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Business has been traditionally afraid of social media ever since it took hold of the internet. Why? Because there’s nowhere to run from an irate customer with a grievance to air. Once your social media stream is “polluted” with damaging references to your brand, your reputation is sunk, right?
Wrong. There’s a lot of good stuff that can come out of dodgy references to your customer service history on your social media stream – provided you respond quickly, transparently and with good effect.
In order to do that you need to monitor your brand closely on all its social media streams. A piece of advice, incidentally, before I continue – the more social media platforms your brand appears on, the harder it is to accurately research and manage your reputation. So be sure you keep on top of every single stream you are involved in or your customer service responses will appear patchy and unreliable.
Brand monitoring is pretty easy – you can do it yourself or get your social media partner to do it for you. There are plenty of free tools around that will help you monitor the chatter about your brand in Twitter and on FaceBook. And when you set up your own social media pages, your followers will be talking about your brand right there.
Remember that reputation management is not about suppressing criticism. It’s about encouraging it, and then doing something constructive about it. If your customers complain, on your social media stream, and you respond rapidly, with a polite and sensible solution, then everyone else gets to see how efficient and customer focused you are. End result: what you thought was a poor PR situation is turned into a good one.
The worst thing you can do is have a social media presence and try to police it. Simply removing comments you think will put people off your brand, or responding to them with outrage, is unproductive and in many cases will actively hurt your cause. Because the social media stream is all about transparency. It doesn’t work unless everyone on it is bound by an invisible pact of honesty. When you remove a comment, even if it is unjustified, from your social media history, then it looks as though you have something to hide.
Learning how to deal with non-justified complaints is the hardest trick to master when you’re monitoring your brand and managing your reputation. Dealing with a legitimate complaint in a transparent and reasonable fashion is one thing (and will, as noted, get you lots of brownie points in your social network) – but what do you do when someone starts targeting your brand with unfounded or unfair complaints?
The best advice I can give you in this situation is to respond clearly and politely, as though the complaint were genuine, once. Apologise that the customer in question appears to have had such a bad experience. Reassure them that it is not your intention they should have this experience. Ask them to elucidate what you can do to make things better. The chances of them continuing their charade in the face of such reason and honesty are slim indeed.