What’s Up in Social Media: Disaster Management

d cohn comm CIRCLE square iconDisaster Management
Q: I would like to use social media for my business, but I’m scared that someone will write something bad on my page. How do I stop people from leaving negative comments?

A: You don’t.
Every business has the occasional unhappy client. We all have to learn to handle dissatisfied customers in a professional manner, whether online or in person. The whole point of social media is to allow clients to talk with you – for better or for worse. It can be scary because you can’t control what they say any more than you could if they walked up to you on the street. It feels even scarier when you’re giving them a space to discuss your business where so many people could be watching. The potential for online nastiness is real, but if you stand behind your products and have good customer service, you have all the tools you need to deal with complaints. What you do with online complaints says a lot about your business to the other people watching your social media page. When someone complains about your business on social media, they are yelling. If they were calm, they would have talked to you in person or on the phone. Instead, they want a lot of attention, right now. That tells you how to handle them. Your goal is to demonstrate great customer service while calming down your angry customer and salvaging the relationship. That isn’t always possible, any more than it is in real life. But demonstrating that you tried is usually enough for everyone else watching.

1. Take it seriously.
Don’t ignore complaints. Acknowledge them, and offer to help. Never delete a comment unless it is downright offensive (i.e. abusive, explicit, threatening, etc.) Nothing will damage your reputation more than looking like you can’t handle criticism. Exhibit A: The Union Street Guest House Debacle. [http://www.fastcompany.com/3033942/fast-feed/this-new-york-hipster-hotel-fines-you-500-for-bad-yelp-reviews-and-yelpers-are-pis?utm_source=facebook] If you do need to remove a comment from your page, take a screenshot first or Hide it. Don’t just delete it. You may want proof of it later on.

2. Be gracious and take the conversation offline.
The best way to show you value your customers is to take their complaints seriously, but make them private conversations. One example I often give is of a person who left a complaint about one of my clients on Twitter. We replied to him on Twitter, thanking him for getting in touch about his problem, and invited him to email the President of the company so she could help. We posted her email address. He never contacted her. We didn’t try to debate the issue on Twitter, fix the problem on Twitter, or ignore him. We tried to take the conversation offline where we could make it private and personal. Do whatever it takes to get your complainer on the phone or email where you can deal with their problem one on one.

3. Do not admit guilt and do not offer any solutions online.
If a man in a restaurant complains his piece of pie is stale, and the manager agrees, and offers to give him a whole new pie, suddenly everyone in the room will have stale pie and want a new one. Only admit error and offer concessions in private. This is another important reason to get the conversation offline.

4. Don’t let them spoil everyone’s fun.
If you cannot resolve the issue with the complainer, you do not have to allow them to fill your page with bile. If you did your level best to appease them but they’re still complaining on your feed, then you can feel free to block them. Think of it as escorting an irrational screamer out of your store. Your faithful customers will thank you for getting rid of the troll

5. Be patient.
Remember that comments on social media are short-lived. New posts are made, and old ones disappear. Give it a week, wait until the issue is resolved, and then delete the comment. Chances are, by then, no one will even notice.

In my two years of social media account management, I have seen exactly two negative comments on my clients’ social feeds. The benefits of having a social media presence are huge. It’s far more likely that your loyal customers follow you and sing your praises than that one grouchy customer sets the tone for your whole online reputation. Just stay tuned into the conversation so you can thank your fans for being awesome, and then you can deal with problems if they arise.