This is THE pervasive question from the many people to whom I’ve spoken with about utilizing social media for their business. “What if someone posts something bad about my brand?! Everyone will see it!” is the fear that continues to derail many businesses from getting into the social conversation.
I actually love this question because it personifies the misunderstanding of social media. We’ve been hearing for years that social media is a conversation. “Join THE Conversation!” goes the mantra of social media advocates (myself included!). But without truly understanding what the social conversation is, the fear of bad customers and damaging content is a show stopper and keeps many companies from participating in it.
Simply stated, the social conversation is a relationship between a company and its customers. That’s all it is. Relationships whether personal or business, take time and effort. In the past, companies have been able to engage customers in more private one-on-one channels like email or phone. The advent of social media has changed the privacy nature of these relationships. Now customers are not shy about making their issues known in the social channels and sharing them with the rest of the world to see.
No one wants their dirty laundry aired in public. But in the social conversation dirty laundry can be a blessing! Most customers just want to know that someone is listening to them. In fact, every negative comment is a unique opportunity to create an evangelist for your brand. If a customer posts a negative comment on your Facebook page or on Twitter at least you know that there is an issue. In his book “The Thank You Economy” Gary Vaynerchuk points out, “The person who posts a negative comment is a customer you can talk to. The customer you should be scared of is the one who has a bad experience, doesn’t say a word, and never returns.” Just like in real life it is the quiet ones you have to worry about!
Let’s say you’ve “joined the conversation” and a customer posts a negative review or comment on your Facebook page or via Twitter. If you respond with interest and a desire to right whatever is wrong or not working for them most customers will turn 180 degrees and become your brand’s biggest fan. I even tell my clients to thank them for the comment. Yes, you read that right, thank them! Thanking them immediately makes them feel welcomed to the conversation, indicates that you appreciate their feedback and creates an air of cooperation. Once the basis for the conversation is set, the solution to their problem becomes easier and better yet because is executed in full view of other customers your brand image becomes even stronger. Then when you remedy whatever the issue is, other customers see you as a brand that is interested in its customers. It strengthens the relationship.
While it may take some effort and conditioning, companies need to change their thinking and view negative comments as an opportunities to create an even stronger brand in the social media world. The social conversation is a public forum of your brand’s relationship with your customers. Relationships cannot be managed. Do you try to manage the relationships with your spouse or friends? No! You participate in these relationships. So don’t try to manage the social relationship with your customers. Participate in it with a transparent, honest, and caring attitude and you’ll find it to be a very rewarding relationship indeed.