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Don't Fear Your Customers on Social Media - Embrace Them!

I've shared this story before but it's worth mentioned again. I was speaking to a client about their social media presence. Well, it was actually their lack of a social media presence. They didn't have a Facebook page, they didn't realize that they had a Twitter account that had been set to Tweet AutoBlog via RSS, and they through that Google+ was a premium service that Google was selling. Don't laugh. This was one of the darkest days of my marketing career.

 

When I asked why they didn't have a Facebook page at the very least, he said that "they don’t want people to have the ability to talk badly about them on Facebook." After some explaining about how Facebook and social media in general worked, I got down to what was the real root of the problem. He said that he totally understood that they could post on their own Facebook profile without his permission or even knowledge, but if he had a Facebook page and he posted there then he would have to respond.

Exactly. You have to respond. You want to respond. Every customer challenge is an opportunity to shine.

 

Control the Feedback


Disney. Apple. Amazon. Johnson & Johnson. These are brands that regularly topped the "most loved" companies lists. They do what they can to try to make everyone happy. Despite being at the top of the list, they have haters. Many haters. Thousands, perhaps millions of people have a negative opinion of these loved brands.

Let's look at it locally. There's a Peruvian restaurant close to the office that we go to whenever we want to have a casual lunch. The food is amazing - the Lomo Saltado is the best way to fill up on $10. I took a friend there who loved Peruvian food and he hated it. He even said so on Yelp (granted, the service was uncannily awful that day, but the food didn't impress him either). You simply can't appeal to everyone.

Those who are going to complain about your business will find a way to complain no matter how hard you try to avoid it. The reality in today's uber-connected world is that you can't avoid it and you shouldn't even try. In fact, you should embrace it by allowing as many venues such as Facebook to be the place where you want to hear their complaints.

When people post negative reviews to many of the review sites or tell the story of their experiences on their social media profiles, you often have no recourse. Many of the review sites allow you to reply and you definitely should, but it still goes onto a permanent record. The complaint is logged and you can't take it down. In cases like those, it's extremely important to reply whenever possible with empathy, professionalism, a sincere desire to improve through their feedback, and (whenever applicable) a willingness to make things right for them. It's a best practice to reply to every review, good or bad, but that's another blog post.

Now, imagine if you used your social media, Facebook in particular, as a venue through which people could voice their opinions about your business. Some would say that it would get more exposure that way, particularly if they have a lot of friends, but there's a couple of reasons you'd want it here rather than on review sites. First, you definitely can and should reply to those comments. Using Facebook as a two-way communication tool allows you to shine through the dark moments and highlight the brighter ones.

The second reason is control. When they post a complaint to your Facebook page, you have the ability to control this portion of the conversation. If your reply is thoughtful and satisfactory to the user, awesome! If it starts to turn into an argument or the user becomes offensive, you have the ability to hide it. I do not recommend hiding complaints as a general practice. Take what you can from the feedback and improve your business. Stand behind your product and company and accept criticism with the professionalism and a desire to improve as I mentioned above. Hiding posts is a last resort and should only be used when the complaint turns offensive.

Thankfully, this post does not apply to many. Over the last couple of years there has been a wonderful shift towards the desire to be more open to feedback. It's a necessity with today's quick and easy methods of communication that are available to consumers. If you're still missing the point and choose to do what the image for this blog post implies, I'm not sure what else to say that can help.

Views: 81

Tags: Complaints, Customers, Reputation, Reputation Management, Reviews, Social, Social Media

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Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 21, 2013 at 9:07am

JD... I didn't miss it, but simply wanted to make a statement recognizing that there are more and more of these "spurious attacks" happening over the past two years, especially on Facebook. I have spoken to several dealers who get fairly emotional about these rants being posted on their pages, including a couple of the largest dealer groups, because their perception is that they have been singled out for attacks unreasonably.  The reality is that it happens to a fairly significant percentage, and the larger dealer groups seem to be more susceptible by virtue of their sheer size and number of people they interact with. Dealers should take these types of attacks in stride, pay attention, monitor and act accordingly...

Speaking of acting accordingly, what should also be said is that dealers need to resist the temptation to change their Facebook Page settings in an attempt to block such nefarious posts. These negative rants still represent a tiny fraction of total consumer engagement... We would not want to shut off the communications coming from 98% of the customer fan base in order to avoid less than 2% that seem Hell-bent on slandering and deriding the dealer. Unfortunately, I have seen several cases where dealers shut off the ability of fans to post comments in response to repeated negative diatribe attacks characterized by foul language and incoherent rants.  In one worst case example, we contacted Facebook and the advertising sales team was very proactive in getting one of these hate mongers banned by IP address to offset his ongoing creation of new profiles for the purpose of online attacks on the dealership. As much heat as Facebook seems to get on security settings, I am happy to report that they take prompt action in defending dealers from these types of attacks.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on February 21, 2013 at 1:32am

Ralph, you bad boy, you missed the sentence preceding the "don't delete" statement...

If it starts to turn into an argument or the user becomes offensive, you have the ability to hide it.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are times when hiding a response is necessary. I prefer to only ban/delete spam, but that's an option as well. When a comment is "hidden" on a page, it's still visible to the user and their friends. I know it's a risk because some of those friends may be buyers, but I'm also worried about getting a heated customer even more heated by deleting. By hiding, there's a great chance that they will never know their comment isn't getting seen and it should be enough to diffuse the situation.

I only made the statement about not deleting in bold because it should not be a "general practice" to delete. We're in agreement here, I believe. It's an option to use in situations like the ones you described, not when there's valid criticism.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 20, 2013 at 7:00pm

JD, normally I agree with the "Don't hide complaints" guidance, and have lived this mantra for several years... Some of the best gains we have seen with car dealers and social media was when a complaint was addressed, resolved and the consumer posted an addendum stating how happy they were with the resolution.  The primary reason these complaints can become so powerful is that negative reviews attract more attention than positive reviews from prospective customers...

HOWEVER, after slogging away responding on behalf of the dealers I work with, there are certain types of negative commentary that I do feel deserves deletion and the user being banned, especially when posted to a dealer's Facebook Page... The type of complain I am referring to is when it is primarily a string of expletives and cuss words calling somebody in the dealership a bunch of curse words and without much, or any description of an actual complaint.  I have seen more than my share of such posts, alleging everything from the dealership owner or GM's sexual orientation to the generic "all Fords suck" type of comment.  In my opinion, these merit immediate deletion and a banning of the user's privileges, blocking, etc. if and where possible.

Comment by J.D. Rucker on February 20, 2013 at 10:35am

Next time Gabe is in town.

Comment by Louie Baur on February 20, 2013 at 6:54am

So when are we headed to the Inka Grill for lunch again?

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