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Crowdsourcing through social media is a common practice among consumers in our digital world. One negative review of a product or brand can shape the opinions of several hundred (or several thousand) followers and fans.

On the flip side, social media allows fans to act as brand ambassadors and boost your marketing for free. So it’s no surprise that businesses try to control and shape what customers say about them online.

A New York hotel recently instituted a policy that fines a bride $500 for each negative online review a guest in her party writes about the hotel. The hotel claims it will refund the money if the guest removes the review.

That plan backfired, becoming a case study for one of the worst social media mistakes. The hotel’s Yelp! page is currently filled with negative reviews about poor service AND its new social media policy

At Gavin, we recognize that not everyone who interacts with your brand has a positive experience. So we recommend a few things for social media complaints:

  • Monitor your platforms. Set up notifications for your social media accounts so you’re aware of new posts and comments on your Facebook wall or tweets that tag your handle.
  • Address the complaint directly. Don’t ignore, delete or try to hide negative comments, reviews or complaints. Respond in a timely manner and thank the customer for their feedback.
  • Take the conversation offline. Contact individuals with complaints directly or ask them to send you an email privately. This helps foster a relationship between the consumer and your brand, and keeps negative conversations out of the spotlight.
  • Be honest. Transparency goes a long way toward building relationships. If your hotel is rustic or historic and offers fewer amenities, be upfront about it. Explain why those qualities are near and dear to your heart as a business owner — you may win over a Negative Nancy with the building’s charming backstory.

Swiftly addressing complaints on social media can easily turn a negative experience into a positive interaction — and, often, create a brand ambassador for life.