Social media is a huge part of our everyday lives. Just as you would expect in your everyday life you are likely to encounter complaints about your products or services as much as you are likely to encounter positive comments too. Increased popularity makes complaint handling a when as opposed to an if.
Here we will discuss some of the essential approaches needed to avoid a social media meltdown.

Don’t Panic

Every company of a certain popularity or size will garner complaints or negativity at some level. Given that the issue is not a legal challenge, the bad PR you may worry about gaining from the offending Tweet or message can easily be outweighed by the great PR you may achieve from responding well.
Take Greggs for example.
I’m sure we’ve all already seen the offensive, mocking logo that was mistakenly being dragged into Google’s Knowledge Graph a few months ago. If you missed it, it looks something like this:

Greggs Offensive Logo on Social Media

Greggs had it pointed out to them on Twitter and took it completely in their stride with a humorous twist. Instead of panicking, being defensive or blaming anyone else they responded to their Tweets as any person would – even offering Google 12 delicious doughnuts to have it fixed.

What did they get out of it?

They dodged a PR nightmare, they made their audience laugh and engaged with them but aside from that try Googling ‘Greggs social media’ and you’ll see some of the coverage from the debacle:

Greggs Social Media Complaint Search Results

Way to turn a negative into a positive!

Try Not to Delete Negative Comments

Deleting negative comments won’t get you anywhere. The offending party will likely comment again, more angry for being silenced or even move to another social network where deletion isn’t an option not to mention the complaints you will then receive from other users for censorship.

This is a nasty game that you do not want to get into. Volkswagen drew some unwanted attention for this behaviour a couple of years ago and it is something featured in almost all social media disasters.

Sometimes, however, it is necessary to delete a comment if it contains particularly offensive and rude language (normally swearing). The best way to do this is to keep engaged with the complainant and politely say that you cannot allow swearing or genuinely offensive material to displayed on your page.

What Would YOU Do?

This might sound odd and of course you need to bear in mind your company, your branding guidelines and how you wish to position yourself but in moments of intense pressure you need to take a step back. Exposure to high levels of social media, corporate responses and advertising we have become so savvy to insufficient and insincere corporate responses. Again, take a look at Greggs, honesty is only going to help you.

Apologise, say you’re sorry and be as humble and down to earth as you would be in real life.

Don’t Try to Win

Trying to win will only make you lose. Remember, the customer is always right and being defensive and responding in a hostile manner will only make you come off worse.

For example, I won’t say which tool but a popular SEO tool has been guilty of posting critical and sometimes aggressive comments on blogs of marketers reviewing or discussing their tool. Maybe misguided but this has left a sour taste in my mouth (and I imagine the mouths of many others). I was not even involved in the original blog in question or comments but even seeing the scenario played out shows me a company I do not want to be involved with.
Another example comes from American clothing company, Black Milk. An absolute catastrophe in every which way, not made any better when the clothing company attempt to ‘prove’ to their clearly upset and offended customers that their original (offensive) post was not offensive. Read more about this one here, it really is a lesson in what not to do.

Don’t be Too Generic

We’ve all seen it. Someone tweets a complaint to a company and they get the exact same response as everyone else who has done the same. Something along the lines of:

“Sorry to hear you’re having trouble, Our Customer Service Team will help: ……..”
Although this is better than no response at all, it’s still pretty poor. Respect your customers a little more by taking a moment to consider that social media may be their last resort as opposed to the common attitude that it is the first port of call. It could be either and you’re most likely to further annoy a ‘last resort’ customer by being disinterested.
Auto-replies are to blame for some of these mishaps. If you are considering setting up autoreplies, take these examples as a word of warning.

Try to Avoid a Problem Altogether

Easier said than done, of course but do take the time to think for a second. Could a post be deemed as offensive? Could I phrase this a little better? Sometimes you are stuck to break some bad news that you know is a bit of a nightmare but before you do consider if there is any way to switch the focus onto something more positive. Of course, you have to apologise and people will be disappointed but the way to phrase bad news can be very powerful.

Again, the Black Milk example above. If someone had thought a little about their post of two women, one meant to be ‘attractive’ and one ‘unattractive’ they may have realised that it was probably inappropriate for a company focusing on alternative fashion with a core focus on good body image.

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