We all know that the introduction of social media has been one of the biggest and most important changes in the world of business and marketing since sliced bread. Communication was very different even ten years ago, and it has opened hearts, minds, and created friendships within countless communities over the world. I’m so thankful we have this amazing network to connect with others in a way that is totally devoid of negativity… oh, hang on.
Unfortunately, the slightly harsher reality of having a completely open, free to use communication system that is available to billions of people worldwide, is that not everyone will share the same opinions all of the time. And as many of us know (especially if you are in marketing or customer service) that negative comments can and will be directed at you and your brand that you are trying so hard to build a great reputation for.
And then of course, the icing on the cake, is that the rest of the world can see those comments too! So suddenly we have gone from having this nifty piece of communications tech, to having the potential for complete brand destruction! If you are running your organisation’s social media accounts or customer services, you will almost certainly face some online negativity at some point, but thankfully, there are a few ways that you can deal with it.
1. Acknowledge comments quickly
Companies who have a reputation for their excellent customer service, prioritise responding to negative comments and complaints on their social media as quickly as possible. Some companies have employees dedicated specifically to this, but for many organisations with small social media teams, it might just mean keeping an extra special eye out for these comments and trying to deal with them before you go back to anything else. This way, customers/community members/prospective students feel heard and like you really care about their opinion. Plus, anyone trying to scope out the reliability of your brand before engaging with it can publicly see how caring and organised you are!
2. Take responsibility
Some of the time, negative comments are unfounded and are simply a result of what we know as “internet trolls”. Unfortunately, every now and then, we really do make mistakes (we’re all human!) and should take responsibility for it. Being honest and transparent with your response can really help to turn customer frustration into understanding, and it will be easier to come to a mutual agreement on the solution to the problem. Making excuses or trying to place blame on some other factor will certainly not fly with an angry commenter but honesty can really change the tone of a conversation.
3. Do something special
This won’t always feel necessary or apply to every situation, but sometimes you might feel you can offer something as a way of apologising. For example, at a recent trip to the cinema a malfunctioning projector meant waiting an additional half an hour for our film to start. To make up for it, the ushers handed out free cinema tickets to a film of our choosing – personally I felt that more than made up for the slight inconvenience but it was a pretty easy thing for the big cinema chain to do for us. So if, as above, you feel that an issue raised by a customer really was the fault of your organisation, you can always try and make up for it with an apology and additionally something like university café vouchers or a discount in the gift shop.
4. Engage with your audience
One thing that will make a huge difference in how your organisation’s community interacts with you online is how you interact with them. Being personal, engaging with comments (negative and positive) and re-sharing community-made content will show that you are approachable, helpful, and caring. With this brand personality, you’re more likely to receive complaints that are rational (and from someone who is willing to work things out, rather than be unreasonably negative).
One of the best ways to positively engage with your audience is by encouraging them to create content for your organisation’s brand. Again, it’s a great way to build a rapport with your community and means you can show that your audience is enthusiastic about your brand. We have a blog post discussing several ways you can encourage user generated content if you want to know more, here!
5. Don’t take it personally
This is probably the most important thing on this list: don’t take negativity on your organisation’s social media platforms personally! Always remember that when you’re dealing with negative comments, you just happen to be the one responding behind the screen. If you are finding comments that are unnecessarily negative or hurtful, take a step back, report it, chat to your colleagues, and move on. You are trying to solve the issue, and so are doing a great job.
If you’re interested in learning more about social media strategy for educational organisations, please contact Dr Hilary Young, 448 Studio’s Head of Knowledge and Learning at: firstname.lastname@example.org