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  • 20 March 2014
  • Dr Billy M.

Small business social media management: You can handle the truth

In an increasingly digital world in which your small business interacts with existing and potential customers over the Internet, having a social media presence is a must. You have to leverage social media, and the key to success with social media management for any business boils down to teaching your audience something new.

Your social media strategy should plant a conversation among consumers about your business, products, or services so that they are favorably disposed or driven to your business website. It should also place emphasis on teaching your audience something.

Keep a pulse on what users are saying — good or bad — about your business, competitors, and major trends.

What is social media management?
In today's social media landscape, it has become easier for people to engage, interact, and collaborate with businesses on various levels, whether it's giving feedback, learning new ideas, or even purchasing products through special online promotions. As you further engage your audience, the volume of your conversations is bound to rise, becoming a challenge to track effectively.

Social media management is about having a system in place that will monitor, filter, contribute to, measure, and guide your social media presence, akin to managing a community website forum. You should have personnel who can devote some time to help you manage outbound and incoming online interactions, along with other marketing activities, efficiently.

The objective of social media management is to streamline and consolidate the way your company listens to and participates in conversations on various social networking platforms, including blogs. By monitoring what people are saying about your business, you can automate the process of simultaneously delivering your outgoing messages on the various social media outlets, amplifying your social media presence.

Feedback: Should you care?

Social media is like word-of-mouth on steroids. It is vital that you tap into and join online conversations about your business, your industry, and your areas of expertise, as well as those of your competitors. Keep a pulse on what users are saying — good or bad — about your business, competitors, and major trends. Your outbound social media strategy should focus on representing your business in a positive, authentic fashion to build credibility for your business and link to customers and prospects quickly.

Although there will be a wealth of information in the feedback you receive from current and future customers, not every comment received is going to be useful. Social media management will enhance the way you get your arms around the many-headed social media Hydra that can often get nasty when negative conversations about your business emerge.

You can handle the truth

Be prepared to handle negative feedback. Often, this type of feedback is an opportunity to grow. For instance, you can learn something that customers want changed regarding your product or service. As part of your social media strategy, evaluate remarks carefully and figure out how to react to negative comments swiftly and appropriately.

Have a clear-cut reaction plan that includes damage-control procedures to ensure that the issue is addressed quickly and effectively. Again, like word-of-mouth on steroids, unhappy or dissatisfied customers, disgruntled employees, and even false feedback can damage your business reputation in no time.

Address potentially false comments that may skew opinions about your business and lead to brand damage. By streamlining and integrating customer interactions, you can steer the discussion in a constructive and informative manner.

Here are some suggestions for handling negative comments:

  • Don't delete negative feedback unless it contains inappropriate language or lewd comments.
  • Don't respond defensively. This will likely initiate a battle with the audience.
  • Don't ignore negative feedback. Treat the conversation as you would on a telephone call. Your customer service representative wouldn't hang up on a complaining customer, right?
  • Determine whether the feedback has some truth to it. Stay calm, manage your ego, and acknowledge the feedback. If the customer has a legitimate complaint, genuinely and publicly apologize. You may then take the conversation offline and offer a solution.
  • If you consider a comment as slightly misguided or if, in your view, the feedback is only partially true, acknowledge the error or mistake and offer apologies. Try to correct any misinformation. You may respond to the source offline and provide a solution.
  • If the feedback is outright wrong, far from the truth, or just a perceived dissatisfaction, acknowledge the comment and write a general apology. Try to get more details offline. If it is highly subjective and nasty, avoid getting emotionally involved in the opinion, but use it to improve customer relations and demonstrate compassion for those customers who are upset.

As a general rule, walk in the customer's shoes and make it easy for them to give their feedback. Be transparent when addressing their concerns. Done right, social media sites can help you better understand prospective and existing customer needs. They can also increase your visibility and generate leads.

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