This is the question that nobody wants to address but it's also the single biggest factor that prevents a number of businesses from going social. Basically, what happens when it all goes wrong? What happens when the negative comments arrive?
Over the past 10 years brands have gone from almost having a monopoly on what is being said about them in the public space, to now acting simply as an influencer in the public conversation that is already happening (if you are one of the brands doing enough to be talked about - but that's another blog post...).
So, as social media consultants, we need to advise our clients on what to do should it ever turn negative. We need to have a plan - one that we hope we'll never need to put into action.
How to create that plan?
When we do this, our starting point is always to establish an 'escalation path' within the business. For a small business, that might be very simple action, but for larger organisations we need to establish who we might need to get out of bed if something major occurs.
Once we have an escalation path set, we need to identify when we need to escalate. For this, we'd advocate operating a traffic light system where audience comments are categorised into red, amber & green. Clear descriptions are then set against each colour with escalation paths placed against them. Green, will be somehting you can handle there and then, no issues. Amber is something you can deal with, but is worth flagging to a senior team member as an FYI or maybe it's something you need to ask advice on before responding to. Red is somthing that you need to escalate urgently - this may cause a future issue for the business or escalate into a PR disaster and should be dealt with carefully.
By having this system in place, you are at least prepared for any future eventualities.
What we'd advise against
There are no firm rules for this but there are a few things we'd advise against:
Deleting a third-party's post: There's nothing that will infuriate an already unhappy person more than having their post simply deleted and not dealt with. It is better to give a response to that post to show the audience that you are responding to it and then deal with that person over private messenger if possible.
Ignoring it: Simply ignoring the issue won't make it go away. Yes, they might be the one irate person out of 100,000 customers but if you ignore them it could very easily explode into something that is much bigger and as a result be harmful to your brand image. Having lots of unanswered posts on your Facebook page or on Twitter is not good for a brand!
Don't lose your cool: However personal their complaint, however insulting their post is to the brand that you've slaved over to create, never (appear to) lose your cool. This can quite often be what the user is looking for. All it takes is a quick screenshot of your angry response to be shared across multiple blogs or news outlets and that immaculate brand image that you have worked tirelessly to create is harmed. Just ask 'Amy's Baking Company'!
Who are we?
We're a Glasgow-based specialist social media agency, helping clients that range from FTSE100 organisations to start-ups launching their product to a global audience. We provide a variety of services from social media consultancy for those clients who prefer to do it themselves to full social media management for those clients who want to outsource.