Social Media Do’s and Don’ts via Amy’s Baking Company

Earlier this year, Amy’s Baking Company of Scottsdale, Ariz., gave the world a free lesson in small business social media technique. Their extreme counterexample went viral as a result of their negative appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” television program; their subsequent all-caps ranting on their own social media sites was cited as “The Most Epic Brand Meltdown On Facebook Ever” by Buzzfeed. (Yes, that link includes screenshots of some objectionable statements.)

It can be difficult to show restraint when your hard work is criticized in a no-holds-barred forum by an anonymous writer. Yet it remains important to not embarrass yourself to any degree in your own Internet space, much less to the degree demonstrated by the above restaurant owners.

Here are 10 tips on how to handle a negative review or comment:

1.      Understand that you cannot be all things to all people, so it’s okay for someone to be upset every now and then. No business has a 100% satisfaction record. If constructive criticism is offered, respond thankfully and indicate the advice will be considered (even if it won’t). If there’s no substance to act on in the complaint, you can be apologetic about a negative experience and solicit details about how your company can do better. Main point: Exhibit concern.

2.      Always respond professionally. Yes, it should be obvious. But sometimes, turning the other cheek can be difficult when insults are severe or personal. Unprofessional remarks are not acceptable, and do not go away.

3.      Leave emotion at the door. Do not antagonize or belittle the person commenting; that will only add fuel to the fire. As the Amy’s situation exhibited, bad situations gather more onlookers, who may start to participate themselves.

4.      Take the conversation off of the social sphere and into real life. Ask them to email you or call you so you can discuss a solution. This has two advantages: It takes any further anger-spewing offline, and it exhibits attention to and an interest in the customer’s concerns.

5.      Don’t be defensive. Social media is an avenue to build relationships with your customers, so be understanding and empathetic when talking with them in person. There are ways to explain your perspective without passing blame or discounting the opinions of others.

6.      Wrap it up online. Once you have settled on a resolution, follow-up with an online comment to suggest a satisfactory resolution has occurred on the original thread. Do not be specific in your statement to avoid the “me too” syndrome, but acknowledge the agreement. Potential customers want to see that concerns are not ignored.

7.      Not every complaint has a solution. If there is no resolution and the customer leaves, it’s not a disaster. Tell them you are sorry for their troubles and that you will take their feedback to heart.

8.      Every interaction is a chance to improve. Learn from these instances and apply your knowledge to better your product and business model.

9.      Be honest. After finally figuring out how awfully they’d handled the situation, the people behind Amy’s Baking Company posted that their “Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked” and that “We did not post those horrible things.” You want to put yourself in situations where you can stand by everything you say. But even if you manage to slip, don’t pretend you didn’t.

10.  Sometimes, you have to concede. Some online statements simply don’t merit responses. Often, you can’t get out of someone what their complaint is, only a torrent of insults. If you’ve demonstrated an effort to help, and that is all you can do, accept that. If it seems any further comment will only draw more fire, then let it go.

With these thoughts in mind, you can tread more safely into the minefield of social engagement.


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