Social Media

How to Avoid a Social Media Shakedown

Brad Smith
October 19, 2011

Social media gives consumers the power.

They have a strong voice and unprecedented control over how businesses reach them.

These are really good things.

Businesses have controlled the message and relationship for far too long. And it looks like those days are drawing to a close.

However, not all that glitters is gold.

People using the internet behave differently. They expect the world to cater to their demands, and are vocal when they’re disappointed.

Here’s how you can avoid a social media shakedown.


Rioting at Flying Horse Estate
Image courtesy of Burns Library, Boston College

Shakedown

People behave differently on the internet.

They say and do things they wouldn’t normally do face to face.

Maybe the medium detaches us from the human experience? I’m not really sure of that answer.

It’s like cyberbullying. People treat others differently on the internet than in person.

The problem for businesses is that consumers expect much more.

Which again, is good. Businesses need to do more and treat people better. No problems with that.

But when it comes to online complaints, people go overboard.

With one company last month, we had 60 complaints via Facebook and Twitter.

Not questions or interrogative statements… but disgruntled complaints.

Now this is a large company with thousands of customers a day. So the actual rate of complaints compared to happy customers was low.

However most people don’t see that.

When you want to research a business on Yelp or Facebook, and all you see is terrible reviews.

People are 10 times more likely to write a negative review than a positive one.

And these complaints are mostly hyperbole. Such as, <em”this is=”” the=”” worst=”” company=”” ever”<=”” em=””>. </em”this>

So here are some tips on how your business can avoid a social media shakedown.

1. Remember that it’s always your fault

Start off everything by connecting with empathy.

Let people know that you can identify how they feel. Connect with them as a human, not as a company.

Show them you actually care about what they’re saying, and you’ll be much better off.

Always start by apologizing, and asking how you can rectify this immediately.

2. Always take the high road

A lot of times the customer is wrong.

Either their story is overblown, or they simply didn’t read your policies.

But having a debate is not constructive. No one wins. You can’t prove people wrong, so don’t even try.

3. Apologize publicly, and take it private ASAP

Apologize publicly and assure everyone that you’re going to take care of the situation.

Then take the conversation private as fast as possible. Again, people act differently when it’s one on one than in front of a crowd.

And the initial contact on the internet only allows you to get a fraction of the real story. So you need to follow up through email or a phone call to really get to the bottom of the issue.

4. Stay in constant contact

You do not have to have a solution immediately.

But you do need to keep people updated.

If Customer Service is working on their issue, then let them know that’s why it might take a little bit and tell them when they can expect an update.

As long as you’re in constant contact, they don’t feel forgotten or blown off.

5. Don’t let it get out of hand

Finally, you need to keep a tight grip of what you can control.

A lot of this has to do with being timely when receiving complaints. Try to respond to everything as soon as you see it.

Set up keywords to monitor and check your internet properties regularly through-out the day.

When people post things that are inflammatory or inappropriate, take them down immediately.

The problem is that when you have multiple disgruntled people, the situation escalates quickly.

There’s a difference between people that are really mad, and a situation where people are ganging up and becoming inappropriate and inflammatory.

It’s like a mob mentality and a riot will start.

So despite what social media gurus say, you need to kill it fast.

Sometimes that means taking down a post, banning users, or closing comments.

If you don’t control the situation, then someone else will.

And remember that the customer isn’t always right. The loudest person in a debate isn’t the one who’s right. So it’s OK to stand your ground on certain issues.

You can’t let the public factor bully you into making a bad business decision.

And finally…

Create a feedback loop.

People (usually) complain for valid reasons. You need to keep track of these, and address the root cause.

Too many times businesses only address symptoms, not the root cause of the issue.

Make sure you really understand the real reason of their complaint, and figure out how you can fix it forever.

Many times, you need to figure out who, or what department needs to see the feedback.

You can even tie their future compensation to it.

If you don’t fix or address the root problem, then you’ll have to deal with the same complaints over and over again.

And pretty soon, you’ll be one of these companies with a terrible public image on the internet… whether you deserve it or not.