At this moment, the biggest issue that most brands seem to be facing with their online presence is definitely control. While everyone is more than ready to talk about online engagement, and all the major brand are very happy to promote themselves on yet another media channel, their attitude towards the response of customers is not always so positive.
There’s a huge inherent vice in this whole attitude: most brands haven’t understood that social media are not about doing the talking, they are (or at least they SHOULD be!) about listening. Brands simply want to use Facebook and Twitter as an amplification device to reach out to a younger,more tech-savvy, audience that is growing more and more immune to traditional types of advertising.
Yet, they get quickly frustrated and disappointed when the answer from that audience comes… and it’s often not what they were expecting!
A recent study has confirmed that people are more likely to use social networks to complain and share a bad review about something than a good one. This simple truth means a couple of things: on the average social network, you’ll probably end up with more bad reviews than good ones; these bad reviews will likely spread, in no time.
When this happens the brand’s reaction can range from simple indifference to utter hysteria, like the guest house that decided to fine guests that dared to leave a bad Yelp review… but very few brands seem to realize that social media engagement is an exercise in letting go.
As a brand and as a marketer, you simply have to accept that it’s impossible to achieve total control over your social media presence:
- negative comments are unavoidable;
- sooner or later users will mock you, and not necessarily in a good taste, either;
- complaints will flock in, while compliments will be scarce;
- the more you fake it, the worst it’ll get.
If always being in control is not even an option, the real question lies elsewhere: why should you try?
Social-networks are NOT about control: they are about getting in touch with your audience through active listening. So why should you panic if people actually use them to reach out to you!? It’s exactly the way social media should be used! Letting go is the key.
Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care, or worse, that you should ignore the reactions of the social media audience. Remember how badly the Motrim Moms accident escalated? Apparently the company released a not-so-funny advertising campaign right before the weekend… and was blown away by the social media retaliation that was there waiting for them on Monday morning (Hat tip: Scott Stratten Unmarketing)!
But instead of trying to achieve an impossible level of control, or committing a social media faux-pas such as erasing comments and blocking out users, you really should go for a more relaxed approach:
- train an empathetic team of human beings that write and sound like human beings should;
- empower them with the freedom to truly interact with customers, in their own personal fashion;
- be available to respond timely to any type of enquiry;
- be ready to face angry customers, and to ease their anger;
- be transparent: on the internet it’s way too easy for customers to find out the truth, so don’t even bother to lie to them.
Achieving a social media presence is, first and foremost, about listening to customers and being ready to answer them, but there’s no need to get overly stressed about it: when promptly addressed, and in the right way, even the angriest customer can become a loyal fan. So relax: customer engagement is a great opportunity and it cannot be ignored out of fear of messing it up.