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August 9, 2011

I’m mad as #&%*, and you’re going to hear about it!

In this post: Jaimy Szymanski, Blue Door Consulting’s social media specialist, dives into the issue of facing and responding to negative feedback via social media. …

Jaimy SzymanskiKicking off a new social media project can be scary. As scary as a toothless man picking a popcorn hull out of his gums in public?

Scarier.

One of the top concerns I hear when meeting with clients who are considering using social media as means for boosting their online customer service efforts usually falls under what I’ve dubbed, ‘I’m mad as #&%*, and you’re going to hear it!’

Translation? Many organizations (with just cause, mind you) are terrified that, once they jump into the world of social media, their customers will use it to pound them into oblivion. Common sources of terror include:

  • ‘What if they write terrible things on our wall?’
  • ‘What if they complain to us like crazy on Twitter?’
  • ‘What if they rally online crowds of trolls against us?’

Although the latter of these questions undoubtedly reminds me of cute, jewel-bellied dolls with fabulous hair (I sincerely believed all babies came out this way when I was little), all of these concerns are very valid and very real.

But, the truth of the matter is this: Whether you have a presence on social media channels or not – whether you’re monitoring online conversations or not – hell, whether you believe Al Gore created the Internet or not – negative feedback is likely happening online- either privately or publicly. Now, what you do with that fact is up to you.

You could ignore it, sure. But that won’t make it go away. Or, you could take a more positive, proactive approach. Here are a few thoughts and tips that will hopefully help ease the fear of opening the communication floodgates with customers via social media.

  1. Use social channels to proactively tackle a potential PR issue. When releasing information to traditional news outlets, be sure to begin a discussion surrounding the topic online, too. Involve your online communities in the discussion ahead of time to mitigate backlash down the road.
  2. Plan ahead for how you will handle customer service issues. Whether using a Twitter account to respond to prospects directly, or a Facebook page to bring customers together, you’re going to run into a sour grape once in awhile. This is no secret, so get your resources in order – staff, technology, plan of action – before launching yourself into unknown customer service territory.
  3. Be human. People primarily use social networks to connect with friends, family and coworkers – not brands. Why? Because a brand is not a person! A brand does not care about how your hot date went or how your career is going. Personify your organization by using real photos and names with whoever is responding to comments and posts. It will make a world of difference in helping your customers open up to the possibility of truly engaging with your company.

These are the first three ideas that come to mind, but I’m certain that you all have come across additional ‘I’m mad as #&%*, and you’re going to hear it!’ issues.

What happened, and how did you handle the situation? Do you believe having a presence in the online space – even if what you encounter is negative – is better than ignoring new media all together?