In the new age of coronavirus, it’s easy for business owners to share their economic woes on social media. Instead of piling on negativity, though, businesses should take the high road on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.
“As a business, be aware of what you’re posting, first and foremost, and realize what you’re commenting on as a business. Always think about the bigger picture,” says Sue “Pinky” Benson, a social media educator and Realtor at RE/MAX Realty Team of Southwest Florida.
Benson – with her trademark shock of pink hair and matching outfits – regularly appears in live videos on Facebook and Instagram Stories, but behind her flamboyant appearance is a professional strategy. She urges business owners to better understand the power of social media, cautioning that business platforms are not places to post whatever you want whenever you want to post it.
“You’ve got to check that ego sometimes,” Benson says. “Don’t just throw it up there to just throw it up there.”
Benson reminds people that even what they may consider to be personal comments often are public on social media platforms.
“There’s no such thing as private. I don’t care what you have as your settings,” she says. “If we both like that page, I will see your comments. People don’t understand how the algorithm works; that comment can be seen by everyone.”
Benson said everyone gets an occasional hater on a business platform. Keep in mind that potential customers may be watching how the business representative deals with that negativity. “Is coming back and being derogatory to that comment going to be worthwhile to my business in the end, or is it better to ignore it and move on?” she says. “Do you really want to die on that mound? Is that really where you want to be?”
One of the best tips for social media follows anger management advice: Count to 10. Before dashing off a quick reply to a customer’s bad review or comment posted online about your business, take a deep breath and consider the additional damage you do by throwing gas on the fire. Count to 10, or better yet, sleep on it. Put some time between reading the review and replying to it.
Your loyal customers will come to your defense if you handle a bad situation in a good way. You will even make new customers if you defuse a hot issue in a cool and collected manner. If feasible, consider countering hate with humor.
If somebody shares a bad review or incident, it’s often best to respond as professionally as possible and try to take the conversation offline. Encourage the critic to contact you via email or telephone. Then, be prepared to kill them with kindness, letting the respondent air grievances before thanking them for their criticism.
Benson recommends this type of response: “We are so sorry you had this experience. Here’s our phone number. We are messaging you directly. Let’s have a meeting to talk about it.”
“If they continue to comment now, it’s a reflection of who they are and not your business,” she says.
Rafael Feliciano, owner of Food Idea Group marketing company for Southwest Florida restaurants, worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years before becoming an entrepreneur. Before publicly responding to negative reviews, he said, the key is for businesses to look at the big picture and long-term consequences.
“For a bad review, we never have any fewer than two people on our team look at it,” Feliciano says. “We are always thinking, ‘What’s the long term, what’s the bigger play?’ You have to be very careful. Even though you are responding to one review, you are responding to everyone else on a public platform.”
Use the opportunity to speak to the rest of the community who will read the online thread in the next five years, Feliciano said.
“When we handle clients and we handle their social media, everything is very strategic and has a purpose and is very intentional,” he says. “Take the opportunity to show your authenticity. If you have a generic answer you send to everyone, people see that and you miss an opportunity to show who you are and show your personality.”
Of course, being authentic is not an excuse to bash a user. “I don’t think there’s ever a time when you should be nasty,” Feliciano says.
OutboardEngine, a marketing platform for small and midsize businesses, has a long list of social media etiquette dos and don’ts. While the company recommends that businesses post frequently, they also advise them not to be a spammer by liking, retweeting and posting all day long.
Additionally, the Austin software firm recommends that businesses separate personal and business accounts, interact with the audience by asking and answer- ing questions, share thoughtfully, focus on certain platforms and match content to the right network.