Addressing the Ugly Side of Social Media

By Bob Mason (@BobMasonPalio)

While social media has broken down barriers enabling easy and fast two-way communication between businesses and customers, its not without its dark side. Social media provides a platform for anyone to express their experiences or sentiments towards a company, individual or medical practice, but what happens when the feedback is less than glowing?

Laggards may say “this is why I dont want to get involved tweeting or posting on Facebook, but the reality is negative comments often invite opportunity for professionals to connect with the public and demonstrate their responsiveness and commitment to the customer.

Negative feedback takes on many shapes and forms; it could be an unsatisfactory customer experience; a product or service review that highlights a particular flaw or someone stirring up trouble for the sake of stirring up trouble. While some comments are better left ignored, others present an opportunity to strengthen relationships, improve product development and spark new ideas.

Organizations, medical practices and even individuals should be monitoring what is said about them on the social networks. Customer service complaints are par for the course in business; no one is perfect and mistakes happen, but you simply cannot let comments bounce around without a retort. Often, those same customers lashing out with a 140-character complaint will follow up with praise if they feel the company responded appropriately. And, even if the response is ignored, theres public record that the company tried to do the right thing.

Listening to what is being said also enables companies and physicians to understand consumer perceptions and identify areas for improvement. and other review sites provide a forum for consumers to post reviews, both positive and negative. A practice that logs several complaints of elongated wait time to schedule an appointment or see a physician can review their procedures and see if theres a better way to serve their patient population. Likewise, if a litany of complaints centers on a specific product design flaw, companies can take steps to improve their product and then blog about the upgrade to demonstrate they are hearing what their customers have to say and responding appropriately.

Troublemakers and trolls usually do not require a response, but companies should think carefully before they flat out ignore a comment. Consider checking a posters Klout score to determine their scope of influence or conduct a quick search on their user name or profile to determine if they are chronic complainers filling cyberspace with inflammatory responses. Its also important to let go of sensitivities. Some comments may be particularly hurtful, but look “under the hood to see if there is validity to the complaint before striking on the defensive.

Even when responding to negative comments, its important to maintain both an honest and positive tone. A positive emphasis helps persuade readers that you are committed to doing the right thing and will contribute to goodwill. Should you realize youve made a public gaffe, having a sense of humor can turn a negative into a positive. When the Red Cross recently committed a Twitter faux pas, they handled it proactively, thus limiting the amount of negative responses.

In todays always-on world, how we recover from mistakes and negative commentary is often more important than the mistake or problem itself. By understanding the type of negative feedback, businesses can then develop an appropriate response and maintain positive relations with the public.



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