Everybody gets criticized on social media. It’s common sense; sometime someone’s going to offer a review that’s less than complimentary. One hairdresser I knew had a laptop in his reception so people could leave a review on Qype on their way out. I asked what happened if reviews weren’t great and his answer was straightforward: “Everyone gets a dud review sometimes. Deal with it.”
There are ways, though, of dealing with hostility online, whether on Twitter, Facebook or any of the other networks. Here I’m excluding so-called “cyber-stalking” and deliberate bullying – these can require external help. But turning old-fashioned criticisms around can be dealt with in a number of ways.
First consider that the critic may be right, if not in what they’re saying then perhaps in the way they are saying it. For example, a software company recently hired a blogger to write about small business issues and the response from readers was universally hostile in spite of the company itself being happy with the posts. A few explanations spring to mind:
- The writing may have been poor – although the software company may have spotted this
- The writer had misunderstood the customers’ needs
- The software company may have misunderstood its customers’ needs and briefed inappropriately as a result
Each of these is a reasonable possibility and the negativity offered an opportunity to re-evaluate some of the underlying processes.
A more explicit example of someone turning critics around was Carphone Warehouse, which has someone employed to monitor the social networks and see if there are complaints. If there are, he offers to help and takes the issue to email – thus taking it out of the public view as quickly as possible and hopefully resolving the issue, prompting the initial critic to say something about the way the issue has been addressed.
O2 does much the same thing, although it’s notable that some of the press has seen this as further reason for criticism – the Daily Mail ran a piece on Big Brother watching people’s Tweets and intervening when there was any criticism a while ago, which seemed to many to miss the point.
Vince Tseng is managing director of technical support company Squaretrade and has a lot of experience in this area. “Reputation management is key to protecting and enhancing a service brand,” he says. “Social media has opened up a new sphere in which businesses can achieve this. For example, if a customer has a bad experience with your brand, they can come directly, and easily, to you through Twitter to complain or seek advice. This direct access without the stress of being on hold for ages makes the process easier for the customer and then if you respond accordingly, it can be one of the best ways to turn that user into a brand advocate.”
There have indeed been cases in which corporates or their representatives have tried to fake positive comments or negatives about the competition – the instance in which the MD of King of Shaves saw a Tweet suggesting his products cut people’s faces to ribbons and responded with the accurate “Shall you tell everyone you’re the competition’s PR, or shall I?” was a pretty blatant example.
Sometimes something else happens and a campaign goes wrong – people find it interesting for all the wrong reasons. In February 2012 burger giant McDonald’s found itself at the sharp end of this when it started Tweeting about its suppliers with the hashtag #McD Stories. Critics took it up with Tweets like “Found a fingernail in my burger” – true or not, it got a laugh and didn’t help the brand.
Jay Hallberg is founder and MD of Spieceworks, a B2B social media network. One of his clients found an advert caused unexpected laughter and indeed ridicule. “Unitrends, a data backup and disaster recover vendor, posted an advertisement with the aim of driving traffic to a new whitepaper,” explains Hallberg. “The advertisement attracted a lot of negative and comical attention, as a result of the person and items in advertisement looking unrealistic. Within a matter of hours, the thread took a life of its own as more and more Spiceworks users began to comment and laugh about the adverts’ poor quality.”
The company was able to turn this around, though, Hallberg explains. “Rather than withdraw the advert and hide from public embarrassment, Unitrends took the courageous step to admit fault, and after listening to the Spiceheads, launched a competition for the community of users to create a better advertisement,” he says. “Thus, they were able to step out from behind their logo, and become more of a personality. The competition was widely popular, and received over 150 entries, with the winner being by the Spiceworks users. Now, many of the 1.8 million Spiceheads view Unitrends as a brand with real personality, and one that is willing to listen to its customers.”
The moral is that anything can be turned to a company’s advantage either with attention to the complainer or, in the case of a campaign backfiring, a lot of imagination.
With over 20 leading corporate practitioners sharing best practice, the conference is designed to help you develop better customer retention, positive brand sentiment and competitive advantage by incorporating social media into your customer service strategy.
Speakers contributing include Citi, Virgin Atlantic, Domino’s Pizza, BT, Nokia, DHL, Zappos, KLM, Vodafone, and many more.
To download a conference brochure for all the info you need, go here: Customer Service Brochure