Social media allows anyone to have a voice and become a major influence in the community. Any customer who walks through your door or gets a bid from you could have hundreds or even thousands of followers in your area—or—his/her friends might. Word-of-mouth marketing can reach a worldwide audience through social media; thus, one bad experience could be retold to the masses.
Measuring your social media efforts is important, but monitoring is equally as critical. Listen and learn—you have to first know what is being said, so you are able to respond to your customer’s sentiment, which is something that can change quickly and can’t be predicted.
Smart businesses monitor social media and use it proactively as a business driver to boost success with other marketing efforts. In medium-size to large companies, usually someone’s job is dedicated to social media, monitoring conversations, staying informed of trends and shifting attitudes toward the business. But many NARI members report incorporating social media and marketing as part of other job responsibilities, which makes monitoring and responding to comments more challenging.
Experts say that communication crises aren’t a matter of if, but when. By monitoring conversations, you are better able to respond in real time, placate anger and control the situation. In some cases, you can seize an opportunity and develop it into a better outcome that prompts new comments from others following the conversation. Even if you are a one- or two-man shop, you still need a social media strategy that includes a crisis plan. And just because you’re not active on Facebook doesn’t mean your customers’ aren’t posting or tweeting comments about their experiences with your company.
Help with monitoring
Google’s recent implementation of social media in their search results brings real-time conversation to the front page. On Twitter, just adding a hashtag in front of a search for a name brand can reveal what is being currently talked about in relationship to that company. Other free tools that specialize in real-time searches include Hootsuite, socialmention, Twazzup and IceRocket. Paid resources include Trackur, Viralheat and IBM’s SPSS that provides analytics for larger companies.
Finding out what your customers are saying can beneficial, especially about products that you may be recommending to them. For instance, Dell found tweets complaining about two keys being too close together on their computer keyboards. They were able to fix the problem in time for the second launch of their product.
What to do
There are some common threads that run through advice on dealing with negative comments that could escalate into a social media crisis.
- Respond quickly: Social media happens in real time and those impacted by the situation want answers fast. While there are risks with both being prompt and also being tardy with your response, but it’s always better if your company provides the answers before anyone else. Even if you don’t have all the answers, what customers and others see online is that you are taking their concerns seriously.
- Take charge: You want your company to manage the situation, rather than the problem controlling the company.
- Deal with the real facts: Be honest and don’t attempt to maintain a charade or be dismissive of the problem. Don’t blame others—or your company. You want to show you care, and then move the conversation offline and find the solution. Once you’ve solved the issue, you will want to go back online and share what that resolution was, to demonstrate you were serious about the resolution.
- Respond to negativity: Old school advice was to lay low until the problem resolved itself. Today the Internet gives visibility to critics. Pay attention: you are getting information about the perception of your company’s performance and what you might need to do to make working with your company better.
- Spread the word. Use all the available ways to communicate such as your website, Facebook, Twitter and your company blog. You may shy away from talking about a problem, but customers can find out anyway. If you face the problem head-on, what potential customers glean is how you deal with a problem. If they like your response, you may very well win their business also because what you are communicating is that you care about your customers’ concerns.
- Contact NARI National Marketing. We can help you craft your message for different social platforms, as well as provide advice for dealing with any negative backlash.
It can be helpful to develop “what if” scenarios, both good and bad for publicity campaigns, consumer comments and employee behavior before your go live online. Also, decide ahead of time, who in your company should respond to any negative comments posted on social media and referral sites.
Customers that take the time and energy to give us complaints—and hopefully compliments—are worth their weight in gold. These people are giving us a very important gift–their attention! Customers have no obligation to provide this kind of feedback, and it represents a higher level of engagement.
By promoting the actions you take because of negative on-line comments shows customers that your company is actually paying attention to them and something is happening from their investment of time and attention. It offers the potential to deepen the relationship between the customer and your organization, with benefits for both. At the very least, it upholds and maintains your company’s brand and reputation.
“Being proactive in social media reaps huge benefits because you really have no control over what customers say about you,” says Rob Mathews, owner of Curb Appeal Renovations in Keller, Texas. “Clients reviewed us and posted the one thing they would have changed in our design was adding a soap dispenser into the granite by the kitchen sink. As soon as we saw it, we contacted our granite guy—and without the clients contacting us about their concern—went to their house, drilled the hole and installed the dispenser. It was a little thing to fix, but the clients were so impressed, they are now clients of ours for life.”—Susan Swartz