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6 steps to promoting positive business interactions on social media

If your online marketing efforts hit a bump in the road, it's time to take a new route.

When it comes to a company’s online reputation, social media plays a big role — and business owners may worry about how to keep things positive. Whether it’s a series of negative Yelp reviews, a barrage of unhappy Facebook comments or a tweetstorm that brings unwanted angst, every entrepreneur should be prepared to deal with negative feedback on social media.

After all, 81 per cent of consumers research online before buying — so a series of negative reviews or angry tweets may mean the difference between a new customer and a missed sale. It’s also a potential sign of a poor customer experience, and that can have a lasting impact. Rather than waiting for a social media disaster to strike, put a plan in place to respond quickly and effectively.

By establishing guidelines for dealing with a social media snafu, you’ll minimize any damage it may cause and quickly reestablish trust with your customers. Here are six steps to promoting more positive interactions on your social media channels.

1. Assess the situation

A legitimate customer complaint or piece of feedback, such as a customer service issue or inquiry must always be addressed. Work to identify the different kinds of interactions your business has online and craft standard procedures to make sure you always respond to each situation appropriately.

However, some kinds of feedback may warrant a different type of action (or no response at all). For example, if there are overly disparaging remarks or excessive crass language, you may need to assess the comment differently, investigate the problem further and proceed with more caution. If you don’t have a social media policy in place on how to handle those types of comments, now is the time to prepare one.

2. Acknowledge the negative feedback

Once you’ve assessed the type of situation you’re dealing with, assign someone to respond to it. Make sure to craft a response that highlights specifics about what the person is feeling and try to empathize with their situation.

Remember, this is an opportunity for your company to sound human and relatable. Take advantage of it and use this as a moment for real authenticity. If necessary, write a genuine apology and share it with your customers on your social media channels.

Additionally, if you’re receiving multiple negative messages, take the time to address each one of them personally. Avoid using a generic or blanket response, as this can damage your reputation by making you seem inauthentic.

3. Keep your cool

Navigating a social media disaster can be an extremely stressful experience. Many of us may also feel compelled to jump in and defend the company from a perceived attack.

But before replying, take a few deep breaths, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about the bigger picture. When you’re in a calm state and have thought about the situation from all sides, then it’s time to respond.

4. Control the conversation

Too often an online conversation can veer off-topic, so you must ensure it stays focused on the real problem, not the perceived issue.

Clearly convey that you understand what has happened and state how your business will ensure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t get pulled into the weeds of individual conversations — focus on the macro-level conversation and guiding it in a positive and productive direction.

5. Consider moving the follow-up conversation

Once you’ve acknowledged the problem and explained what will be done to fix it, it’s time to move any further conversations from a public to a private setting.

Here’s a good example of what this request could look like:

“Hi Brian, So sorry to hear that you were experiencing downtime while you were trying to invoice your clients through the software. Can you send us a Direct Message with the details of what happened so we can look into it and follow up?”

By framing it as a step in the resolution process, you can make the person feel heard and move any further discussion (and possible negative feedback) to a private space. This also helps if you need to exchange information like phone or account numbers.

6. Follow up

Moving the conversation to direct messages or email isn’t the end of the resolution process. You still have to follow up and ensure that the issue is resolved. If needed, assign someone on your team to look into the issue and set a deadline to talk with that person.

Take the time to develop a step-by-step plan to address and resolve social media disasters when they arise. You’ll be amazed as to how quickly they can be resolved and how often you’re able to turn the situation in your favour.

You can’t make every customer happy all the time, but by handling social media disasters with grace and authenticity, you’ll be able to re-earn any trust you may have lost. You’ll also show your online audience that you’re a business who respects its customers.


Up Next: How many of your marketing dollars are being left on the table?

Alyson Shane

Alyson Shane is a writer and business owner from Winnipeg, Manitoba who has been publishing content online for 16+ years. She runs Starling Social, an agency which develops digital marketing strategies that combine social media, paid advertising and content strategy to keep businesses growing and engaged with their customers. Outside the office, Alyson is a passionate urbanist who loves gardening, riding her bike and thinking about the public spaces that bring us together. She can be reached on social media at @alysonshane.

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