laptop_280Facebook is fantastic.  Well, with some 750 million accounts worldwide that would appear to be the consensus?  And now that there’s over 2 million of those accounts in Ireland alone, is it not time to at least look at it?

So, as a business what’s stopping you from taking the plunge and starting your very first facebook campaign?

By and large the reasons we come across include;

  • Resources – most commonly the staff to manage the page
  • Technical skills
  • Content, or lack of content to be more specific
  • Managers not being particularly familiar with social networking
  • A belief that it’s a fad!
  • Fear of what the customers will say!!

And if you’ve ticked the last one, you’re most definitely not alone.  Many businesses are watching from the sidelines, considering a presence on Facebook but worried about what the customers may say.  And by that we mean, they’re worried about the negative comments they may receive, but what about the positive ones you’re missing out on?

With every business, regardless of industry or company size there will always at some point be a disgruntled customer. On the flip side of that however, those same businesses would not exist if there were more unhappy than happy customers would they?

Social media is a fantastic opportunity to tell the world how great you are, to enjoy real feedback from your customers – and potential customers.  A chance to genuinely drive your business forward, positively and with a customer focus.  After all, social media is about engagement, interaction and communicating with customers in a way that traditional marketing will never compete with.  Traditionally you just told the customer about what you had to sell whereas with the web and social media in particular, if you’re not giving the customer what they want they won’t be long about voting – with a click of a mouse.

Many businesses don’t like the idea of discussing problems with unhappy customers publicly, but this can be turned to your advantage as we all know that no matter how brilliant a service or product there can always be an isolated incident and instead of a customer simply telling all and sundry why they’d never use your business again behind your back, you may get the opportunity to resolve it to their satisfaction with another set of customers judging if you are are fair, or responsible in dealing with difficult situations.

So, how do you deal effectively with customers, businesses, competitors or even staff who may post unfavourable or even untrue comments to your facebook wall?

  • Never ignore – if you think by posting a new update and simply pushing the comment further down the wall nobody will notice, you are wrong.  They will and depending on how engaged your fans are with your business, some might even point out that you seem to have missed it.  And the poster will be expecting a reply so it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to ask again, and again, and again.  At this point your audience will have somewhat grown…
  • Do not delete – this would apply to comments that are not likely to cause legal issues or pose a risk of liable to persons, brands or businesses, or that do not involve the use of inappropriate language.  Deleting a comment irks the poster, potentially their family or friends too who will quite possibly have seen the post in the first place and be watching for your response.  And even those who aren’t friends with the original poster could quite easily pick up on it via social media – news travels fast, particularly if it’s bad news or gossip!
  • Avoid a row – a comment relating to poor service may be dealt with by means of an apology and depending on the scale of the difficulty may warrant an off-line chat to resolve.  If however a customer complains that she was waiting 20 mins for service in your restaurant and you respond by saying that certainly wasn’t the case, you’ll find that poster and others in your community may take the complainers side.  On the other hand, an apology with an assurance that this isn’t the norm may well encourage other fans to re-confirm their positive experiences.
  • Remain professional – when you are close to the page i.e. the manager of the page, or perhaps the owner of a small business doing their best, it can feel like a personal attack when you receive a comment that feels unfair.  The complaint relates to an area of your business and perhaps the comment was warranted.  If so, you’ve got the opportunity to potentially win that customer back – and others if you deal with it correctly.
  • Deal with offensive comments in a timely but efficient manner – a comment with expletives may well be the posters everyday language but it’s not for your facebook page.  Post a comment to advise X that their comment has been removed because of inappropriate language and let them know that they are welcome to re-post or email you without aforementioned language and you will engage with them.
  • Pre-empt likely problems by communicating first.  If a story relating to your business is about to break in the media you’ll have quite possibly briefed the staff on what to do or what not to do in relation to customers or press. Put a plan in place for social media at the same time, ideally posting an update no matter how unpleasant before your customers have time to vent their anger or frustration at your page first if it’s an unpleasant story – and have somebody monitor the page carefully for feedback.  If the news however is positive, post the update just as it’s breaking elsewhere as it’s nice to let your social media community feel that they’re important enough to get the news direct from you.
  • Deal with competitors – you may come across competitors who are quite prepared to do pretty much anything to get your fans attention.  If you ask a question and they fairly and reasonably join in a conversation, don’t remove immediately because of who they are.  You may decide to engage with them, often it’s enough to let them know you’re watching them.  If however you find they’re telling customers untruths or that their prices are better for example, you’re within your rights to remove them, maybe even block them from your page if needs be.   And although we may not need to remind you, never discuss or dismiss a competitor no matter what your opinion!
  • Carefully select the right staff – the best facebook marketing, as with all other marketing comes with a plan.  A plan on the format, style of posts, language to be used and even on occasion a themed campaign.  With the best will in the world, opening your facebook page up to all the staff as admins can lead to clutter, multiple posts, different styles of post, varying levels of success and at the customer side, confusion.  Very few pages needs 20 admins (well unless you’re a multi-national with hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans!), stick with 4-5 at most that you trust to manage it fairly and professionally.  Encourage non-admin staff to engage in conversations, but they should identify themselves as members of the team at X company as the community may well spot it anyway.
  • Don’t engage in fan wars – with all marketing quality is more important than quantity and if you set a target of beating your competitor or hitting 5,000 in the first six months you are likely to be disappointed.  You are also quite likely to irritate customers if you post too often or try too hard to keep their attention – and fans will click unlike or even tell you that’s they’ve had enough!  If you want to see positive reactions on your facebook wall, don’t annoy them by trying too hard.
  • Ask an expert – if you’re uncomfortable with posting and responding to comments for fear of confrontation or time commitments, ask somebody who works with social media everyday for help.  A good social media marketer can train you to effectively manage the page yourself, can arrange to be there for back-up when you’ve got a problem or indeed manage the page for you based around an agreed theme.  Often customers want to do it for themselves but that initial first update or post to a limited audience can be daunting, so a second opinion helps.

Social Media is a fantastic tool and in comparison to other forms of marketing, it’s reasonably inexpensive too with the largest single commitment being the human resources you allocate to it.  It can lead to wonderful new opportunities in markets you may otherwise not have reached, so it’s good to explore it.

If you need advice on how to deal with Social Media, Marketing or any of the issues listed in this post, the author who has communicated with thousands of people via Social Media can be contacted at debbie@themarketingshop.ie or check out our website www.themarketingshop.ie for more information.


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