There used to be a saying, “When customers are happy, they’ll tell their friends. When they’re unhappy, they’ll tell everybody.” Thanks to social media, those “friends” just happen to be the 500 people on your customer’s Facebook list or Twitter feed. Deliver a great product, and you’ve just earned 500 public pats on the back. Well done! On the flip side, “everybody” is their friends, and those friends’ friends, and those friends’ friends’ friends, and so on. As I’ve mentioned before – it’s rarely a good thing when something goes viral on the Internet.
We like to think that having a social media presence is a choice that companies are making – that they choose to have a Facebook page or a Twitter account or a Google+ account. But that is not true. Your company already has a social media presence. The question is, who is controlling it? Having an official company page is no longer optional, if for no other reason than because people are already talking about you online. Best get in on that conversation quick. Use your business’s social media accounts to invite your clients to talk TO you instead of ABOUT you, and you’ve taken a huge step towards positive PR right there.
Regardless of what “official” information your business releases to the public, people will talk. Where there are gaps or obvious absences, your potential customers will fill in the blanks with rumors. You can’t stop people from talking about you online any more than you could stop your classmates from gossiping about you at school. The difference is, with a little finesse, on social media you can monitor those online conversations and respond to them. Instead of ignoring your customers’ opinions, good or bad, if you actively engage with them, you can turn even negative comments into positive outcomes.
As anyone who’s ever worked in customer service or PR can tell you, unhappy customers are opportunities to shine. DO NOT DELETE COMPLAINTS!!! On social media you must hear them out and address complaints proactively. Your goal is to take the conversation offline. Acknowledge any negative comments online, but invite the complainer to call you and give them your direct number. Invite them to visit your location. Often, acknowledgement is all an angry customer wants. It is far easier to appease someone face to face. It is also far better for other social media users to see you respond with respect.
A better strategy altogether is to stave off online complaints by creating a community on your social media accounts. Use them to showcase your loyal client base. Share all of the rave reviews you get. Do you have repeat customers? Thank them on Facebook. Do you have clients referred to you? Thank the referent. Do you have good news? Share it! Be positive — not fake, just positive. Be the personal presence behind your brand. Make your social accounts a place where people come to express how happy they are, so that when the inevitable complaint comes along, it will obviously be the exception to the rule.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can keep people from talking about your brand. You can’t. Social media is actually a gift to business owners. It’s a public forum where not only can you showcase your products and philosophies, you can also monitor negativity, and more importantly, showcase the positive relationships you build with your clients.