Does the thought of using social media for your business terrify you? You’re not alone.
Many business owners, particularly here in a small community like Kapiti, are petrified of embracing social media in spite of the obvious opportunities it can offer their brand.
“I know everyone says we should be using Facebook, but all I see on there is people complaining!”
“The internet is just full of angry people looking for something to whinge about.”
“I haven’t got time for social networking – I’m trying to run a business!”
“If my business is on Facebook, we’ll be a target. I prefer to fly under the radar.”
Any of these sound familiar?
My advice to clients is always the same:
People can and will choose to talk about your business via social networking, good or bad, whether or not you’re active on social media yourselves.
Facebook community interest groups, frequented by literally thousands of local users, represent the most active and thriving part of Facebook’s whole ecosystem. These groups come in all shapes and sizes, and often have their own rules and regulations set up by volunteer group-admins to try and ensure members ‘play nicely’.
But this is the internet, after all, and misanthropes lurk around every corner.
Things can very quickly turn nasty or even start that way from the outset. A disgruntled customer, an ex-partner posing as an angry client, fake accounts created explicitly for the purpose of damaging a business’ reputation – we’ve seen all this and more.
Let’s face it, if you’re in business, you’ve already poked your head above the parapet to be shot at, to some extent. Social media just makes it easier, and can empower critics with a sense of anonymity, or at least provide a passive aggressive medium for them to throw stones (we all know at least one ‘keyboard warrior!’)
Once this truth is accepted, it’s only a hop, skip and jump to the next logical realisation: if you take steps to ensure you’re aware of these conversations, you can then become part of them, giving yourself the best possible chance to
- mitigate any reputational damage
- right any potential wrongs
- learn and improve
- influence or steer the conversation in a way that can actually benefit your business
Still feeling nervous about embracing social media? Social networks are here for the long haul: they’re not going away. If you need experienced social strategists to manage your social media presence while you concentrate on what you do best, hit us up today for a free consultation.
Handling Social Media Criticism – Some Golden Rules
So, accepting that we can’t prevent people from talking about our brand, but empowered with the knowledge that we can make sure we’re part of the conversation and influence its direction, how about some guidelines and golden rules for handling these situations?
- Take a polite, conciliatory approach and tone. If you’ve been slammed in a public forum, it’s the easiest and most natural thing in the world to go in with all guns blazing. Regardless of the validity or reasonableness of the complaint, this is the worst thing you could possibly do. You’ll likely be perceived as unprofessional and unreasonable yourself.
- Own your mistake. If the complainant has a valid reason to feel aggrieved, you can often turn your cock-up into a positive by addressing the issue and righting the wrong. Offer fair compensation to your social media critic and explain what you’ll be doing to ensure that the problem won’t be repeated. By doing so, you can successfully change the narrative from being a tale of dissatisfaction to a positive demonstration of quality customer service in action.
- Be firm but fair. Where the complaint genuinely isn’t reasonable, regardless of how pleasant or otherwise the tone of your critic may be, politely give your side of the story without calling into doubt the motives or character of the complainant. Unnecessary tit-for-tat replies will come across as unprofessional and unseemly.
- Don’t air your dirty laundry in public. On occasion, it’s necessary to open an ongoing dialogue with the offended party before an adequate resolution can be reached for both parties. In such instances, strive to communicate directly with the aggrieved party, either via private social messaging, or more traditional methods (telephone or face-to-face). This is not always possible, which brings us to the final golden rule….
- Know when to ‘just leave it’. Once you’ve put your side across, keyboard warriors may try to suck you into a public war of words, regardless of how polite you’ve been in your riposte. Don’t let them; tell your story and move on. If someone wants to continue to simmer away like a teapot on the hob, let them: it will only reflect badly on themselves.
A Case Study – What Can Cheese Scones Teach Us About Handling Social Media Criticism?
Hightide Cafe in Paraparaumu Beach here on the Kapiti Coast is a wonderful venue, serving amazing food, and supporting the community in many and varied ways, from running poetry club events and open-mic afternoons to proactively supporting mental health causes and offering ‘pay-it-forward’ coffees for the less fortunate.
The customer service in the cafe is also exceptional; in fact it’s one of its main strengths. The cafe is a community hub, and has built a substantial army of exceptionally loyal brand-advocates.
