Social media can be a wonderful tool for business, enabling business owners to connect with their customers on a personal level and providing a free way to reach a global audience. However, social media also has the potential to ruin reputations and destroy businesses. A few disgruntled customers could, effectively, launch a damaging campaign to discredit the reputation of your business, encouraging other people to jump on the bandwagon and air their grievances through social media. This type of campaign often starts with one individual, but can then escalate as other people add their opinions to the original complaint. If the situation is handled badly by the business, the consequences can be devastating. Bad publicity can cause a great deal of damage to businesses, but there are things you can do to recover and rebuild your reputation.
Prevent further escalation
As soon as you become aware of negative comments or bad publicity, you need to take steps to prevent further escalation of the situation. Caught early enough, a tense situation can be defused before the damage becomes irreparable. If you can isolate the first person to post negative comments about your business, try talking to them about the problem. If they have a genuine grievance with your business, products or services, take all necessary steps to fix the problem and offer some form of recompense, an apology or other appropriate course of action.
In many cases, bad publicity is the result of a genuine complaint from an unhappy customer. Often, if one person is unhappy with the quality of a product or service, other customers may have similar feelings. Listening to what people are saying about your business is essential, especially when you are trying to avoid bad publicity. If customers feel that their concerns are not being listened to, they may use social media to vent their frustration. Read the complaints and be honest with yourself about whether or not they have a genuine reason for their attack.
Respond publicly to genuine criticism
Ignoring genuine criticism is apt to cause even more problems, as the complainants will likely feel that they are being ignored. It is important to let your customers know that you are listening to their concerns and that you care about their worries. Responding publicly to any complaints will show your customers that their concerns are being taken seriously, while also demonstrating that you are trying to fix the problem. Stay calm and professional when responding to criticism and always avoid being drawn in to any kind of personal argument.
Treat personal correspondence as if it were public
In some cases, it may be appropriate to contact complainants privately, rather than making a public statement. Always remember, however, that your private emails, telephone calls or other correspondence could be released in to the public domain. Remain calm and professional at all times, and never say anything that could reflect badly on your business.
Be honest and open
Honesty and openness is the key to rebuilding your reputation after bad publicity. You must show that you are being transparent in your business dealings and customer interactions, as this is the only way to rebuild the trust between your business and your customers. If necessary, admit to your failings, apologise for your mistakes and offer some kind of compensation, monetary or otherwise, to those affected by the problem.
Ignore inflammatory comments
Sometimes, people post negative or inflammatory comments for no other reason than to cause trouble. There is very little you can do about these types of comment, except to ignore them. Responding to messages that are designed to cause trouble will only lead to more problems.