10 Jul Do You Have a Disaster Plan?

There is a gap between the way many companies and consumers view their social media accounts. This gap has proved to be toxic for any brand on any platform. Many businesses view social media as strictly a marketing tool and an extension of their advertising campaigns. As such, they feel their profiles should reflect the same constantly optimistic view of their brand. Unfortunately, the everyday user of Facebook or Twitter doesn’t have the same approach to their social media profiles. To a consumer, Facebook is the place where they interact with friends, co-workers, family and their favorite (or not so favorite) brands. And in a world where it has become perfectly acceptable (albeit annoying) to air personal grievances across every social media platform, brands are certainly not immune to the unflattering posts from disgruntled consumers.

When a brand, especially a small business or less established newcomer, finds itself with an unflattering or angry post on its profile, the understandable first reaction is to protect the brand image by deleting or ignoring the post. This may be understandable, but it’s also wrong.  To protect your brand from a “knee-jerk” reaction of sorts, it’s imperative to have a flexible plan (each situation will be different) of what to do in the case that a disgruntled customer decides to take it out on your wall. Here are some basic guidelines that will apply to almost any social media situation.

1. Don’t Delete the Post!

Deleting one negative post just welcomes another five to pop up in its place.  While it may seem tempting to just make it all go away, chances are other users (who previously had no issue with your brand) have seen the post and they will notice when it’s gone. The more vocal users will let you know, and it probably won’t be any nicer than the original.

1a. Don’t Ignore the Post!

Ignoring a post may seem like taking the high road, but not in the world of social media, where engagement and interaction between brand and consumer are paramount. Just like in everyday social interaction, you can’t ignore half of what your client says to you, only respond to the things you want to respond to, and expect to be well received.

2. Stay Calm

This is especially hard if you’re handling the social media account for your own small business. What the user is saying may be inflammatory and embarrassing, but you are ultimately in the position of power. You can either escalate the situation by posting a snide comment in return and risking confirmation of the user’s sentiment (see Amy’s Bakery). Or you can take a step back and act professionally.

3. Respond in a Timely Manner

Even if you don’t have an answer or solution to the problem at hand, acknowledging the comment ASAP is crucial. A simple “We’re very sorry about this, it’s being looked into/we’re working on it/we’ll have an answer for you soon” is better than letting the post sit for hours or days while the user assumes they’re being ignored, and other users join in on the comments.

4. Find a Solution

Don’t slough off the post with a canned apology. While it may be better than deleting or ignoring the post, it’s also not a huge improvement. Come back a few hours or a day later with some sort of solution, be it an answer to the question, a person (a NAME, not a hotline) that the individual can contact, or even a coupon or some sort of discount. Tag the person in your response and apologize again, before offering the solution/contact/discount. Chances are, by that point, whatever it was that set the user off has subsided and the personalized solution will make a good impression.

5. Follow Up

Don’t beleaguer the point, but a simple follow up will drive home the point that you care about your clients. The best way to do this is a simple response to any response the user gives (hopefully it is a positive one, if not, repeat steps 1-4) “Thank you @user, please let me know if you need anything else.”

Unfortunately, social media makes it very easy for users to air grievances that might have otherwise been overlooked, or even forgotten within a week. Fortunately, it also gives you an almost instantaneous chance to prove your company’s customer service, professionalism and ability to accept criticism. After the issue is managed, don’t forget to look back and use it as constructive criticism to apply to your business going forward.

Have you ever dealt with a social media disaster in a way that you felt ultimately benefited your company? Share in the comments!

Sibet B Freides