November 11, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,303 Reads share

How to Deal With Social Media Without Losing Your Mind (or Your Reputation)

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Busy executives everywhere are told, over and over again, that social media is a must for their success in the marketplace. Just by logging on and speaking out, they’ll gain consumers hand over fist, and gain the success they’ve only dreamed about in the past.

In a way, this is true. In fact, the statistics suggest that social media really should be part of the future for any successful company, but few are positioned to do it right.

Checking the Stats

Modern consumers simply demand that the companies they work with share their voices via social media. For example, a study commissioned by Oracle suggests that more than 40 percent of consumers use social media sites in order to contact a company’s customer service department. Additionally, of those consumers who contact companies via social media, more than half expect a Facebook response within the same day or a Twitter response within 2 hours.

That’s a serious problem, as a Harvard Business Review study suggests that only 12 percent of companies have staff that’s dedicated to monitoring and responding to social media issues.

Put these two studies together, and it suggests that consumers demand immediacy that companies are ill-equipped to deliver. If you find this statement eerily familiar, there’s something you can do about it. In fact, with a little planning and savvy, you can release the social media guru within, and achieve those results that may have eluded you in the past. Here’s how to get started.

Listening In

Being savvy on social media means being connected on sites like:

  • Pintrest
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

However, you should also be aware of other review sites consumers might use, such as Yelp and Angie’s List. Even blog posts you put on your own website might be filled with comments that merit monitoring.

Each of these sites simply must be monitored regularly. Sharing a comment, a product release or a note about a benefit is a good place to start. But reading what other people have to say about you and your brand will really help you to gain control of the narrative, especially if the comments take a turn into dark territory.

Talking Back

When negative comments appear, it’s all too easy to engage in a flame war, berating the other person at length and defending your brand to the death. It’s also easy to simply delete all of the comments you find that don’t reflect well on your company, no matter if those comments have a tiny glimmer of truth.

But these are rookie mistakes that can result in serious reputation damage. A scornful company voice might drive consumers away, while censoring comments might smack of deception and cover up. In addition, these steps deprive you of the opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons customers are lobbing in your direction.

Taking Stock

When consumers respond with angry comments, take an hour to do your research. Contact the responsible parties and ask for their opinion on the comment. Find out if there’s merit in the message, even if the words used to deliver that message are less than positive. Then, strike a tone that’s pleasant and helpful, and post it publicly. Remember: Clients want a response in 2 hours or so on Twitter or 24 hours on Facebook, so you have time to be thoughtful. Use it.

If the consumer still isn’t happy with your response, chalk it up to experience. You’ve learned something valuable that might help you to succeed in the future, and you’ve shown that your company is both kind and reasonable. If the consumer stays snarky, most readers will understand that this isn’t your issue.

Taking Action

While I believe that most negative comments provide you with outstanding opportunities, there are some hateful words that won’t help you to get better. These are the troll-like comments that berate your values, or that attack you personally. These comments might also contain elements that are simply untrue.

So what do you do with these comments? Responding to them rarely helps, as it tends to incite the writers to even more damaging levels of venom. Sometimes, these comments must be disabled before they’re allowed to flourish.

If nasty comments appear on pages you control, they can be deleted. But, providing a clear policy regarding comment removal can allow you to stay above accusations of censoring. Consider asking your legal department to write up a quick statement regarding the comments you’ll delete, and post that statement in a prominent place on your website. It’s a quick and easy way to defend yourself.

But, if these comments appear on public review sites, they’re a little harder to contain and control. Thankfully, there are some helpful things you can do. Firstly, remember that review sites also have legal teams, and often, these teams have rules regarding what users can and cannot say online. If posts violate these terms, they can be deleted. Sometimes, simply pointing out the discrepancies is enough to clear your name, but if not, outside companies can sometimes provide assistance that can get these black marks removed for good.

Finding the Time

It’s no surprise that monitoring and responding can take time. In fact, large companies might need to hire people to do the work for them. But as the prominence of social media continues to grow, and as consumers continue to demand excellence of the companies they work with, this isn’t a step you can afford to skip. Your company, and your bottom line, will be better for it.

How have you monitored social media, and responded to snark, in your companies? I’d love for you to share your stories.

Images:  ”Social media written in foam letters concept for social networking within youth culture   /Shutterstock.com

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Jean Dion

Jean Dion

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