Here are some guidelines for responding to a social media storm (or even a glitch).
Set up alerts everywhere.
An alert allows you to constantly scan for comments (good and bad) about your company. You can set up alerts with all the search engines, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. You can also use services such as Google Feed Reader, Kurrently, Twitter Search, HyperAlerts, Yelp, and others that are emerging. Enter the keywords you are looking for and the service will send you an e-mail when your name comes up.
While your focus should be on managing your reputation, you can also set up alerts for your competition and see what people are saying about them, too.
Take the conversation out of the public eye.
When you are dealing with a complaint, shift the conversation from a social media platform to a private one as soon as possible. (This is also known as “taking the conversation offline.”) Encourage the individual to contact you directly through company e-mail or telephone. You will find this approach efficient at focusing on problem solving and making decisions because there is no audience to weigh in or influence the proceedings.
Apologize and mean it.
If you mess up, admit it. People are much more willing to work alongside you if they know you are not a faceless corporate machine and there are real people who care looking after them. If you missed an order, broke something, forgot a deadline, or made a goof and someone calls you on it, step up and accept responsibility.
Develop policies about how you will respond to negative and positive comments.
People get leery about doing business with you if all they find are glowing reports and five star reviews. Don’t pay for reviews. Make sure your employees know how complaints and kudos are handled, and who they are handled by.
People sometimes complain on social media even for things they are responsible for. For example, if someone does not get a damage deposit back when they move out of an apartment, they may complain about it in social media. A policy that explains the most common reasons for people not to get a full refund (such as not cleaning the oven properly or not washing the floor underneath the fridge or stove) helps you reply without getting defensive.
Encourage people to engage positively.
Do you remember those signs that said “if you like us, tell your friends; if you don’t like us, tell me!” that used to hang in stores everywhere? You can use this approach with social media. Have a notice in your business area and on your website that says something similar: “Like us? Review us online!”
Learn from your mistakes.
In the example about United Breaks Guitars, United Airlines asked Dave Carroll if they could use his video in their training program. They were keen to learn, and not repeat, what had happened.
You are going to be the target of spam until we can come up with something absolutely brilliant to stop it from happening. In the meantime, have your moderator monitor all your pages, blog posts, and hiding holes, to remove spam posts instantly.