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One concern of small business owners today is navigating through the sometimes murky waters of social media conversation.

Today, if you look on many news or political posts on Facebook; you’re quickly taken down the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’ of heated arguments, vitriol, and even hate speech. It can be disconcerting for a fledgling small business owner. What if someone is having a bad day and decides to take it out on your Facebook page?

Social media offers a certain amount of perceived anonymity, and users sometimes go farther than they would in a face-to-face argument. Things can get very ugly, very quickly.

It’s important to remember that all social media platforms are based on one element: conversation. With that in mind, don’t shy away from social media in fear of negative comments; use these helpful tips to manage that conversation online.

  1. Respond

If you’re the recipient of a negative review, or if a disgruntled client is airing their grievances on your page: don’t ignore it. You do not have to agree with the statement, and you do not have to find an immediate solution. Your goal here is just to acknowledge the customer and let them know they’ve been heard. For example:

“We’re so sorry you’re not satisfied with Product ABC. Our customers are very important to us. Please check your inbox for a message from our customer service representative.”

  1. Contact the customer privately

By messaging the individual privately, you’re taking the potential argument off of the public forum. Pinpoint the customer’s concern and try to fix the problem. Better yet (in that private message), give them the name and phone number of an actual quality assurance/customer service representative.

This will help you alleviate the “keyboard warrior” tendencies (for the most part), and your customers will appreciate the personal care.

  1. Consider asking them to remove the post

Once you’ve corrected the issue, you can ask the individual to remove their negative post. You’ll find many people are very willing to do so, and may actually go back and give you a positive review for handling the situation with professionalism!

If the message is not abusive in any way (for example, if it’s just a bad review), you should never take the post down.

Social media is a place for two-way conversation. If you remove the posts of reasonable client complaint, you could cause backlash that might reflect badly on your business. This could also give the impression that you ignore the concerns of your customers.

Remember: When it comes to social media, perception is half the battle!

  1. Respond to the original post

Regardless whether the customer removes their post, respond to it in a professional and courteous manner. Remember, all of your other fans (and potential customers) can see this post. It’s important that they know you take care of your clients. Keep it short and sweet. For example:

“Thank you for speaking with us on this matter. We value your business and are so glad that we were able to come to a resolution. If we can be of any further assistance, please let us know!”

As we all know, not every customer is going to be absolutely happy with the resolution – but this way, you’re at least taking control of the conversation.

  1. When to ban someone from your page

If at any time, someone on your page becomes abusive to you, your customers, or your employees – you have the right to stand up for yourself.

It’s the same principle as refusing service to a belligerent customer in a brick and mortar shop. If that line is crossed, you can remove the post, report that person, and ban them from your page. I recommend keeping a screenshot of the post/comments before deleting them, just in case you need to reference them in a dispute.

Create a Plan

It’s ideal for a small business to have an established plan for handling these situations online.

While you may be handling your own social media today, two years from now it may be another employee (or multiple employees) posting for you. You want to make sure you have set ground rules for engaging in conversation with your digital audience.

Take the time to create your plan early in your business – it will help you avoid social media mishaps and develop a cohesive online brand.

We’ll get into the process of creating a social media plan in a future blog.

Can’t wait that long? Email Erika Heeren for a consultation!

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