Managing Social Media Complaints – The New Public Relations

The advent of technology and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have empowered and encouraged individuals to express their opinions online. But, what happens when your business becomes a target?

Business legend Warren Buffett is famous for saying “It takes 20 years to build a positive reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”

As a business owner or leader, when the reputation you’ve worked extremely hard to build is called into question – and in a very public manner – it can be extremely disheartening. It’s also difficult not to take the criticism personally.

Here are five best practices for responding to online complains:

Take the Discussion Offline

When managing unflattering comments on social media, aim to take the conversation offline and out of the public forum.  Post a short comment to the communication thread with a simple message such as “Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your concern. We have sent you a direct message to gather more information on this matter, and look forward to connecting with you.” This way, everyone can see you have addressed the concern. In the meantime, reach out to the individual through a direct, private message and address the issue one-on-one.

Respond Quickly

It is important to monitor social media channels at all times so you do not miss important communication. In the event of a complaint, do your best to respond to the issue within a few hours. If you are not able to manage your social channels, think about scaling them down to the few mediums that have the most impact for your business.

Look for the Learning

While it is true that people often want to vent about their experience, they may also have valid concerns or suggestions to improve your product or service. Try to make the best of the feedback by looking for the learning opportunity. Then, explain what you’ll do differently in future.

Consider Compensation

To encourage customers to give your business a second chance, and as a measure of goodwill, consider offering compensation, such as a small discount or complimentary item with their next purchase.

Delete and Block Hateful Comments

Deleting comments you simply do not appreciate or agree with is bad social media etiquette, and will likely result in further complaints. That said, inappropriate behavior that is derogatory in nature (demeaning threatening, harassing, or uses cuss words) should be deleted immediately and the user should be blocked from making further comments.

Manage Social Media Appropriately

Public relations professionals are trained to strategically manage relationships between organizations and their publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest. If you are having a tough time managing your businesses social media channels, or require a more robust digital strategy, consider reaching out to a public relations practitioner for help.

About the Author

Robin Cook Bondy is a teaching professor and accredited public relations professional (APR). After nearly 20 years of experience in professional communications, Robin joined the School of Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) in 2018 where she instructs courses in public relations and applied communications. KPU’s newly-updated Public Relations Diploma program launches in September 2020.

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