When Social Media Hands you Lemons

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by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

Ever since social networking became a popular way to communicate, people have been sharing with gusto, whether thats the minutia of their daily lives (I had the best corned beef sandwich!) or crowing about significant milestones (I completed my first marathon!). Not only has social media provided an outlet for expression, its also given consumers a new way to expose their experiences with products and companies that touch their lives.

Sharing is rewarding for many reasons it helps people fulfill the role of influencer or connector or taps into their inner social butterfly. But not all feedback is positive, and companies need to prepare for that.

Negative feedback may initially seem scary, particularly for pharmaceutical companies who have shied away from social participation or are just starting to move away from one-way communication strategies to engage with patients. While negative feedback may sting, when social media hands you lemons, theres opportunity to make lemonade and use the feedback constructively.

Show youre authentic. Include feedback guidelines on your blog or website, but dont be in a rush to delete comments that point out flaws. Some less-than-positive feedback is expected as part of authentic communication. Acknowledging the blemishes is also a way to demonstrate the companys ability to listen and respond.

Feedback lets you tap into customer needs. Sure, the truth hurts, but business is no place for emotions to rule. Listen to what customers are saying because chances are, theyre telling you what they want. Is your advertising misleading? Are your products too expensive, hard to open or foul-tasting? You can file one negative comment under the “you-cant-please-everyone school of thought, but if you read a bunch of posts with sympathies or similar complaints, theres opportunity for improvement.

Paying attention to what employees are saying can help you improve the workplace. Even if your company isnt participating in social media, chances are your employees are, and theyre talking about your brand, their managers and other factoids from their workday. An employee posting that theyre bored on Twitter might need more challenging work. While a Facebook rant about a manager may not be professional, it can shed light on something that may require further examination. Paying attention to what is being said on the social networks can help managers correct a problem before it escalates, protect the business reputation and cultivate a workplace that meets employee and business needs.

Sorry should not be the hardest word. For some people its almost cathartic to send a tweet or post a status update when a business or product has let us down. If youre monitoring what customers are saying, you can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one by responding in a more personalized manner. Companies that acknowledge what their customers are saying and work to resolve problems can demonstrate empathy and build customers for life. The next time a customer is making a purchase decision they may not remember the exact issue they had, but theyll remember how you made them feel.

It would be great if everything was sunshine and lollipops, but social communication is reflective of the real world, and people are going to be dissatisfied. Take advantage of these negative moments and look for opportunities to improve communication, customer service and product development. You may not always like what you hear, but how you respond can be a competitive edge.

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