Social media is a key part of running a business these days. Nearly every company has an online component with which their customers can interact. Maybe your social media manager posts updates on LinkedIn or Facebook. Perhaps your CEO has a Twitter account. The role of “social media manager” is becoming more and more important, and with the ever-changing nature of social media technology, we need to be very aware of this unique relationship with our customers.
While social media is a great way to interact with customers, it can turn into a spectacular disaster if handled improperly. Mistakes happen in business, but handling the backlash improperly can make things so much worse. Take, for example, the recent flub by chain restaurant Applebee’s.
Remember, social media is a two-way relationship! This is a great opportunity to interact with a wider audience. You can gain valuable, honest feedback and take advantage of the free advertising platform inevitably presented by Facebook, LinkedIn and their ilk. You’re opening the door to your audience. Respect them, and welcome real feedback and engagement.
Despite your very best intentions to create healthy conversation, sometimes interactive media may spiral out of your control, as we saw in Applebee’s sorry case. Their intentions didn’t sound too malicious, but the way they handled the runaway train that was their Facebook page was klutzy and ultimately harmful to their company.
Social Media Etiquette: How to Respond to Upset Clients
How should one react when a faux pas has been committed, either by a social media manager or by someone from your online audience? First, take a deep breath and assess the situation. Don’t leap in and fire back a thoughtless response, even if you feel you’ve been wronged. Don’t rush to defend your company too quickly. In the process of focusing first on reputation, you may alienate your audience, making yourself look rather close-minded in the process. Consider your commenters’ point of view, and be humble! Remember that mistakes and contentions—both inconsequential and impactful ones—will inevitably happen. What matters is how you deal with them.
Here are a few practical things to keep in mind if negative feedback appears in your social media sites:
- Respond courteously, even if the customer is being rude. Replying to comments shows that you are active on your social media page and are willing to have a dialogue.
- If the fault is yours, acknowledge that you made a mistake and assure the customer that steps are being taken to remedy it.
- Don’t argue with your customers, or justify your actions – this only makes them angrier.
- Don’t hide or disable comments in any way – this is interpreted as censorship and only adds fuel to the flames.
- If your social media platform turns into a firestorm of negative comments, the best thing to do may be to lay low for a while—or at least for a few hours. There’s no reasoning with angry clients, so letting them vent and then cool down may be the best way to go.
- Have a social media policy in place ahead of time so you know what to do when the time comes. Be sure your team is aware of it!
And last but not least, remember this is social media. At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be fun! As the facilitator, your interaction should be graceful and open-minded. Have fun with your audience, and stay alert for learning experiences that may arise in the process of interacting with your customers.