Knowing how to navigate a negative situation can save you from a very public social media meltdown. The best way to do that is through preparation.
Rather than waiting for a social media blunder, take action, and put a plan in place. Because a business operating without social media guidelines is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Assess the Situation
While social media disasters need a quick response, not all negative feedback requires a reply. Identify those who are directly affected and work through them as fast as possible.
As we often see on social media, many naysayers tend to "pile on" when there's negative conversation happening online. Be careful not to engage in a losing battle.
Maintain Control of Your Emotions
Dealing with a social media disaster can take a toll on your emotions. And for many, defending the company is an instant response. Before penning a response, choose to be in control of you, your emotions, the emotional climate of the situation, and your actions.
Self-control is the key to winning over an angry customer and eventually, coming to a peaceful resolution.
Don't let the desire to "win the argument" in that moment overtake you.
Acknowledge the Negative Feedback
There's nothing worse than watching a negative situation unfold on social media, other than watching a one-sided conversation play out because no one at the company level was listening. Don't let that be you.
As you respond, make sure to acknowledge how the person is feeling and empathize with the current situation. In other words, no matter the size of your company, be human, feel their pain, and do it in a transparent way.
Brian Honigman, Owner of Honigman Media, suggests that honesty truly is the best policy. "Craft a genuine apology and share it with your audience." He goes on to warn that a blanket or standard response is the wrong tactic.
"If you're receiving a lot of messages related to the crisis, address each of them personally. Too many businesses go silent or send the same generic, emotionless response to every message they receive during a disaster, which doesn't make things any better."
Keep the Conversation Focused
It's important to focus the conversation on the real problem as opposed to a perceived issue. Understand clearly what's transpired and how your company is working to rectify or eliminate it from happening again.
Mike Allton, Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell, says this is where he see's many companies land in hot water. "It's easy to know when you're in trouble, but difficult to know why you're in trouble. Take a few moments to get to the root of the issue. Your response will be more appropriate and better received."
Always Work to Find a Resolution
Everybody has a bad day, but remember this: you have the ability to turn that around. Both in the words you say and the ones you don't.
Sometimes your customer is angry because they feel slighted. It could be that no one has responded to a previous tweet or post. But oftentimes they're venting because it's been a bad day or week, and what happened with your company was the last straw.
When you respond, be informative. Take the time to reiterate the situation and share how you're solving the problem.
Include details with no obfuscation. Be apologetic about what's happened with specific details on timeline or resolution.
Over Communicate (and Always Follow Up)
While saying the right thing is important, updating the customer regularly on what's happening is just as important.
Don't forget to circle back around to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever the initial conversation took place.
In the end, know that every disaster has its price. You won't be able to save each customer after a social media disaster. But you can proactively decide on how your company will manage expectations and provide the highest level of customer care, no matter the situation.