Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest… and the list goes on. Business owners now have so many ways to reach out to new and potential clients. Online marketing, and in particular social media, is all about building a platform of loyal followers who are excited about listening to your message and hopefully buying from you.
However, once you have your social media sites set up, it is important to resist the urge to talk about yourself and your business all of the time.
You have all of these followers who are waiting to hear from you, so why is it so important to listen as well as talk?
The answer is simple: If you stop talking and start listening, you can turn your activity on social media into a lean, mean, money-making, list-building, client-relationship machine.
Here are some of my essential tips to show you why it is so important to ‘listen’ to your followers.
Listen to Your Followers
The first thing to remember when participating in social media is to listen to your followers. These are the ones who will make or break your social media success, so you need to treat them well and respect them.
For example, if someone comments on one of your posts or social media pages it is important to listen and react to what they have said. Don’t ignore their comment. If a person has taken the time out of their busy day to write something on your social media profile then it shows that they are passionate about your product or service. It doesn’t matter if the comment is good or bad. The fact that they have written something shows that they are passionate enough to comment.
If it is a good comment, that’s excellent. You can respond and start building and strengthening that company-customer relationship and try to keep them as a loyal customer and advocate of your company.
But what do you do if the comment is negative?
Negative feedback is a business owner’s worst nightmare, particularly on social media as so many people can see the comments and news travels fast.
Consider this potential scenario for your business: Somebody dislikes your product or has a bad experience and rather than complain to you directly and allow you to put the situation right, they decide to rant about on social media.
They then write negative comments and encourage as many people as they can to avoid buying from you or use your service.
That is a terrible situation for any business owner to find themselves in. So what do you do? How can you minimize the damage to your brand’s reputation?
Here are some tips that show you how to deal with negative feedback on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
1. Don’t ignore the problem
This is very important. It is not going to go away if you ignore the situation. In fact, it will only make things worse and they will just get angrier and shout louder.
You need to acknowledge it as soon as you can. In most cases, a user just wants to know that their complaint is being heard and taken seriously.
Your first reaction, especially if the complaint is unfair, might be to get angry and shout abuse back. However, in most cases, it is better to offer your apologies, even if the problem is not your fault or there is no reason to apologize.
Not only will it make you look more human (people often forget that there is a REAL person on the other side of a social media profile) but you will also appear very professional.
Don’t forget that there will be many other people watching the conversation and waiting to see how you respond. So if it vital that you stay calm, professional and levelheaded.
A simple sorry is a much more powerful weapon than hurling more abuse back and can quickly diffuse a situation. (The only exception to the rule is where you or your company has been accused of promoting or advocating something harmful or illegal. In cases like these, an apology could be seen as an admittance of liability. In rare situations like these you will need to seek professional legal advice before making any response.)
Publicly, you could encourage your unhappy customer to call your office to discuss their complaint. This shows other followers that you are helpful and receptive to their complaints and are keen to put things right.
In most cases, you will find that the person making the complaint won’t be as angry or rude when they call you. It is much easier to be angry and abusive on social media hiding behind a social media profile than speaking to an actual person, so they will be more subdued.
3. If it is a valid complaint, agree with it
If you have genuinely slipped up (it happens to the best of us despite our good intentions) and the customer has a valid complaint, don’t try to justify it. Be quick to hold up your hands and agree that on this occasion the service wasn’t up to your normal high standards.
Turn the comment into constructive criticism and let them know that you have learnt from it.
For example, if they are complaining that your service is slow, acknowledge it and thank them for letting you know. Reassure them that you are working on this aspect of your customer service.
If your customer has a legitimate reason for being unhappy, it is very important to let them know that you take their complaint seriously and are doing something about it so that it won’t happen again.
4. Don’t be tempted to block the user
It can be so tempting to just silence any user who is complaining, especially if they are being particularly obnoxious by ‘blocking’ them from posting on your social media pages.
In most cases, this will make the matter worse because they will just come back using a different profile ID and shout even louder so all of your followers will know that you blocked them.
This won’t help matters and will look like you are trying to hide something or that you block anybody who doesn’t agree with you or has a complaint. It sends a message that you don’t care about your customers. This is not a good reputation for you or your brand.
5. Try and encourage them to take the discussion elsewhere
If they show no signs of allowing you to put matters right online it might be best to try and encourage them to take their complaint offline and use a less public platform, such as via email, phone or even in your store or office.
By doing this, your other followers won’t be experiencing a negative atmosphere on your social media pages and associate it with your brand. Try to take the complaint off social media as soon as you can.
Most public complaints are rare, especially if you provide a good service, but it is important to have a plan and respond with a clear head if it does happen. Otherwise, it is too easy to get defensive and watch your reputation plummet.
Apart from your customers who else should you listen to?
Listen to Your Competitors
Learn from your competitors by listening to them. You don’t have to let your competitors know that you are following them on social media by publicly following them if you don’t want to, but it is worth having a sneaky peek to see what they are doing. It will give you some insight into how well their social marketing activity is going and you can see what is working for them… and what isn’t.
Listen To People Talking About Your Brand
Not everybody who uses your product or service may follow you. They might not know your username on social media but they might mention your product or name during their conversations. Social media makes it easy for you to listen out for people mentioning your name, brand or product. This means that if anybody does talk about you, there is an opportunity for engagement.
Anytime a user mentions your brand name, you will be able to see and then respond if appropriate and win over new customers or followers.
Listen to Your Industry
Social media is the perfect platform for keeping up to date with developments and news within your industry. As soon as a story breaks out, everybody in your industry will be talking about it and you want to be part of the discussion and kept up to date.
What’s the Point of Listening?
It is so easy to rush in and start posting on your social media sites, but listening helps to protect you and your brand. When you listen, it helps you to get a better understanding of what is going on within your industry and hear what your followers are saying so that you don’t post information that is out of date, inappropriate or not relevant to your followers.
It also gives you an opportunity to see what followers really think of you and your brand. It will inspire new ideas and help you to perfect your online marketing campaigns.