One of the best things about social media is that it gives your audience the opportunity to connect with you directly and interact in a way that traditional marketing doesn’t provide for. One of the worst things about social media is that, since your profiles are public, anyone is free to say anything they want about your company, and the whole rest of the world can see it.
Negativity is bound to come up on your social profiles occasionally. People may insult your brand, complain about a specific problem they’ve had or just air general grievances. There’s nothing you can do about this. When it happens, it happens. The best case scenario is that it goes largely ignored by your followers. The worst case scenario is that it goes viral or even gets covered by mainstream news outlets, ensuring that everyone hears about it. But relax. It’s not the end of the world. These things happen, and there are ways of dealing with it. Here are some dos and don’ts for coming out of a social media debacle with your reputation intact.
DO be on the lookout for negative posts and comments about your brand online. Not all of them will be on your networks. People may be saying negative things about you on their own profiles, or tagging your brand on Twitter. More than one social media disaster has stemmed from a public post on a site like Reddit that went viral. It’s important to keep your ear to the ground with regards to what people are saying about your brand, so that you can deal with things as soon as they come up.
DON’T delete the comments that are on your profiles. A public brand is constantly under a microscope. Deleting negative comments or posts won’t help you hide them. If someone notices they’re gone, it sends a message that you don’t really care about your customers or their issues, but are only interested in maintaining your appearance.
DON’T hire a company that claims they can “clean up” your social media profiles and reputation. There are services online that will delete negative mentions of you online and/or plant fake positive reviews of your brand and products on Yelp, Amazon and other independent sites, to boost your reputation artificially. Not only is this dishonest, when it’s found out (and it will be), you’ll end up looking worse than if you just left the negative statements.
DO address the problem immediately and publicly. On the Internet, things spread like wildfire. Every minute counts, particularly when there’s vitriol being circulated against your brand.
DO be personal. Address the person who has the problem directly. By name, if possible. Always apologize first, even if it’s not your fault. If it’s someone with a legitimate grievance, acknowledge the problem and ask what you can do to make restitution. If it’s someone spewing ambiguous insults, be calm and polite and ask them why they feel that way, and what you can do to improve. If they listen, great. If not, you’ve still maintained your dignity, and they’re the ones who look bad, not you.
DON’T ignore what’s being said. If the person does have a legitimate grievance, simply making restitution isn’t enough. You need to figure out why this happened and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This may mean making changes to your current procedures, or training/disciplining specific employees. Use your negative experiences to grow and improve as a company, and provide better service in the future.