The following has been adapted from Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media but Were Afraid to Ask by Hilary JM Topper. The influence of social media grows daily. Customers believe their friends and neighbors when they endorse products or services, frequent a restaurant, or support a cause.
Recruiting customers as evangelists can help your product or service go viral; however, that influence can also have the opposite effect. What happens when someone writes a negative tweet about you on Twitter? Or, an angry customer writes a nasty post about your company on his blog? What happens if these negative comments go viral?
For starters, you should monitor everything about you, your company, and your employees. My favorite free, web-monitoring tool is Google Alerts, but there is also Trackle, and there are similar services that charge a fee. Search for monitoring tools on your favorite search engine, and research ones that suit your needs.
Google Alerts enables me to track comments, posts, and anywhere else my name, company name, or employees’ names appear. The downside: Users do not receive the alerts instantaneously. Another great search tool is http://search.twitter.com. This enables you to search on Twitter for your company, name, or anything else of interest. It will also tell you who made which comment, and allow you to view their profiles on Twitter.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Once you see an angry or negative response about your company, it is tempting to react immediately. But, take it from a PR pro, don’t overreact. If the comment is inconsequential, ignore it. But if, after careful consideration, you need to deflect the damaging media, look at the source and think twice before responding.
Consider the tone in your voice. If you want to respond, come across as intelligent and not angry. Whether or not you should address a situation depends on the situation. The example below from the US Air Force shows how quickly a tweet or blog can do damage to your company, and how a company can effectively respond:
“We had a real crisis situation. On Twitter, someone said that there was an Air Force C17 Cargo plane that crashed in Texas. An Air Force C17 Cargo is huge; it’s the size of a football field! Within 52 minutes, the story appeared on CNN Headline News, CNN.com, and a bunch of other news outlets. The Air Force checked out the situation immediately and found that it was a fabrication. Paul Bove, a contractor for the Air Force, and I got on Twitter and within 53 minutes squashed the story. At the end of the day, we put up a post on the Air Force blog, http://airforcelive.dodlive.mil, explaining what happened. We find social media to be an important outlet for us to talk with the public.”
-Capt. David Faggard, chief of Emerging Technology for the US Air Force
Recently, I wrote a post on my blog about Zappos. I was angry that they didn’t get back to me in a timely manner with a quote for this book. Soon after posting, I learned that there was a misunderstanding. I received a response almost immediately from the customer service supervisor. Then, I received phone calls and emails from their PR company in Boston.
After I thought our issue was resolved, I got an apology email from Tony Hseih, the CEO of Zappos. What this tells me is that large companies like Zappos are monitoring everything on the Internet, and they make sure that they address the complaint right away so that it does not become viral. I was very impressed with their response to my blog post.
HOW TO RESPOND
Here are some ideas for handling negative posts:
If someone writes something negative on Twitter, a blog, or Facebook, use your discretion. Address only those comments that you feel can go viral, and make sure to address the comment on the site. Before entertaining a response, research the credibility of the comment and the commentator. If negativity is beign spread by your competitor's uncle, don't engage.
Don’t be defensive; point out your views and why you did what you did. It’s okay to apologize. Say what you did wrong and explain how you will correct the error.
Hilary JM Topper is president and CEO of HJMT Communications, LLC, the full-service public relations/social media firm located in Manhattan, Westbury, and Rochester. For more information, call her at 516-997-1950, send a tweet @hilary25, or friend her on Facebook. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit her blog, hilarytopper.com.