You know the feeling: you come home content and enthusiastic after a hard day’s work having delivered excellent customer experiences and made a positive impact on your customer’s lives. The next morning, you wake up to a notification that someone has left a 1-star rating on one of your online ratings profiles. That’s the moment when you finally decide that you’ve got to find ways to stop social media snipers from damaging your business.
1-star reviews are never easy to digest.
No matter how well a business serves its customers, 1-star reviews happen. It’s the processes you’ve installed to manage your online reputation effectively that influence your reactions…and reactions are everything.
Getting off the sidelines and playing your best game in social media requires focus on the things that matter to you. I see some companies (and salespeople!) embrace social media and online reputation management, but there are many, many more who sit on the sidelines.
A leading reason that companies avoid social media is they just don’t want to leave themselves open to online attacks. They wrongly believe, “Hey, if we’re not participating then no one can say anything bad about us.”
Your business is talked about online, whether you’re there or not. It’s always better to be there participating in the conversations, communicating your value and exerting some control over how the consumer perceives your business.
Why let misinformation tell your story?
Why let your competitor do all the talking for you?
If fear is keeping you and/or your business off of social media, you’ve come to the right place. The anxiety caused by all the doomsday scenarios (some real, many imagined) can cause even social media veterans to think twice about opening their business up for scrutiny.
But social media veterans know that the positives outweigh the negatives. The caveat is that you have to be savvy about how you handle things.
10 Savvy Ways to Stop Social Media Snipers
If the fear of a social media attack weighs heavy on you, or you’ve already been a victim of a social media sniper, rest assured there are strategies and tactics you can take to mitigate attacks and sometimes even turn critics into fans.
1. Implement an Internal Social Media Policy
Every single person on your team needs to know and understand company policy for managing criticism online. A good social media policy instituted at hiring is the very best practice to keep you out of hot water.
For current employees, gather departments or groups together to discuss your policy, answer questions, distribute copies and have everyone sign an acknowledgment they received it.
2. Get to the Bottom of the Initial Complaint
Many times people are just looking for ways to vent their frustrations. The use of empathy here cannot be understated. The sniper may just be looking for someone to listen to them.
Make a humble offer to take the matter offline. This allows the sniper and your audience to see that you’re earnestly trying to help and to fix the issue.
3. Consider the Source
I’ve seen many complaints via social media and online reviews from people who are not and never will be your customers. Some people are just out to create trouble because it gets them attention. Picking on you is their “gripe du jour” and in some cases if you’re lucky, the crowd will come to your defense.
Other times the source is a former employee or a competitor. Many social platforms and review sites have remedies for removing reviews and/or comments from this type of attack.
Of course there are legal remedies for dealing with snipers but always consider the consequences. You may decide that it’s simply not worth the investment (depending on the situation). In other cases, you’ll decide to “take it to the mattresses.”
Here’s a whopper of a story on how my car dealer friend here in the OC, who has a stellar online reputation, dealt with being accused of elder abuse and attempted murder in an online review.
First of all, the review was a total lie. He reported it to Yelp and due to the urgent nature, he hired a private investigator to identify the reviewer. His lawyer sent the person a letter demanding they remove the review within 7 days. He said, “Those 7 days were the longest days of my life.”
My friend estimated the review was costing him $500/day in reputation damages. He filed a small claims action against the reviewer and it was revealed in court that the woman who wrote the false review had heard the story thirdhand about a different business allegedly committing such acts and mistakenly ascribed the behavior to the dealership. She offered no apology.
He was awarded $4,000 and he’s donating it to charity. He says, “It was a pain going through the process of filing a small-claims case but it was a victory for small business.”
4. Have a Written External Social Media Policy
A written policy for responding to any social media or online ratings engagement helps you moderate conversations in a professional yet open manner.
Your policy should describe how to respond to reviews, when to delete comments, when to ban users and outline the ways that discourse should be handled. It should set the overall tone of the conversation welcome on your page or profile.
5. Assume the Best
We’ve all been guilty of jumping on the negativity bandwagon when we’re criticized. When you’re defensive, you sell yourself short because you’ve thrown the gauntlet down, closing the door to speedy resolution.
Come from a place of helpfulness first. Be pleasant and non-defensive in every situation. It defuses things and allows you more time to figure out what real issue may be at hand. Never assume malicious intent because most of the time, it turns out to be a problem you can rectify.
6. Listen and Respond Quickly
Nobody likes the feeling of being ignored. While some expectations may seem irrational, studies report that today’s tech-savvy consumers want their online questions addressed promptly; 42% expect a response within one hour. (Gigya)
Social media is a 24-7 medium and many companies have realized they need to limit their response time. When a customer has an issue, we know that listening and responding quickly can save it from gaining traction and becoming bigger than it needs to be.
7. Own Your Mistakes
Sometimes, your critics tell you the truth and that’s not easy to hear. Humility, even in the most painful moments, can scatter animosity.
Owning your mistakes reassures future customers that you take feedback seriously and they won’t have to worry should something like this happen to them.
Learning about mistakes, especially if they were operational, affords you a training opportunity. “Here’s how we did it this time. Here’s how we need to do it in the future.”
8. Be Human
When you’re transparent about your blemishes, an amazing thing happens: people understand you’re human.
We’ve all made mistakes. Any sniper who demands perfection will be viewed as the one in the wrong.
Pro Tip: When responding to reviews and/or comments, forego the “corporate speak.” Simply talk as you would if the person were on the phone or standing on front of you.
9. Refrain from Deleting Posts
There’s a natural knee-jerk reaction to delete a Facebook post, a Tweet or something else that’s caused trouble but remember, the Internet is forever.
You may believe you’re removing the damage but in many cases it’s temporary. Depending on how long the post was out there, if people see that you’re deleting posts, the word gets out and they’ll take you to task for doing so.
This is not to say that you should never delete. There are situations that call for it, such as profanity, threats, and dangerous accusations. Each case is unique and there are no real absolutes. Design a strategy and protocol, and then be ready to learn from each situation and adjust as time goes on.
10. Do Nothing
Sometimes, it’s best to stay quiet.
There are a few good cases for ignoring a critic. Some people just want to cause trouble and strife; they are called trolls. You may even know who yours are. Responding to these types of critics can only add fuel to the fire, which is what trolls feed on. Ignore them and don’t waste a moment of your energy on them because that’s what they live for.
No matter how awesome you are, there will always be someone criticizing you. Don’t miss out on the advantages of engaging customers online. Arm yourself with these strategies and tactics to mitigate critics and diffuse attacks. Use these 10 ways to stop social media snipers so you can open yourself and your business up to new possibilities.