Tips for Handling a Social Media Crisis

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Business is business, and personal life is personal. But if you own your own business, then you know that your business is personal to you, and you take it personally.

No matter how perfect your customer service is, or how many diverse products you offer, or how fresh your food is, someone will complain about your business. It’s just a matter of time. Maybe someone simply left a negative review online, and that’s pretty easy to tackle. But sometimes, big controversies come up – and that’s where things get tricky.

Maybe you did nothing wrong, but someone is looking for a reason to complain.
Maybe you made an honest mistake. We’re all human and prone to error. 

At worst, you may have truly made a massive mistake that you went out of your way to make. You did or said something offensive. You were careless – and you don’t care that you were careless. 

Here are a few basic guidelines to follow when it comes to dealing with people, online and off:

  • Don’t be racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, or any other type of bigot. This should be common sense.
  • There’s no reason to be edgy. Beware of making jokes about sexual assault, murder, etc. In our almost-post-pandemic world, you may want to stay away from making COVID-related jokes, too. 
  • Foul language is an easy, yet avoidable, way to offend people. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it isn’t worth the risk. Read our blog about profanity in marketing.
  • Be as transparent as you can with your customers. It’s better than looking shady.
  • Unless your business is in the sex industry, there’s usually no reason to get risque with your social media presence. You definitely don’t want to make your customers feel like they’ve been sexually harassed by your content.

Customers aren’t afraid to voice their opinion, online or with their wallet. It’s not cancel culture; it’s consequence culture. How you deal with the consequences of your actions and mistakes will speak volumes about you and your company. And customers – both loyal and potential – are watching.

Got a Negative Review?

If you have a slew of positive reviews, don’t lose sleep over one or two negative reviews. Let’s discuss some best practices for handling negative reviews.

  • Don’t Freak Out!
    Calm down and take a minute to really read the review. Usually, online review complaints can be easily rectified. Consider this a teachable moment and learn how you can improve your business. Yes, some folks just want to complain, and their complaints may be insignificant. Still, you want to let them know that they’ve been heard.
  • Don’t Delete – Respond!
    Respond to all reviews – good or bad. Whatever you do, do NOT delete negative reviews or comments. 
  • Respond Promptly
    You definitely want to take time to write a thoughtful reply, but don’t take longer than a day or two to respond. Any longer than that, and it will give the impression that this customer and their concerns aren’t important to you.
  • Defending Yourself?
    If you believe you are truly right in the situation, you can offer some type of defense – but be careful! You don’t want to look arrogant and you don’t want to offend your customer. You may want to point out that you have a track record of happy customers, good reviews or return/loyal patrons. 
  • Make It Right
    How can you make it up to this unhappy customer? You may want to offer them a coupon or some other type of deal so you can make up for the poor experience at their next visit. Maybe you just need to promise that you’ll address their complaint with your team or higher ups. Promise a solution in your review, and, whatever you promise, follow through on it. More than anything, your reviewer just wants to be heard.
  • Further Discussion?
    You may need to take the discussion offline with a phone call or an email. If you do this, respond to the review and mention that you will contact them. Don’t get into a back-and-forth argument with a reviewer on the review platform.
  • Notice Patterns
    If you receive multiple complaints about the same issues – high prices, slow customer service, faulty products, whatever – this is a pattern you should take seriously and consider making changes in your company.
  • Automated Responses
    It’s OK to have a template to help you respond to reviews, but don’t post the same response to every review. Use the customer’s name and address the complaint at hand.
  • Are They For Real?
    Sometimes, your sly competitors may post a negative review just to damage your reputation. If you suspect the review is illegitimate, contact the review platform to report it.

Social Media Squabbles

Sometimes, companies get embroiled in a bigger controversy. We’ve all seen it – screenshots get shared, and it’s on everybody’s social media timeline. When it gets to that level, it might as well be on the front page of the local paper – and sometimes the media does get involved when things get really messy.

Every situation is different, but here are some good tips to guide you through the social media firestorm.

  • Cool off!
    You may feel the need to respond quickly – and defensively. Take a moment to cool down and assess the situation. Your customers would rather see a thoughtful reply that shows that you care about the situation and want to fix it than a quick response full of knee-jerk reactions. However, as with negative reviews, don’t wait too long. You should post something within a day or so. 
  • Get the Message Right
    If the situation is so big that you feel the need to address the issue with a post across all of your social media platforms, keep it simple, dignified and humble. Show that you care about and understand the situation. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Let someone else look over it – as well as any other responses you may want to post – before going live, so they can help you craft the best, balanced response possible.
  • Take Responsibility
    Consider what went wrong and the ways you can fix it or improve the situation. Empty excuses and defenses won’t cut it. It’s smart to discuss the situation with others in your company and get their opinions. However you choose to rectify the situation, follow through with that promise.
  • Respond to Everyone?
    Your post will likely garner a lot of comments. You don’t have to respond to everyone – but you should respond to anyone who needs clarification, asks a legitimate question, etc. You can clear up your message or answer those questions, but beware of saying anything contrary to your original message.
  • Don’t Shut Down
    You may be tempted to deactivate your social channels or turn off comments/responses on your channel. This will make you look like you can’t handle the heat and that you have no interest in improving or changing. Be patient – it will blow over!
  • Don’t Argue.
    Don’t get into a back-and-forth with anyone online – the reviewer, other users or trolls – for everyone to see. Let your statement do its thing.

No matter what situation you’re dealing with, don’t discuss specific employees or personnel issues on social media. It could land you in legal trouble.

Also, keep in mind that the internet is forever. You can delete posts or reviews, but dirty deleting is not a good look. Someone likely grabbed a screenshot of whatever you want to delete, anyway.

Above all else, keep in mind poet Kendrick Lamar’s sage words: “sit down, be humble.” This is an excellent opportunity to get in touch with your humanity, eat some humble pie and learn a lesson. Hopefully, the experience will make you a better business owner – and a better person.

Need help managing your business’ social media or reviews? Contact us. We’re happy to help!

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