What To Do With Social Media Backlash (Our Company is Hated on Yelp)

(Inspired by and excerpts taken from an article written by Brian Conlin)

Some negative reviews are legitimate, but a growing number of hateful posts are more about the poster than the business being attacked.  Haters are attacking businesses on social media and customer review sites for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a service or product.  At times it becomes adult cyber bullying.

It is happening all of the time and it’s more than a nuisance. It can hurt your brand, your reputation, and cause a loss of customers.  Depending on the severity it can adversely affect employee morale.

Here are eight steps for dealing with online criticism:

1. Know the troublemakers

– Trolls – Individuals who create havoc for fun and thrive on emotional reactions.

– Sock puppets – People assuming a false identity for the purpose of entertainment.

– Defamers ­– Users who spread false information as a statement of fact.

– Difficult people – People who act thoughtlessly or want to put you in your place, often using aggressive language.

2. Listen, listen, listen

When someone attacks your business and work, it is easy to become defensive. Give your full attention to what the person says without thinking of your response. If you craft a response while listening, you may miss the tone of the message.

3. Do you need to respond?

Just because someone publishes a negative tweet about your company or product doesn’t mean you have to respond. Use past experience to determine if it’s worth your time. If you do respond, consider what type of resources to use to address the issue.

4. Determine who to engage

When faced with multiple problems, you should perform triage and respond to the ones that have the greatest potential to damage your brand first.

Before responding attempt to summarize the problem as succinctly as possible, write down who is involved and examine the timeline of when the negative comments began. Organizing this will help you determine how to respond.

How to handle online criticism depends greatly upon where the criticism is coming from.

5. Ask open-ended questions

When faced with a perceived attack on your brand, you should suspend judgment until you understand the point of the other side. Get to the bottom of the issue by asking open-ended questions.

6. Know your anger triggers

By understanding what comments and topics make you upset, you will be more likely to keep cool and remain nimble and clear-headed as you handle the situation.

7. Research the troublemaker

Review the blog, social networks and any other information you can find about the troublemaker. This will help you determine that person’s conflict style and what type of outcome they want to create with their comments.

8. Look internally

Look at your company’s history to determine if this is the first time the problem has arisen or the group complaining. If your company has dealt with similar problems in the past it can show you what to do or what not to do when resolving the situation.

Sometimes complaints are recurring problem are a great way to identify issues within our company that need to be explored and corrected.  With these corrections we improve and grow stronger.  An important point to be made here is the we ALL have some kind of issue(s) that need to be corrected.  If you believe otherwise then I recommend a reality check.  Nevertheless, almost any attack can reach resolution or turned into a positive outcome.  A perfect example was a group of businesses that got together and formed an association “We’re Hated on Yelp.”  They evident sense of humor brought in new customers.

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Just Because You Want Publicity Does Not Mean You Should Have Publicity

Everyone wants publicity for their products and services. But just because they want it does not mean they should get it. There are a lot of questions everyone should ask themselves before seeking publicity.

First, you must ensure that what you have really is as fantastic as you think it is. If it’s not and you get press coverage then the end result can be devastating. Secondly, you must have some kind of angle. What you do or what you have is not always enough. You must be able to position it in a way that explains how your product will make a significant different to the end-users (media viewers or readers). You need to start with a marketing plan so you know HOW to promote.

What aspect of your product makes it totally different from the competition, and focus
only on that when you talk to the press. You cannot promote price or quality as the differentiating factor. You have to have an angle the entices the media, which isn’t easy. Keep in mind that they receive press releases and pitches all day, every day. How are you TRULY different and how can you entice media in one or two sentences? Also, make sure you pitch to the correct media, do not throw it out to everyone and see what sticks. Determine what magazines, newspapers, and other media sources are watched or read by your potential customers and pitch to them.

Getting press coverage is not easy. There is a reason that publicists are among the best paid individuals in Los Angeles. You can leverage your chances by affiliating yourself with a nonprofit charity. The press are more apt to report about a commercial product if part of the proceeds benefit a charity. Find a qualified organization that matches the purpose of your product. Several years ago I was tasked with getting attention for a children’s art exhibition with the theme “A Child’s Dream.” It was fascinating to the children and their parents, but few others took interest. I had the idea to work with Starlight Children’s Foundation. We would create an auction that would benefit this organization. A quiet little reception became a red carpet event with Disney stars making appearances and posing for photographs with the young artists. It was an evening that neither Starlight or I could have put together without each other.

The lesson here is to ensure that what you’re selling truly is remarkable. When it’s time for publicity put yourself in the position of the press. Give them something to write about that will interest their viewers.