Last week a bakery in Scottsdale, AZ, provided a great example of what NOT to do on social media. Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro fell victim to the power of the Internet when users on Reddit and review site Yelp started lambasting everything from their food to their perceived management tactics. But that's not the problem. The problem is how the owners of the company responded.
You can find the details of the public relations disaster that followed in many places on the Internet, but the short version is as follows: Owners Samy and Amy Bouzaglo went on the defensive – and that only fueled the fire.
Businesses will inevitably have disgruntled customers. And in the day and age of the Internet, that information can quickly spread far and wide. As a business you have every right to step in and defend yourself. But, as Forbes columnist Kelly Clay points out, there are some things you just shouldn't do.
Clay's first tip: Don't reply to everyone. "Had the Bouzaglos selectively responded to clarify the story (or even firmly defend their actions), there would likely have been much less backlash and aggression as they kept the fire going," Clay writes. Responding to every criticism – especially those from Internet "trolls" (people just looking for a fight on the Internet) – opens the door for more attacks.
Which leads to another of Clay's tips: Don't insult people. While you may disagree with what's being written, don't give into the urge to start yelling "Liar!" or "Idiot!" or any other related item. It's ineffective and unprofessional. It does nothing to actually support your stance that your brand is worth protecting.
"The biggest hang up that B-to-B companies have is they're so used to being in control," said John Sonnhalter, founder of marketing communications firm Sonnhalter in Berea, OH, in The Social Media Challenge: ROI. "They want to control the message, they want to control when it goes out; they just want that control."
And that's just not possible – online or in person, as Pamela Kan, president of the Bishop-Wisecarver Group, a manufacturer, said in a recent MDM interview.
Instead, view negative feedback as an opportunity to engage in discussions and build your brand and thought-leader position, said Bob DeStefano of SVM E-Marketing Solutions. "The most interesting conversations are the ones that have a point-counterpoint," he says. See this as an opportunity to engage with customers about how to improve the experience.
Negative comments about your company can exist on social networks even if you're not there. "You can't control what other people say," Sonnhalter said. "You can only take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the conversation rather than on the sideline."