In our previous blog post, we discussed how “loosening up” and opening up on social media can be beneficial for your business by providing avenues for creating and developing more interesting content marketing and connecting more effectively with your audience and keeping said audience actively interested on your updates. However, there are downsides to being more open on social media – competitors, disgruntled customers and even anonymous Internet users may choose to respond to your newfound openness by challenging you to respond to and remedy a mistake or a product or service that didn’t live up to expectations. Another consequence of being more open and available on social media can be that you will be required to openly discuss and address public, and sometimes embarrassing, mistakes and errors on social media. What are some of the more positive and proactive methods of dealing with these potential issues?

Being Prepared For Negative Comments

In the age of blogs and social media, many small business owners with limited PR and marketing experience may be ill-prepared, either practically or emotionally, to deal with a public online complaint. These complaints may appear on your blog as a comment, on a social media post or as a post or comment on another blog or social media account, and can range from civil to angry and graphically profane.

Learn To Contain, Control And Sufficiently Address Online Complaints

When you first encounter such a complaint, especially if it is uncivil, disparaging or profane, it is vital that you remain calm and level-headed. Accusing an anonymous poster of lying, or openly threatening to sue the poster, is an ill-conceived and ultimately fruitless way of dealing with the problem, and immediately deleting the comment and blocking the individual can actually leave you with less control and options for dealing with the situation. The user can move their content to a blog or social media channel outside of your control, and by blocking them you may even be blocking yourself to further commentary that your customers and the general public can see and read. Instead, try to quickly address the comment or post, calmly explaining who you are and requesting more information about the identity of the poster and the backstory behind the complaint. If you believe that the complaint is legitimate and the customer relationship can be salvaged, request that the discussion be moved to a more private channel, such as direct messaging or email.

When Banning Or Blocking Is Appropriate

If a comment is false, grossly offensive or inflammatory, you are within your rights to delete it, and harassing or repeatedly abusive behavior from an individual may require a block or ban from your accounts and potentially a report to the social media service. If you have evidence that a public Internet posting is libelous and you believe it is possible to identify the poster, it may be advisable to talk to licensed attorney, but there are usually more effective and less expensive ways of addressing less-actionable postings.

Properly Admitting To And Addressing Mistakes Online

In some instances, you may be required to openly acknowledge a mistake made by you or one of your employees on your blog or social media account. It is important to acknowledge upfront that the seriousness of the problem, and the criminal or civil consequences, will dictate whether or not you should address the problem yourself or consult and hire an attorney and subsequently a professional Public Relations representative or firm. However, if the problem is relatively minor and there is a small chance of it leading to a criminal or civil complaint, you should be able to address it yourself and personally handle any fallout that may occur as a result.

Addressing Issues Before Complaints

To begin, address the problem quickly. If a number of orders were supposed to be shipped and weren’t, and especially if the missed shipments are for time-sensitive products or materials, address the issue before your customers begin to post complaints. If you are the owner of your business, apologize personally under a byline with your own name and discuss the ways you will prevent the mistake from happening in the future.

Providing Proper Compensation

Finally, and most importantly, issue a compensation or restitution to customers who were affected by the situation or mistake. Don’t make a hasty commitment or promise, as you will be held to your word – instead, quickly declare that affected customers will be compensated for their time and trouble, and then consult with your managers, staff or even an outside business expert on both the method and scope of the restitution you will offer, ensuring that it adequately compensates your customers while at the same time results in a minimal financial burden on your business.