Ah, social media. Has any invention ever been simultaneously so loved and so hated?
The dream, of course, is that social media connects us all in a community of understanding and shared experiences. We hope that others will share their experiences and connection to our brand and that their followers will do the same. It does happen sometimes. But there’s also a darker side to all that sharing — one that businesses must be aware of.
We’ve all heard stories about how viral videos (think: United Airlines) or other posts on major social platforms can damage an organization’s reputation. What starts out small can quickly gain momentum, and all of a sudden, you have a very visible PR crisis on your hands.
Even a single bad review lurking silently on an employment site such as Glassdoor, or a few tweets or Facebook posts by a disgruntled customer with a small following, can show up in a search and cause prospects (or prospective employees) to think twice about doing business with you.
The key takeaway is that just because you’re not facing a major, in-your-face crisis doesn’t necessarily mean all is well on the social media front. That’s why you should be checking your online reputation regularly, searching the way someone who doesn’t know your company would search, to see what’s out there.
Hopefully, there is nothing bad lurking in the shadows. But if your investigation shows otherwise, here are a few things you can do to enhance your organization’s social media reputation — and keep it from souring again.
Address any current or semi-current issues.
One of the key aspects of social media is its immediacy. Things that “blow up” on social media today are quickly forgotten tomorrow. So if your research uncovers any current issues, you’ll want to address those first, since a positive resolution is more likely to turn a critic into a fan.
Use the appropriate method to contact the user to address the concern. If the negative post was on Twitter, use your Twitter account to respond. And make the fact that you responded visible.
If it was on LinkedIn, YouTube or Facebook, leave a comment. In all cases, you want to say you’re sorry the user had a problem and state what you’re willing to do to rectify it. Then, follow through to take care of the issue.
Hopefully, the user will state their satisfaction with the solution. If not, try to draw his or her reaction by stating what you did (if it’s not obvious) and asking if they are satisfied. Your participation in the conversation will keep it from being one-sided and can help turn a negative into a positive.
Stay positive and professional.
When someone attacks us, our natural reaction is to get defensive. On social media, however, that can be a disaster, especially since tone is difficult to detect in written words. When you comment on a negative post, take the emotion out. Avoid any hints of defensiveness or snark, and instead, take a positive and professional approach.
It also helps to stick with the facts. Don’t make judgments about the person who posted or their motives. Simply state what you know and what you’re doing about it. It’s always best to take the high road.
Bonus Tip: If you are in an industry where there is a high likelihood of negative comments on social media, you may want to create a “playbook” with pre-planned responses to certain events that can be customized to specific circumstances.
React to new issues quickly.
Once you’ve cleared out any backlog of negative posts/comments, it’s important to stay on top of any new issues that might develop. Consumer brands with dedicated social media teams should be monitoring in real time and actively searching at least daily, if not more often. Business to business (B2B) organizations can review once or twice a week.
Should something come up, it’s important to spring into action quickly. First, of course, get the facts. Then, if your organization is at fault, admit it, apologize and make it right. If it is not, again, state the facts without sounding defensive.
Like fish, the longer problems are left unattended the more they will stink. Take care of issues quickly and intelligently, and they are less likely to cause any long-term damage.
Ask your fans to post positive comments.
Search engines are always looking to bring the most relevant results to users. This means that if what Google finds the most of is negative, those results will show up prominently. If most of what Google finds is positive, those results will rise to the top.
The problem here is that customers (or employees) who are happy are usually content to say nothing. It’s the ones who are unhappy who are most motivated to vent their anger, seek revenge, or otherwise bring the fire and fury down on your reputation.
That means if you’re going to seed the market with positivity, you’ll need to encourage your happy/satisfied customers (or employees) to post positive reviews or statements in their social media channels.
The best strategy to get good reviews is to simply ask. You’ve no doubt seen plenty of requests to “Like us on Facebook” or to say good things on Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. That’s no accident. You may need to plant the idea with your customers to say good things.
This strategy is particularly powerful when asking employees to post reviews of the company to help with recruiting (note: some employee review sites have rules allowing you to ask employees for reviews, but you cannot specify that you would like the review to be positive).
Make it a win.
In today’s contentious and connected world, negative comments on social media are almost inevitable. How you react, however, will determine whether those comments hurt your reputation or earn you fans for life.