A mishandled social post can have calamitous consequences.

By Rich Lindblom

The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent …

I’d like to share a cautionary tale about a dealer I know. He spent a lot of time, money and effort trying to create engaging posts, boosting them, holding contests, and promoting his company’s Facebook page over a period of about three years. And given the size of the business, I would say the effort was very effective, attracting over 3,000 Facebook followers. 

Unfortunately, those three years of hard work were rendered totally useless in less than one hour.

Why?  Because of a single instance of poor customer service. 

An employee mishandled what should have been a simple customer complaint on Facebook, and the customer took offense to it.  Within an hour the dealer had over twenty negative reviews on the page and his company’s approval rating shrank from a 4.7 to a 1.7.  It seems this one unhappy customer had a bunch of friends absolutely blast the business, accusing it of all kinds of negative things including racism and worse. 

Sadly, it didn’t matter that none of those people were customers or that they had no right to say those things, because as the old State Farm catchphrase goes, “I saw it on the Internet so it must be true.” Once those accusations show up in a review of your company or on a social media site, people just assume they’re true. 

The dealer tried to do damage control, but it was of no use, and when some of his own customers started commenting on the negative reviews, he had no choice but to shut down the Facebook page. All because an employee simply mishandled a post on a social media website.

The problem today is that everyone is brave behind the protection of their keyboard and people are very quick to say things online that they wouldn’t dare say to your face.  And like I said, once it’s there, it’s there forever regardless of its veracity.

So, what can you do about it?  I’ve put together a ten-step guide for dealing with negative social media posts and reviews that will hopefully spare you from a social media nightmare like my dealer acquaintance went through:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Don’t take personal offense to the words you are reading.
  3. If you can’t do Nos. 1 and 2, then hand off the task of responding to someone in your company who can.
  4. Wait before responding. Take an hour or two before you do. All too often your first choice of words is not the best choice. 
  5. Make sure you have let all the anger and frustration out before clicking that “send” or “submit” button.  And before you click it, re-read your response one more time just to be sure.
  6. Don’t get defensive in your response because it never comes off well.
  7. Apologize sincerely.
  8. Accept responsibility.
  9. Ask the customer to take the conversation offline. No one else needs to hear your dirty laundry. You are far more likely to resolve the situation privately.
  10. And if you can arrive at a positive outcome, you have not only avoided a potential public relations disaster, you have also probably won back a customer that you were in danger of losing.

The bottom line is that with the power of social media today, one poorly worded response from you or one of your employees could end up costing your company a lot of money and customers.

So do yourself a favor and think before you click!

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I’ve done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know if you agree. Write me at egvrich@gmail.com.