Today we welcome back guest blogger Sarah Warren to the rm2g blog. Sarah is a graduate of Baylor University, the University of Oklahoma and Focus Leadership Institute. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma where she does public relations for a university by day and owns Swoon Designs, a custom invitation business, by night. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, learning about new media, watching cheesy movies, and cooking gluten-free meals. Connect with Sarah on Twitter @swoonsarah
Three stories, all true:
- A popular blogger with a new book gets on her Facebook fan page to tell her thousands of fans that someone has written a negative review about her book online, and she’s counting on her fans to correct her low rating. The fans ravenously attack the negative reviewer (whose review was negative but fair) on the book’s review section on Amazon.com. They cuss out the reviewer and dare anyone else to write a negative review. The blogger is meanwhile cheering them on from her Facebook fan page.
- I go to a salon, uncharacteristically arriving 10 minutes late. In a moment straight out of Pretty Women, the beautician loudly and publically throws me out of the salon. Being a social media pro, I write a negative review on a review site. A few weeks later, I find there are suddenly positive reviews for that specific beautician on the review site and the salon’s Facebook fan page. These reviews purposefully counter my negative review.
- I go to a conference for public relations professionals. Among my colleagues is someone from an organization notorious for secrecy and censorship. He repeatedly asks the speakers how to best censor social media and is baffled when the answer is “you don’t”.
How do you manage your fans? You can ask them to fight for you. Similarly, you can ask friends and loyal customers to challenge negative comments and reviewers. Or you can censor your fans’ negative comments and viewpoints. I think those are all pretty bad ideas.
Don’t Ask Your Fans to Go to Bat for You
Want to turn one bad review into a social media nightmare? Here’s how you do it: Tell your loyal fans to go after someone who said something negative about you. Then grab a bag of popcorn and sit back and watch how in your name fans bully and berate someone until they and their comment and their business disappear forever.
Not only will you lose credibility with a few discerning fans, but you will also lose future fans and customers who rightfully want nothing to do with you, your business or your posse.
Don’t Fight Genuine Comments with Unauthentic Comments
My review of the salon was certainly negative, but it was also authentic. The positive comments following my review were obvious point-by-point retorts with little authenticity and noticeably defensive tones.
Give your customers credit. They can tell the difference between a genuinely positive review and a review written to defend a friend. Personally, I am more inclined to go to a business that has authentic bad and authentic good reviews than I am to go to a business that has bad reviews and phony positive comments planted in the mix.
Don’t Censor …Unless You Do Social Media for Drones
As the manager of four Facebook fan pages and three Twitter feeds, I’ve run the gauntlet of reviews. Some have been bad, some have been snarky, and some have called out my organization for poor customer service. They all stayed. The only comments I delete use slurs, profanity, or that cross the line between disagreement and bullying. Oh, and I once deleted an ad on my fan page for scented candles.
Censorship is the fastest way to turn your fan page, Twitter feed or blog into a drone-fest rather than an authentic community.
If you’re not supposed to give your fans pitch forks and torches and you’re not supposed to get your friends to manage negative comments and you’re not supposed to censor, what should you do?
The answer is simple, but it is not easy. You must take on the task of slowly and steadily building your credibility as a brand, establishing an appropriate tone in your social media outlets and fostering an engaged online community. Write posts, tweets and blogs that in some way enrich your fans through knowledge or humor. Ask questions to the community. Let them answer. Let them get to know each other.
There will always be random and hateful bad reviews and comments that don’t make the cut of being profane and worthy of deletion. When those appear, let the community self-correct.
Customer Service…Like in the Olden Days
Many negative posts are simply someone reporting a problem. See if you can provide a remedy through good old fashioned customer service.
Before I wrote my negative review of the beautician, I called and talked to the salon owner and explained what happened. Rather than offering a way to change my perception of the business – come in and let us give you a complementary manicure so you can have a positive opinion about our business – the owner simply said that she understood why I never wanted to visit her salon again. Had she made any effort to provide customer service, I probably wouldn’t have posted a negative review.
Likewise, if someone Tweets a criticism of your business, contact them. See if you can help solve the problem. You’d be surprised at how far that will get you.
I heard famed blogger Ree Drummond tell of her first negative comment: “You put cottage cheese in your lasagna? REDNECK!”
Even the Pioneer Woman herself has negative reviews and they haven’t hurt her and her three New York Times best-selling books and her life story optioned by Reese Witherspoon and her Food Network TV show.
Negative reviews and comments won’t hurt you either…but only if you handle them correctly.