Full disclosure: Hightide Cafe is a long-standing Buzzwords client. We’ve managed their Facebook page, run successful Facebook Ad campaigns for functions, and administered giveaways and competitions for the cafe, to great success over a period of years.
As part of their package, Hightide also benefit from our ‘Social Web’ brand monitoring service. In short, if conversations about the cafe take place on social media or in public forums on the internet, the multiple tools we use in house at Buzzwords are likely to catch and flag these conversations, both good and bad.
As you’d expect, feedback is mostly glowing – Hightide have received TripAdvisor’s certificate of excellence on a number of occasions, and have consistently excellent reviews and feedback across their social channels. But even the most popular of businesses can find themselves on the receiving end of a social-media tongue-lashing.
One customer recently took to Neighbourly to decry Hightide’s decision to raise the price on their cheese scones by a dollar, from $4.50 to $5.50.
A smattering of responses followed, some defending the cafe and some others agreeing that $5.50 for a scone, on the face of it, seemed a bit steep.
Then, having picked up on the conversation with our monitoring tools, we were able to ensure cafe owner Leigh Healy got right of reply, observing the golden rules of engagement:
Polite, explanatory and conciliatory. More positive responses were quick to follow (this slideshow is just a sampling of the support Leigh received):
If we left the story here, it would show how Leigh was able to turn a potentially harmful review into a win – but as can sometimes happen, this was the catalyst for something much bigger.
The post quickly became the most discussed topic on Neighbourly (with mostly positive and supportive messages for Leigh and her business), and a Dominion Post journalist picked up on the furore and got in touch with Leigh.
The story – “Would you pay $5.50 for a cheese scone?” – which you can also read in full on Stuff – ran on the front page of one of the local newspapers here in Kapiti (the Kapiti Observer) as well as on page 3 of the Dom Post.
Next, TVNZ’s Breakfast team started discussing the issue, which led to Leigh receiving an early morning telephone call and a live interview:
It didn’t end there. The following week saw yet more mainstream media coverage, with a half page piece in the Dom Post again (in the op-ed section), another article on Stuff, and further mentions on radio and in the regional newspapers.
To cut a long story (relatively) short, Hightide Cafe have had to quadruple the amount of scones they make each day for the past two weeks to cope with demand! And to reiterate, the whole happy chain of events came initially from a social media complaint, picked up by Buzzwords social monitoring tools, which was then managed superbly by the business owner.
Yes, fortune played its part, but to a certain extent Leigh made her own luck by investing in keeping an eye on her brand and following the golden rules of social media engagement.
Could your business benefit from brand monitoring, social media strategy & management, or simply having savvy, professional copy writers on hand to manage and control social media mentions of your brand? Get in touch with us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you conquer the social networking in 2018.
BONUS TIP: ‘Social Proofs’ – Building Positive Social Media Reviews
As stated at the start of the article, if you can rid yourself of the scaredy-cat mind-set when it comes to social media, opportunities are plentiful.
One of the most effective ways of manipulating your digital presence to great effect is through ensuring that your business, whether it be product or service based, receives a healthy volume of positive social media user reviews, across a range of online platforms.
It might surprise you to learn that the effects of positive reviews for your business go far beyond the obvious ones, such as building your reputation through word of mouth.
Google place great weight in 2017 on what they term ‘social proofs’ (any positive recommendation, review or testimonial for a business) found both on their own business platform (Google My Business) and also on the big social networks and (reputable) directory listing sites.
Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) – or the results you get in Google when you do each specific search – are calculated by complicated and ever changing algorithms, but what we do know is that ‘social proofs’ are one of the most crucial factors that Google will take into account in 2018.
If your website (or even your social media pages if you’re a business without a website) isn’t ranking in Google for the search terms important to your customers, focus on soliciting positive reviews for your Google listing, your Facebook page, TripAdvisor and any other relevant social platform where you’re business is listed.
How? Talk to your brand advocates; encourage them to take 10 minutes out of their day to sing your praises online, and make sure you mix it up by asking different people to go to different platforms and spread the love around, giving you a healthy social proof portfolio.
In truth, there are actually many different types of social proof and we’re only scratching the surface here, but this low investment (a little time & charm) strategy can definitely reap rewards over the long haul.