The number of companies using social media is on the rise each year, proving that social media in B2B marketing is fast becoming mandatory for lead generation, networking and Search Engine Optimization.
So, What happens when you’ve spent countless hours tending to your social platforms only to be brought to your knees by a negative comment?
As of last year, fewer than half of all B2B companies on social media had a plan in place for dealing with negative comments. This topic came up in a recent meeting and we posed it to the Xerox Channel Partners LinkedIn Group.
Here are two strategies Xerox channel partners shared:
1. Categorize, move the conversation offline and respond calmly
Toni Gibiino, Head of Marketing at Zerographic Systems, puts negative comments into four distinct categories; spam, misunderstandings, business errors and general negativity. Their strategy is to avoid deleting negative comments, disregard the spam and directly address any non-spam negative comments.
As Toni says “We’ll try to be sincere and empathetic and always give them an out to take it off-line, away from public view. We want to show customers and prospects in the big wide world that we deal with problems quickly and efficiently. Ultimately it’s our response to the situation that we’re being judged on. If we give people every opportunity to speak to us and resolve their issue, then it will be obvious to everyone else following that we’ve got a wild card that just wants to make a public scene.”
Toni also cautions to respond with a calm approach. Responding in any other way can “snowball into the kind of dialogue you won’t want anyone to see,” he added.
2. Turn the negative into a positive
Joshua Justice, President of Southern Solutions has only had three negative comments, all of which were spam and he was able to delete them immediately. And, had they been legitimate, he would have followed up personally to discuss.
In 2014 Joshua’s company, Southern Solutions was given a negative spam review on Facebook and even though it was clearly spam, they were unable to remove it. So instead, he took that as a prompt to do something positive about it. “I asked our customers to review us and help us counteract the inappropriate comment. It worked and in a few days we were back to average rating of 5 out of 5 stars.”
Four Tips For Planning Ahead
Even though negative comments on social media are less frequent in B2B than B2C, it’s not reasonable to expect a company will never receive a negative comment. In the event it happens to you, think about these best practices we uncovered:
- Triage the comment first Use this social media triage flowchart to help decide whether to respond or not – it was adapted by the Altimeter Group from the USAF blog triage and is legendary in social media circles
- Respond promptly – The quicker and more authentically you respond to a negative comment, the less likely the situation will escalate.
- Take it off the platform – As both Toni and Joshua mentioned above, taking the conversation offline is the most successful approach.
- Follow up afterwards – Once you’ve handled the initial complaint, check in with the commenter after a few days to ask if there is anything else you can do.
The “Triple A” formula for responding
If you do get a genuine negative comment, consider using this formula in your response – Acknowledge, Apologize and Act.
- Acknowledge – Thank them for letting you know
- Apologize / Empathize with the situation – doesn’t mean admit you were at fault, it means take a genuine interest in their situation
- Act – do something about it – and keep them informed
So if you receive a Tweet like this in your Twitter timeline:
@yourhandle I’ve been waiting all day for an engineer to turn up and he still isn’t here – your service is the worst!
Respond like this:
@complaintname I’m sorry you’ve been kept waiting, please send a DM with your contact details so we can chase this up – Andy
[DM = Direct Message on Twitter]
Then follow up and resolve the complaint the same way you would any other.
Use the same formula on LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Facebook, or your blog. Replace “DM” with email, private message etc. to take it off the public timeline.
The reality of social media
At some stage, you will undoubtedly receive a negative comment. Have a process in place to handle them professionally before you receive your first one and you can improve the perception of your business. Don’t let the fear of receiving a negative comment stop you from using social media as part of your digital marketing strategy.
It is always better to give your customers a way to tell you about an issue on your social media channels rather than leave them to use social media to tell your prospects or competition.
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