How to embrace negative comments

I’ve had conversations with dozens of small business people within the past year about getting on social media. The practical excuse people come up with for not getting involved on the social web is that they don’t have time. I can understand this. It’s a basic trade-off. It’s not worth the time or effort, so they decline. Then, there’s another excuse people use that’s based on fear. This one, though, I cannot understand no matter how hard I try…

I’m talking about the fear of negative comments on the social web. If you have a Facebook page, that opens up the door for angry customers to slander your name right out there in the open. If you have Twitter account, that opens up the door for people to mention you to all of their followers when they encounter a problem. When you jump into social media, that makes you a big, fat, glaring target. This seems like a fairly reasonable fear, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. And here’s why…

The Illusion of Control

It doesn’t matter if you join social media or not. Your customers are there and, if they are upset, they will talk about you whether or not you have a Facebook page or Twitter account. The only difference is that you will not know about it. You maintain control of nothing by failing to enter into the social networking scene. In fact, you lose control of fixing problems with dissatisfied customers that you wouldn’t know about because you wouldn’t be welcoming the feedback.

You don’t have control. You never really did but, in the era of digital media, you have even less control of your brand. When you refuse to join the social web because you are afraid of the bad things people might say about you, your modus operandi is “ignorance is bliss.” But, ignorance isn’t bliss. The biggest hits to your brand come from dissatisfied customers that never say anything at all to you.

The Peril of Being Unresponsive

A friend of mine recently had a bad experience with Zales, the jewelry store. I suggested she tweet about it. She did and I even retweeted it mentioning Zales in the tweet. Basically, I was begging the company to reach out to her and solve her problem…or at least apologize for the inconvenience.

Any response? Nope. Not yet. Do you realize what kind of signal is being sent to my friend? That’s right. That Zales does not care about here negative experience. It may not be true. Maybe they didn’t see the tweet. (In all fairness, they have used their Twitter account to resolve issues with other customer). But the point is that my friend feels as if they are ignoring her and that her problem isn’t important to them.

If you don’t have a Twitter account or a Facebook page, how much more unaware will you be of your customers’ problems? If you don’t want to join social media because you don’t think it’s worth your time, that’s one thing. But you can’t avoid people saying bad things about you. You don’t own the medium. You can only choose to ignore what’s being said or you can choose to participate in the conversation.

If you ignore your customers, you are sending the signal that you don’t care. On the other hand, if you can catch a negative comment and respond well to it, you can win back that customer and anyone he or she may have told about her experience.

What about you? Do customers see you as being responsive to their problems?


#StoryChat will be held on Twitter this Thursday, September 6 at 10pm EST. We’ll be discussing the ethical ramifications of story. It’s going to be interesting. Join me?

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