Updated: Feb 16
All people want to be heard, and Social Media has created an incredible way for users to transform from passive viewers of marketing (and passionate letter-to-the-editor writers) to participants of business marketing. They can directly say if they did or didn’t like the product, the ad, the company and can tell their friends with a few keystrokes. The way that you, as a business owner respond to this can make or break your reputation.
Here are some of the golden rules of talking with your customers online:
#1. Acknowledge And Respond It seems obvious, and yet how many business social media pages have I seen where the comments are full of unanswered questions? Too many.
This is the digital equivalent of having a client walk into your store or office, ask a question and for you to do… nothing. Imagine ignoring them - not even making eye contact. Do you think they will want to do business with you?
It doesn’t have to take hours, just a simple ‘like’ reaction (to positive comments) can suffice, answering questions or letting them know you appreciate your feedback is all it takes for the customer to feel heard.
If you’re receiving a lot of direct messages on Facebook and are struggling to keep up with them, set up an auto-response that will let them know you’ll reply within a certain time-frame (and set a time once or twice a day to follow through.) Alternatively, you can set up automatic responses that are triggered to answer common questions (such as “Where are you located?”) or when an action is taken, like a customer leaving their recommendation.
#2. Take it to Another Room
People often don’t think about the best way to make a complaint, they just make one. It might be an unfavourable review, a comment on a post or video, or they might send a private message. They might have a negative response that is totally unrelated to what they bought but once they see your brand it triggers their memory!
When the complaint is on a public forum (i.e. other people can see it) the ideal solution is to respond (unless it’s totally left-field, then just hide the comment.) The best way to respond publicly is to write a quick reply that acknowledges the dissatisfaction and lets them know you are moving to a private forum (direct messages.)
For example, you might say “Sorry to hear that you were not satisfied with this product! I’ve sent you a DM/message with a few questions. Hope to hear from you soon.” And then send a private message reiterating your acknowledgement and asking for the specific details you need. Solve the problem in a private space.
#3. Do What You Say You Will
Always follow up when you say you will! As above, if you’ve replied to a comment saying you’ll direct message them, do it straight away! Following through means you heighten the chances of resolving the issue with that person - and looking good to other potential customers while doing it. Bad business can lead to good business if you handle it well.
Forgetting or not following through will only fan the flames of annoyance into anger. They might leave further comments or reviews about their bad experience further dragging your name through the mud, or might simply never do business with you again.
#4. Own Your Mistakes
We’re all human, and that means we will all mess up at some point in our business. You will gain much more respect if you own the mistakes you make and rectify them, than if you try to “save face.”
Like in the rules above, if the issue only pertains to a single person take it to the private sphere and apologise. And apologise properly, humbly. The keys to a good apology are:
It doesn’t include “but.” “But” means you’re about to say the opposite of what you just said.
Focuses on your actions
Includes an offer of retribution that is appropriate to the situation
You actually intend to make changes
Is offered free of charge - doesn’t expect the other party to do anything, even forgive.
(Here’s the full podcast where apologies are discussed in-depth by Brene Brown and Harriet Lerner.)
If you’ve messed up in a way that affects a large amount of your audience or many customers, then a public apology is appropriate - depending on the scale of impact and number of people impacted you might need to send some personal apologies too. Either way, be humble, be truthful, and be real.
#5. Choose Your Battles
Some people are genuinely disappointed with a product, and some people genuinely want to see the world burn. Learn to tell which is which, and choose your battles wisely.
If you offer to take the complaint seriously in a private space and follow through and they still want to make trouble, let it go. Hide their comments if they’re still spoiling for a fight (only they and their friends will be able to see their comments and they won’t know they’ve been hidden.) On the rare occasion it’s really bad, block them, remove them, or report them (again - choose what is appropriate for the situation.)
You can’t please everyone and really, you don’t want to. Don’t go annoying people on purpose, but know that your business may not be the right fit for some people and letting them know (gently and respectfully) or ending the business relationship can be best for everyone.
Just as your business is unique, your specific approach to social media will be unique too. Just keep in mind the five rules to avoid problems as much as possible. And always use the true golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated.
If you want some support getting your social media sorted, you're in the right place! I help small business owners learn to Think Like Marketers and become more knowledgeable, confident, and strategic in their marketing. Schedule a quick meeting to see how I can help you take your marketing to the next level.