There is a lot of advice online why your company, your brand or even you should have a social media presence. With new platforms popping up every day the profiles you can have to get your name out there are near endless. Any Social Media Marketing Company will advise you to have profiles on at least facebook and Google+ and rightfully so. Done right, social media can be your best friend, helping you to get your name recognized, attract and convert new customers.

Done wrong, well, there have been a few social media disasters in the past. Even by big companies with full-fledged social media teams.  While this may seem like basic advice, it is valuable and you can thank me later. With the advancement of technology and the onslaught of immediate online feedback, it may seem like common sense, but if it were, then there wouldn’t be a need to address it.

There are new people and businesses that enter the world of social media marketing every day. People who don’t understand that online reputation is a real thing, that people take online recommendations into serious account. Brightlocal conducted a survey that found that “85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses” and “73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more” With the rise of mobile, I predict this number will continue to grow.

That being said, you need to have a solid strategy in place with a timeline to answer questions, comments and concerns about your company. Why? Because “word of online” travels a lot faster than “word of mouth” and rumor has it that your company….

Did that make you cringe? It made me cringe as I wrote it; rightfully so. We all want to be the shining star online but sometimes even the best can’t keep everyone happy. So what do you do when rumor has it on social networks that your company isn’t as great as you know it should be?

  • Take a breath
    Sounds simple but isn’t. Sometimes we get feedback from customers and it may or may not be justified. They may be upset, demanding, rude and downright degrading. They try to rally the masses by pointing out the injustice that happened to them. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Take a step back and look at what happened. Think of positive ways to approach the comment.
  • Smile
    I know it’s harder but put yourself in a good mood to help yourself craft a positive response. If there is a problem, you are more than happy to fix it, because that is the motto of good customer service.
  • Type your response in Word first
    Or use a notepad if you want. The answer you craft now will be visible to everyone. This message will show your clients and potential clients how you handle negative feedback. Re-write it until it is something that you would be happy with as a disgruntled customer. Don’t use generic template responses. Customers want to be heard, understood and helped. Their situation is unique; treat it as such while staying fair and in the realm of reason.
  • Take the complaint(s) serious
    If you repeatedly receive complaints about your customer service for example, take it serious! This truly can impact whether or not you retain and attract new customers. If it is a consistent problem, look into it. Hire a consultant / trainer to teach your employees how to address and handle customers appropriately. Show that you are aware of the issue and that you are resolving it. Nothing screams “we don’t care” more than saying “we apologize for the bad experience” for 6+ months.
  • Don’t delete negative feedback
    As much as I wanted to link to an example of what not to do, how deleting comments will make you go viral in a bad way, I feel that they have suffered enough and that I can make my point without pointing fingers.
    Yes, it is absolutely tempting to hide or delete that comment that you felt was unjustified. But that’s how they felt and you are the reason why. Owning up to it may be hard but with a great response it goes a LONG way with customers.
  • Respond to Good and Bad feedback
    It’s tempting to respond to just good or just bad, but ideally you want to interact with your customers period. Let them know you hear them and care about their opinion. Build relationships with them that both sides value. Even if it is just a “Thank you” answer it has an impact.
  • Answer
    I’ve been pushing the positive response issue but that only works if you actually respond. While firing back a bad comment isn’t smart, neither is silence. Nothing is worse than silence online. Think of it this way. If you go to a restaurant and the food was cold, the server rude and you ask for the manager. He or she comes, you state your complaint and they just stare at you in silence. You complain again, they say NOTHING. Then they slowly disappear.. How would you feel? That’s exactly how your customer online feels. They are still a person behind the screen. It’s easy to forget, but that’s a topic for a different day.
  • Do NOT create FAKE reviews.
    This is really one of the worst things you can do. If you had some bad reviews and all of a sudden a lot of 5 star reviews start popping up everywhere, singing your praises.. then you don’t know how smart your customers are. They can smell a fake a mile away, they conduct research and they will call you out for it. And do NOT hire a company to write you reviews either. What happened in NY may happen to you one day. You can read more about the “Fake Review Crackdown” by Matt McGee if you think it’s a joke.
  • Deal with the Trolls
    It may be tough and unfair, but there will always be people who are out to stir the pot. They thrive on negative energy and to them it’s fun to post things to and about a business that are just not true. Best advice here, deal with it, don’t feed into it and take it with a sense of humor. Don’t let it get the best of you.
  • Learn
    There is an incredible amount of knowledge in reviews and comments online. If you learn the art of listening, you will hear what your customers want, need and even what they hate. It can be a tremendous resource to you if you take the time to talk to them and listen. Ask their advice even, they will tell you what they think the problem is. I am not saying you should take everything they say at face value, but learn with and from your customers, then adjust accordingly and within the limits of what is possible for you to do.

Rumor has it.. that you just understood the importance of good customer service in the world of social media. I also want you to really understand how fast “bad” news travels online. It’s instant. It spreads like wildfire. It becomes distorted as it gets passed on kind of like the whisper game I played as a kid. Be prepared, know how to respond, know what is going on in your business and make sure you communicate with your customers. Keep the line of communication open, so  ”Rumor has it” only stays a song.

Have you ever been at the receiving end of “rumor has it”? Share your stories and connect with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Written by Guest Post