Many small businesses these days are worried about using social media. It’s understandable; after all, social media puts you and your company right in the public’s beady eye and there’s always the risk that you may get negative online reviews as well as positive comments.

Indeed, that’s usually the biggest concern – what if a customer complains and leaves a negative review? Their comments are out there in public, posted, shared, re-tweeted. Everyone can see them!

But think of this – you may well have had disgruntled customers in the past but you just weren’t aware of them. Now look at the role of social media from a different angle – if someone leaves a negative comment on Twitter or Facebook (and they will!), you have a valuable opportunity to address the issue.

This enables you to take a two-pronged attack – damage limitation by resolving the problem and turning the situation around by converting a complainer into a brand advocate.

So, how do you go about it?

  • Be vigilant and monitor what is being said about your brand on social media. There are various monitoring tools available, which can be set up for your brand and specific keywords (as well as competitors).
  • Don’t forget to set up Hootsuite or Klout (if you use either of them) to flag your Mentions on Twitter too!
  • Check in on your Facebook page and Twitter regularly. If your business gets reviewed on sites such as Trip Advisor, make sure you monitor that too. Likewise, find out about any forums or communities that may be of interest to your customers.
  • Think before you react. Not all negative online reviews will merit a response. If something has been posted on an obscure forum with few members, it’s probably better to just ignore it. Your response will only bring attention to the problem, rather than allowing it to quietly sink beneath the radar.
  • If you need to respond, do it as quickly as possible. There’s nothing worse than a complaint going unanswered for days or weeks. The customer may have vented their spleen but a lack of response will cause more anger and others may pick up on this. Always acknowledge the customer, even if you need to look into the complaint in greater depth. Let them know that you’ll be back in touch and offer to get in touch offline in the meantime.
  • Keep it friendly and avoid sarcasm. If you ever read Trip Advisor reviews and responses, you’ll know what I mean – there’s nothing worse than an outraged hotelier posting a bitter response to a review. An online slanging match will do you no favours whatsoever. Keep things polite, make sure you come across as “human”, it will make so much difference. Ideally respond publicly and provide a resolution, and then take it offline by emailing or calling the customer to go over details such as refunds or compensation.
  • Decide how you can fix the problem. Apologising is one thing, but even better is showing an effective solution to the customer’s problem. For instance, if they have a product that hasn’t lived up to its promise, you might offer to replace it with a superior item at no extra cost.
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