable content that is both interesting and relevant to your customers. Engage in conversation with your followers, and reply to their comments. Develop relevant, personalized offers, and quickly respond to complaints and questions.
If someone posts a negative comment, you’ll need to respond appropriately, promptly and prudently—meaning, don’t lose your head. Although knowing what people are saying can help guide and inform your customer service-based decisions, there will be those times when someone will just blast away! These are the times when you need to take a breath and follow these 5 simple guideline.
1. Respond Quickly
Because of the “immediate” nature of social media, negative comments can spread rapidly if left unaddressed. A quick response is the best way to minimize the damage, but more importantly, it can ensure that your point of view is seen by anyone reading the original post. It also provides you an opportunity to amend incorrect information if need be.
2. Keep Your Cool
Often the person posting the comment is either looking to vent their frustration or trying to leverage a public forum to gain the advantage (for remediation or resolution). Don’t take it personally. Keep your replies cordial, respectful and professional. If they are truly seeking resolution to a complaint, they will appreciate your responses. If they are just attacking viciously and will not accept your assistance,—well, some comments don’t require a reply.
3. Document Everything
When someone is either complaining or disparaging your business online, it’s not uncommon for them to go back and edit or delete their prior posts. If the nature of the issue is monetary (meaning they are looking for a refund or compensation) or even litigious in nature, you will need to keep a record of everything they post as it happens. Take a screenshot of each post and hang onto them until the conflict is resolved.
4. Don’t Delete Negative Comments
There are few rules of thumb around social media, but one of the most important— the one that can define your credibility —addresses deleting comments. In short, unless a comment is racist, offensive, or otherwise in very poor taste, deleting a negative comment is usually frowned upon. In fact, it can make it look like you’re trying to cover up an issue or admitting guilt. Studies have shown that responding to complaints can prompt customers to revise their negative post with a positive one or delete the negative post themselves.
5. Take the Conversation Offline
Sometimes, responding to a negative comment can turn one remark into a long thread where you’re either getting into the details of someone’s specific issue, or repeatedly defending yourself rather than talking about the positive attributes of your business. If you have responded to the initial comment and the person writes back, ask for the best way to reach them and take it offline. You’ll resolve the issue more quickly and effectively, and avoid airing what might turn into a saga online.
The Bottom Line
Social media is critical to your business reputation. You can build a strong and positive presence online by posting helpful and informative content that your customers will enjoy across many social channels. However, when someone complains or speaks ill of your business online, you can manage your reputation by replying quickly, honestly, fairly and professionally. When an issue escalates, offer to take the conversation offline and resolve it one-on-one.
For even more online reputation tips, check out our guide.
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