Honesty and Social Engagement

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Stephen Boidock, Director of Social Media, Drumroll

Consumers often criticize companies for skewing their social media accounts to only show positive comments, but we all know that the view through rose-colored glasses isn’t always the most honest one. As social media and its users mature, have we come to a place where brands should finally behave more like human beings and admit when they’re wrong? What should brands do to be more honest vs. acting more authentic, and is such a thing even in their best interests? What’s the impact and expectation for the consumer?

A brand’s relationship with a consumer is no different from any other.  Once you lose someone’s trust, it is tough to get it back.  And with the new generations growing up in an era that encourages transparency, it is more important than ever to be straight forward with your customers, and provide a forum for them to give feedback to you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you roll out your strategic social media and communications program that will result in strong relationships and lead to continued sales and success.

1. Are your customers’ posts legitimate concerns or mindless trolling?

In many cases, negative comments and fan concerns are legitimate issues that should be addressed, however occasionally there are people who seek attention through spewing venom. Make sure that the concern is in fact substantiated before engaging the fan.

2. Is honesty one of your brand’s core philosophies?

Hopefully your brand embraces the idea that “honesty is good policy.” Not every fan interaction needs to be handled in plain view, but trying to hide negative comments is a shady practice that attempts to ignore potentially brand-killing issues. The best influencer strategy is an exceptional customer experience. Make sure that your brand is open to honest conversations with fans – if not, you may reconsider your company’s values.

3. Can the issue be solved by community managers?

80% of the time, community managers can help the fans find an answer or resolution. Some issues though, are a result of an ongoing operational or experiential deterrent that will continue to surface if not addressed at a company-level.

Things to keep in mind:

1. Embrace the space

One of the best things about handling negative comments in social is that you have an opportunity to resolve the issue in public. If other fans see the negative comments and then see your brand show up as the hero, it can actually do more good than harm. Another great by-product of social is that it holds brands more accountable than they’ve been in the past. If you think you can sweep problems under the rug like you used to, think again.

2. Always avoid street fights

On the flip side, because of the public nature of social, avoid getting into a large back-and-forth argument with the fan. Even if you’re right about the issue, other fans will see it as a big company trying to bully someone. For more sensitive topics, respond to the comment thread once (so everyone can see you’re not ignoring the issue) and then take the rest of the conversation offline.

3. Be human

Every brand (and brand page) is run by people. Each person is working to reinforce the brand principles that are essential to your company. That said, each person who engages fans in social channels is also adding a human element to the interaction. If your crisis management responses are too canned and templates, you will lose a key benefit of social media – the opportunity to humanize a brand and make even the worst experiences more manageable. Brands who attempt to hide negative fan feedback are not only going to appear less authentic in the short-term, but also should expect longer pitfalls as a result. If you want customers to stop writing bad things about your brand, improve your brand.