#1 You can’t respond to conversations you can’t see. So start by setting up Google Alerts for your brand and industry keywords. You’ll get any dirt through your email and stay on top of what people are talking about in the social arena. Next, keep a close eye on your Facebook page and listen on Twitter. And depending on your brand, you can also read reviews on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat, for example. Last, make a list of forums where your customers congregate and check them regularly.
#2 Decide if a negative comment is really worth responding to. If it’s only on a small blog, your response may bring attention to an issue no one saw on the first place. Also, if the attack is blatantly rude or outrageous, it could be a sign that the writer has personal problems.
#3 Act Quickly. The longer you take to respond, the angrier a person will get. Then others will pick up on the issue and create negative buzz. At the very least say you are sorry and/or looking into the situation, the give the person your real name and contact info. That way you’ve given the writer a more private place to vent rather than an open channel online.
#4 Speak like a human. Avoid corporate or canned responses. Respond with empathy and, again, give your real name and possibly a photo. It’s harder to yell at Emily than a faceless company.
#5 Offer to make it right. Apologizing is only one way of turning around negative word of mouth. If somebody didn’t like your breakfast burrito, replace it with a fresh one.
#7 Don’t get into a fight. Even if you win, you lose… because all audience members that see the public conversation will remember is you’re combative. Acknowledge that your critic is actually doing you a favor by helping you make yours a better company.
#8 Sometimes it’s actually good to keep the discussion open. Take Graco baby cribs. They very quickly recalled 2 million defective strollers and probably saved lives in doing so. Their Twitter feed was soon all abuzz with what a responsible, customer service-minded company they were.
#9 Use fans and third party sources to help tell the story. UPS actually had George Will come to their rescue in the Huffington Post online when they were falsely accused by FedEx of taking a government bailout.
#10 And, finally, involve the complainers in the fix. See them as frustrated customers that may have worthwhile ideas. Invite fans to participate in any advisory capacity you may have through your online platform. Or ask them to take part in beta testing of a new product or brainstorming sessions.
There you go. And here’s to hoping you don’t have to use any of these ideas in the anywhere near future.