When Social Media Goes Wrong

By on August 25, 2009

The potential for social media to create a positive impact on your business is incredible, yet any use of social media comes with an increased responsibility for communicating openly with your customers, especially if you’re going to protect your brand identity.

There is no room for ignoring, blocking, or erasing negative posts (extreme obnoxiousness on the part of a few nasty participants aside), and such behavior often encourages either more bad press, or customers ignoring the company altogether.  Manipulation and disingenuous social media tactics on the part of businesses can create PR nightmares, and this usually stems from the (false) idea that a company can control what customers will say about it.

Make no mistake, protecting (and enhancing) your brand identity is a top priority, however it’s foolish to think that a company can enter into social media and not experience some negative response.  In fact, it’s wise to take a cue from your marketing team, and, in addition to thoroughly planning out your social media message and presence, form a plan in case of negative backlash.

So what’s the best way to handle any negativity?  Acknowledge it.  Ignoring less-than-glowing comments will only blow up in your face, and give critics more fuel for fire.  Acknowledging negative responses allows you to steer the conversation in a more helpful, positive direction – whether that takes the form of addressing a customer complaint, or offering tech support, and so on.  It also gives followers the feeling that you’re there to engage with them, not just sell to them, which is exactly what your social media presence should be all about.

Above all, remember that your customers value honesty and transparency more than a shiny, spot-free social media profile, and they will think more highly of you if you choose to act in a transparent manner.

About John Souza

John Souza is founder and chief strategist of SMMU and Social Media Impact, and is a bestselling business author. He won the 2011 Tech Marketing Awards ‘Social Media Marketer of the Year’ and most recently the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best Online Education Site. John has appeared on The Michael Gerber Show, and his business has been honored at the Mashable Awards, Forbes Business Awards and The Stevie Awards.
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