Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

Don’t fear the difficult questions on social media – in fact, go looking for them!

When you start a social media account, you’re probably hoping all will go pleasantly and that you’ll receive nothing but nice comments and compliments. If you do, you’re either running the most perfect, flawless business in the world or, more likely, you’re not engaging with your customers fully enough.

Chatting to people at a couple of social media events recently, it appears – quite understandably – that the biggest barrier to going for it with such online engagement is the fear of receiving criticism and difficult questions.  However, is it really so different to all your other comms planning?  If you’re putting out a statement, or someone up for a radio or TV interview, you’ll hopefully be presenting an honest set of key messages, even if these are sometimes tough for people to hear. Likewise if one of the risks you’ve identified is, for example, that people will think that you’re just doing it to save money, you should WANT the show’s host to accuse you of that, so you can put him and all the viewers right.

Social media is no different, except it gives you the chance to learn what negative things people are thinking – and address them head-on.

By not only dealing with complaints and those with the harder-to-handle queries, but actually seeking them out, you’ll find yourself correcting misconceptions about you that you never knew existed, taking part in healthy debates which will help you learn about your customers’ needs and views, and gaining respect among those watching on for your upfront honesty.

Generally speaking, you’ll get four types of negative customer posting on your page:

1. Miss Informed and Mister Point

This person has received duff information or they’ve misunderstood. They are expressing an incorrect view which he or she has either misinterpreted from somewhere or it’s a commonly held myth. But they are pleasant, open-minded people and upon your correction, they – and potentially many others – go away happily enlightened.

2. Dee Bater

This person is venting their frustration at something they believe to be true and is up for a healthy debate about it. They are of a nature which can be calmed down and talked around in part, whilst not necessarily admitting this online. They may end up still not fully convinced by your response, but think more of you for taking part in the discussion with them, and may even say so. This conversation lasts a little longer and they go away appreciating, if not fully agreeing with, your view.

3. The Impenetrable Irate

This person won’t be dissuaded from their view, no matter what you say. They may turn nasty and force you to take the conversation offline.  However, the debate was still worth having in public – others watching on may be more convinced by your view or it may help you to realise that you need to make a change to an aspect of your business due to its public perception.

4. Richard Right

This person, is quite simply, correct in what they say. Their complaint is entirely justified. They may express it in a calm and constructive way or come in full guns blazing – but the response should be the same… an apology followed by a promise to put it right. This may pacify them or they may continue their anger online. If it’s the latter, draw a line under the public conversation and steer them either into private messaging or your existing complaints procedure. Some onlookers will admire your honesty and determination to sort it.  Yes, of course others will think worse of you and it will have damaged your brand – but don’t blame that on social media – if you didn’t have the account, it would have happened anyway, either on social media but without you being there to answer it, or in the pub instead.

Richard Right and indeed all the above characters want an outlet to express their view and more people are turning to social media for that outlet.  Brilliant – you can see it and deal with it there.  Far better than hearing ad hoc that people are generally saying negative things behind your back and you can’t reach all those exposed to it to put your view across.  Far, far better than never knowing your customers even had these negative views, so you never have a chance to win them back.

So don’t shy away from having an account in case you get negative remarks to deal with.  Yet, even when you have an account, go one step further. Go looking for people saying bad things about you!  On Twitter for example, they might not choose to say it directly to you, so relying on them messaging @OldshireBoroughCouncil is not enough. Add search columns in TweetDeck for “Oldshire Borough Council” and “Oldshire Council” and “OBC”.

You’ll be surprised at what you find – knowledge of what people are saying about you is power.  It will influence your proactive comms, it will help shape your services, it will help you form direct relationships with your customers and manage your reputation on a more personal level whilst influencing many people at the same time… and of course you’ll find people saying plenty of great stuff, too!

In my next blog soon: Do You Remember The First Time?  How did you lose your Twirginty and what have you learnt since?