How to Handle Difficult Conversations on Social Media
Have you ever noticed that crazy rumors spread much faster on social media than factual news? You’re not alone. The Chicago Tribune refers to a new study that found that false rumors are more likely to spread than true ones. The study involved a huge data set that looked at rumor “cascades” that spread on Twitter over 10-plus years. In general, rumors reached people six times more rapidly than the truth.
As a business owner, the way that social media can lead to a flurry of lies spreading faster than a wildfire is probably quite concerning, and with good reason. The last thing you want is for the rumor mill to take off on Facebook or Instagram about your company. But if it does, here’s how to discuss rumors on social media, have difficult conversations on social media, and stay as professional as possible through the entire ordeal.
Monitor What is Being Said
Unfortunately, it is probably inevitable that at some point, a cranky customer will head to social media to complain about your company with a post that may contain some nasty rumors. The first step to handling this type of situation is to constantly monitor what is being said about your company online. If you have not done so already, set up notifications on the social media sites that you use to alert you when a comment is made about your business. This way, you will know right away when someone has said something either positive or negative about your company.
Respond Right Away in a Professional Way
Seeing a negative comment that is also completely untrue will understandably cause you to be angry and go on the defensive. While you want to respond as quickly as you can to prevent the negative comment from spreading, you want to be sure you are as calm and collected as possible. If you need time to settle down, start with a short reply that acknowledges you have read the post, that you are truly sorry for any issues, and that you will reply again in more detail as soon as you can. The last thing you want to do is fire back with some “Oh yeah? Well your mother wears combat boots!” type of comment that will just backfire on you and your company.
Offer Tangible Solutions
When replying to a negative comment or rumor on social media that everyone, not just the crabby customer, can easily see, start by offering a sincere apology that the customer had a problem with your product or service, and provide them with a “real” solution. For example, if you are a restaurant owner and someone is complaining about your food, apologize that the person had an issue, assure him that you take this type of comment very seriously, and then invite him back in to get either a full refund or a free meal on the house. The customer will feel like he is being heard and respected, and other people who follow you on social media will appreciate the way you handled this difficult situation.
Tell the Truth
If you find that certain rumors or untruths about your company pop up over and over again on social media, you may want to confront this information in one fell swoop with a blog or social media post. One company that handled this situation well is Amway. When the company realized that many people were asking “Is Amway a pyramid scheme?”, they didn’t ignore the question or get defensive. Instead, the company released a full statement and blog post that addresses these rumors and explains how Amway’s direct sales model is definitely not a pyramid scheme.
You’ve Got This
Social media can be a positive thing for companies, but it can also come with some inherent challenges. By learning how to watch for and stop any social media rumors in their tracks, as well as how to handle difficult interactions on these sites with poise and honesty, your company should avoid being the target of unfair and untrue rumors.