Surprisingly, many businesses ignore negativity towards them on social media sites, and have not adopted a diligent corporate policy to address this as part of their ongoing customer service. Social media customer service is becoming an important component of a brand’s voice and public interaction.

This is supported by a new report from eMarketer on failing to address negative social media comments, which states that nearly half of all B2C and almost 3 in 4 B2B companies do pay little attention to, or flat out ignore negative comments in social media. Here are the stats as reported by EMarketer:
A chart displaying data on how companies track their social media.

In addition, of the five leading reasons people use social media for customer service issues, four are to voice or broadcast complaints about a product or service, and one is to praise the company. Overall, about half of all social media activity mentioning companies involves customer service issues. Here’s the snapshot:
Chart displaying 5 reasons people use social media to provide good customer service.

Social Media Customer Service – Two Way Interaction

Every company with a social media presence has experienced some degree of interaction and mentions broadcast across the social platforms. Social media has become thoroughly embedded in our social fabric; it’s far too late to expect this to be a passing fad. In fact, social is spreading faster than ever. Someone who is holding a mobile phone and has a negative experience with your product can broadcast the news of the bad experience right when it happens, when it’s still fresh in the mind and that person is still upset. Fair or not, that bad news can spread rapidly and widely. Why are so many firms paying little or no attention to their reputations on social media?

Look at it this way. If someone rented a billboard for six weeks at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel to complain about your company or products, would you just shrug it off? If 60 Minutes called to ask for your side of an exposé involving your firm they were about to broadcast, would you laugh and hang up? Of course not. In each instance, you’d gather the folks from public relations, communications, customer service and legal to respond, fast.

It’s the same for reputation management and customer service within social media, except that in the social sphere, the comments and conversations aren’t just one singular event. They are ongoing. So all companies – regardless of their offerings, markets or customers – need to build this into the organization. Plans, policies and procedures should be developed and documented. Task lists and persons responsible for execution should be part of this. Tools should be incorporated to monitor interactions. Customers expressing anything problematic should be engaged with the voice established in your company policy. The conversation can often be taken off line for resolution to a happy conclusion – one that the formerly disgruntled customer will be willing to subsequently express.

Major Social Damage Control

Occasionally, it is possible for social damage to lean towards getting out of control, and the solution is above and beyond your current capability and experience. Because such social media reputation work is labor intensive, especially in the unfortunate circumstance of crisis management, there may not be enough people skilled to monitor the social chatter and engage the audience according to your policies and procedures. In this situation, staff should be added and properly trained, or outside firms that specialize in this work should be engaged. These firms may start by planning, directing and documenting the overall reputation management and social media – customer service program with company management, then performing the work and reporting to the management. Over time, company staff can learn to take on this work and the outside specialists’ scope of effort can be reduced or phased out.

Be Proactive With Your Social Media Reputation Management

Don’t wait for a crisis to take action. Plan and implement, don’t react. You learned about the proverbial ‘horse and the barn door’ a long time ago. Based on the numbers reported by EMarketer, half the firms in your category are behind the curve and taking big risks by ignoring this. Where does your firm stand?