I was recently shocked to read a business owner complain on Facebook about representatives from a charity who visited his storefront requesting a gift certificate donation. He explained that when he asked the women if they had ever patronized his establishment, they replied no. Following their visit, he went on to tell his 2,000+ Facebook followers that he could not believe these women had the nerve to ask a business they did not patronize for a donation.
Though he may have had a very good point, there was surely a better way to express his opinion than complaining about two volunteers to customers, colleagues and friends. Instead, he could have shared with the women that although he would like to donate to their charity, first and foremost, he supports his patrons’ causes. In turn, hopefully they would become customers and return again with their request.
His response did not open the door for any relationship, but rather accelerated a mob mentality where some of his followers joined him in berating the two women in a string of Facebook comments that inevitably turned off some people, including myself. Instead, the business owner could have posted a comment on Facebook announcing that he welcomes his customers to visit any time to request donations for their upcoming charity events, and that although he would like to support all the hardworking volunteers that visit his establishment, he cannot afford to donate to every charity. This would have turned what he perceived as a bad experience into a positive one, getting his point across, but also seizing the opportunity to highlight his generosity in the community.
Sadly , this negative behavior is not uncommon on Facebook as the social site has become a place to rant and rave to friends and fans. Are the dozens of friends supporting your rants worth the one person turned off by your negativity?
A survey shared by Hulafrog from 360PR and Mom It Forward found that 53% of moms often refer friends to brands, products and services on social media. One mom is all it takes to tarnish your reputation in the local community. Can you please everyone? No; but, you can take the necessary steps to safeguard your reputation.
In an effort to save you from your own social snafus, here are inBLOOM Communication’s three Best Practices for safeguarding your business on Social Media:
1. DON’T BE A BULLY.
With all the campaigns working to teach children how to respect each other on the web, it’s high time the message is shared with adults. Never use your business or personal social media accounts as platforms to voice your negative opinions of customers and colleagues. Word travels very fast on social media, and turning one person off could quickly mean turning off thousands in only a matter of minutes. Your brand’s online reputation counts on you and your employees to act in courteous and professional manners, both in-person and on social media. Many large companies are creating Social Media Policies to reinforce the behavior they expect from their employees in the office as well as online. Many are easily found from a quick Google search and small business owners can tweak their policies for personal use. Lisa Buyer of Search Engine Watch offers great advice and recommended resources in her article “How to Avoid PR Disaster with a Social Media Policy.”
2. EARN AND GIVE RESPECT.
Respecting your fans’ privacy is essential to maintaining business integrity. Never mention names in pictures without their permission. A quick email or message asking for permission on Facebook will suffice.
Focus on the positive. When negative comments are posted on your page, respond quickly and be courteous. It’s often better to show others that you can respond to negativity in an appropriate manner, then to delete the comment completely. Use your discretion; if posts are profane or hurtful, delete them immediately.
You can also ask questions. Use social media as an opportunity to get to know your fans and then you can market to their direct interests and needs. This will gain you respect as a business owner who listens and understands the local community. Simple ways you can show respect and admiration for your social media followers and fans is to share news about their local charity events and happenings.
Additionally, if your customers love a certain service or product, be sure to thank them for being a loyal supporter on Facebook by posting a pic or comment and they will get into the groove of doing the same. My son and I recently visited the Salad Shack in Long Branch, NJ and they always make my son his very own smoothie blend of grapes, blueberries and apples. They named the drink after him and posted the recipe on their chalk board for the day. My son and I were so thrilled that I shared an Instagram of him proudly and his juice on their Facebook timeline. Simple acts of kindness are appreciated and social media sites are great places to share the love.
3. HAVE FUN.
Never forget that social media was developed to help people share information, stay connected and have fun. Social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are wonderful tools to help you promote your business. You can advertise your offerings and personality, 24 hours a day, through comments, pictures, graphics and networking. It’s essential that you and your social media manager enjoy posting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, snapping pics on Instagram, and pinning on Pinterest. It’s not a chore, it’s a privilege to represent a business and speak open and honestly to the people who love and use its products or services.