One of my dearest friends is the owner of her own company and she is relatively new to social media. She was extremely excited when she had one of her employees set up a Facebook page where she had this employee post all kinds of information on the day’s specials, sales and promotions.
My friend saw Facebook as an inexpensive way to sell her products and services using a personal touch. Everything was going great until someone posted a negative comment that not only wasn’t true, but was really about a competitor. To make matters worse, the comment spurred a lively discussion online that was all negative. She told her employee to delete all negative comments which only made matters worse. By the time I got a phone call, my friend was exasperated. She wanted to cancel her Facebook account explaining she didn’t have the time or the staff to deal with this nonsense.
Her experience is not at all uncommon and can serve as a learning experience. If your business is on Facebook, here is my advice to her:
1) Don’t cancel your account. Facebook can be a wonderful tool if you deal with a broad audience. However, you must know, what makes it useful tool is that it is… personal. That means it is a conversation and communication goes both ways. Before you launch your Facebook account, you need to establish a clear, concise policy that not only defines what you want to accomplish, but how to handle negative comments and how you will handle a crisis. If you are on Facebook and don’t have a policy, you need to get busy and develop and implement one ASAP!
2) Don’t delete negative comments. This not only tends to backfire, but it can really hurt your credibility. Treat a negative comment as you would any customer service issue. If a comment is not true, provide the correct information. If the comment is legitimate, provide customer recovery information that acknowledges the customer’s concern, apologizes and states how the situation will be corrected or resolved. In both cases, you want to provide a phone number or email address to direct the person making the comment to a real person, who is offline. You want to get this person off your Facebook account and in front of a real person, as quickly as possible.
3) A jerk is a jerk. I had a senior executive boss who marveled at how Facebook could be “self-correcting.” If a person is being unreasonable, delusional or bullying, it will be apparent to everyone reading the posts. Many times other people who are making comments will call this person out, or even correct misinformation. The bottom line; don’t overreact if someone is being impolite.
Finally, social media is labor intensive. My friend realized that from the start and delegated an employee to monitor the page. Fortunately, this was among the tasks the employee dearly loved. If you have a Facebook account for your business, it goes without saying you must constantly monitor your page so you can correct misinformation or answer questions should they arise. When used right, Facebook can engage your customers giving your product or service a personal touch and it doesn’t get any better than that!
Terri Hendry is the Vice President of Public Relations for the Estipona Group. Her areas of expertise include : Media Relations, Media Training and Coaching, Publicity, Crisis Communication and Management, Community Relations, Donor Relations, Employee Relations, Investor Relations, Board of Directors Relations, Executive Communications and Presentations, Speech Writing, and Special Events.