Date yourself. Think back to your younger years and the excitement, along with anxiety, you felt on your first day of school each year. You think about your friends and favorite teachers you’re excited to see, but you worry about those you haven’t met yet. “What if they don’t like me?” you worry, “what if they say something mean?”

Brands can be hesitant to open up social conversations in fear of receiving criticism. However, in a time when 81% of people claim a friend’s social post has directly influenced his or her purchase decision, brands cannot afford to sit on the sideline.

It’s important for brands to utilize their advocates via social to drive awareness and sales, regardless of potential criticism. Consumers typically post about and review products online to inform their networks and like-minded shoppers, not to attack brands. However, in the event that a negative post surfaces, here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” to keep in mind:

Know what people are saying about you

Do:

Know what people are saying about you. It’s important to be aware of what people are saying about your brand online. Stay on top of posts related to your brand by setting up a Google Alert or using a social media monitoring platform, such as Radian6. If you are executing a consumer influencer program, visibility and transparency are key. Make sure you can follow what your influencers and advocates are saying. Following social conversations about your brand allows you to take appropriate action in a timely manner.

Respond quickly. Consumers who take the time to leave a post on your social media profiles, whether it is positive or negative, yearn to be heard. It’s important to show them you care by acknowledging their comments or concerns in a timely manner. Ignoring posts or forgetting to respond can cause consumers to feel neglected. In the event that the concern is too complicated or serious to respond to immediately, kindly respond to the comment asking the consumer to contact you in a more private manner, allowing you time to find an appropriate solution.

Have a plan. Whether you’re managing your brand’s social properties or you’re executing a consumer influencer program, always have a plan in place. It’s important to proactively create a list of common complaints and questions consumers have about your brand and craft responses to each.

Accept responsibility. Apologizing for poor service or a flaw in a product can improve customer rapport with your brand. Consumers appreciate ownership of mistakes, and admitting fault publicly in direct response to comments shows them your dedication to improving their brand experience. According to a recent study, 95% of unhappy customers will return as long as the issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.

Delete crude, off-topic comments. Although honesty is the best policy, it’s not necessary to allow offensive comments. When activating brand advocates and consumer influencers, always make sure you detail what they can and cannot say. You should encourage authentic conversation, but you shouldn’t have any tolerance for comments that involve inappropriate language or content. Have a zero-tolerance policy stated somewhere on your social profile to give consumers a fair warning that inappropriate comments will be removed.

Don't Delete constructive negative posts on your social media pages

Don’t:

Delete constructive negative posts on your social media pages.  Deleting negative social posts or reviews can cause consumers to become suspicious of your brand’s credibility and honesty. Ninety-five percent of consumers become wary of a brand or product when there aren’t any negative reviews present. Mixed reviews allow consumers to weigh the pros and cons prior to purchase and make an informed decision. A mix of positive and negative reviews adds credibility to your company’s product and shows consumers you don’t have anything to hide.

Offer empty apologies. As mentioned previously, people who create posts desire a response. If a consumer is taking the time to reach out to you or to post about you, it’s courteous to take the time to come up with an adequate solution. Robotic, generic responses don’t give consumers the satisfaction of knowing that you value their business.

Respond with a similar attitude. Customer complaints may include sarcasm, condescension or other negative tones, but it’s important not to mirror them in your response. Remember the age-old saying “the customer is always right.” Consumer posts on your social pages should be treated like any other customer service comment or concern; be polite, honest and sincere when responding.

Thing to Keep in Mind

Things to Keep in Mind

77% of online shoppers refer to ratings and reviews before making a purchase. Customers turn to product reviews to gain confidence in their purchase decisions. Reading a negative review won’t necessarily turn a customer away forever; it may encourage him or her to shop around your site for alternatives. In essence, consumers aren’t entirely concerned with the sentiment of social posts and reviews, but rather whether or not they are available.

Do be confident in your brand’s ability to handle negative posts; don’t let uncertainty prevent you from missing out on opportunities sparked by social conversations.