A new client of ours asked me recently how they should handle criticism or unwarranted attacks on social media, and if for that reason they should avoid it altogether.
At some point in our online lives, whether it be personally, or professionally as a business or brand, a social media attack, from insecure or jealous rivals, or upset customers, will likely occur. Sometimes the criticism can be warranted and if so, then at least you know what your customers are saying about you so you can correct or address it; but in many instances it can just be people trying to flex their thumb muscles behind a grubby iPhone or dodgy twitter handle.
“Keyboard courage” or “Social Media Warriors” as we like to refer to them, has some people posting nasty and unnecessary things they would otherwise not say to someone’s face. Hiding behind your screen is not big, clever or cool FYI, it is actually pretty lame.
Speaking from personal experience, can I recommend not feeding the beast. Whilst a rant and some harsh private messaging does feel awfully satisfying, this is exactly what feeds these beasts; avoid it. Instead, keep cool and follow this advice…
Don’t bury your head: The worst thing you can do is pretend it’s not happening and ignore, or even worse, delete the comment or tweet, as that lets others form a false opinion about you or your company.
Stick with the facts: Respond quickly, factually and empathetically. Show the world that you take every criticism or concern seriously – even unwarranted ones.
PMA: It’s important to defend your position, but engaging in a war of words will only escalate the situation. Stay positive and show your other customers or clients how you deal with critics professionally; you’ll likely attract new ones in the process for your calm, efficient reaction.
Take the conversation offline: If and where you can, see if you can take the conversation offline. I am not saying the minute you get a dissatisfied customer, respond with a customer service number. That looks like you’re terrified of discussing criticism openly and it kind of looks ‘guilty’ if you plump for that card from the off. Where a customer or client feels aggrieved, suggest a conversation over the phone where you can listen fully to their issues and try to rectify them; one on one. This shows a willingness to deal directly with their issue, and often sorts the genuine gripes out from the ‘have a go heroes’.
Finally my last piece of advice… social media has a wealth or benefits, and can far outreach realms of traditional marketing… BUT if you don’t have an established social media and crisis management strategy in place, you could get hung out to dry. Many businesses think their kids or an employee can run their social media as an added extra – in our experience this ends badly; don’t close the stable door once the horse has bolted. Make sure you have a strategy in place or outsource it (to someone like us) so you can get on with the everyday running of your business.