How to Manage Comments in Social Media

Today, customers have more channels than ever before to interact with your company.
Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, local listings and review sites, such as Yelp—even your own blog—give customers ample opportunity to praise or slam you—and it’s all out in the open.
The question is, Do you have guidelines for your employees to effectively handle the comments?
Or are these very public forums subject to the mood of whatever person is manning the social media that day?
It’s appropriate—in fact, it’s essential—that you interact with customers and prospects when they reach out to you. These platforms are where you put your money where your mouth is. It’s easy to slap a tagline like Our customers come first! on your website—but do you actually demonstrate this when they’re begging for help?

Social media guidelines

The following guidelines will help you craft your social media interaction guidebook (or whatever you decide to call it).
When positive comments or reviews appear, thank the person and provide additional comments as necessary. For example, We’re glad you had a positive experience with us and hope to see you again soon!
When negative comments appear, it’s best to use discretion when responding. Follow this plan to respond in a professional manner:

Be calm before you craft a response. Showing anger or frustration can potentially start a “flame war” that will make you and your company look bad.

Gather as many facts about the complaint as you possibly can. This will allow you to show that you care about the problem and would like to resolve it.

If the person has a legitimate complaint, answer from a customer-service-oriented position and find a way to help the person.

Note: Sometimes people just want to start problems and badmouth companies because they are carrying a grudge or just like to be internet “trolls.” You will usually be able to spot these people because they are not making a specific complaint, but instead are making general, negative comments that you cannot help them with in that moment. In these situations it’s usually best to not respond at all.

Forums, rating sites, and review sites

Sites like Topix, Consumer Reports, ComplaintWire, and Consumerist are open forums and review sites that allow people to say practically anything they want. Though the content is frustrating and, in many cases, outdated and wrong, I recommend against posting any type of response or comment. Why?

The search engines (Google, Bing) are the main reason you should not post anything on forums. Search engines are always looking for fresh content, and whenever a comment is made on a forum, it then “refreshes” the content and sends a signal to the search engines that this issue, whether it’s positive or negative, is still alive and should continue to rank high.

Consider this: Even if every person went to a post that originally started as negative and now started posting all positive comments, the original negative content would still be posted and ranking in the search engines.

For these reasons, it’s best to not engage on the forums and review sites.

Whatever strategy you take to work with social media and forums, the need for company guidelines is paramount. Document your social media performance and share the situations and resolutions so everyone in your organization can learn. Remember, it’s your reputation on the line.