Can Social Media Ruin Customer Relations?

Posted on May 20, 2011

Once upon a time, if you had an issue with a particular vendor or store, you did one of three things. If the business was local, you probably drove to the location to lodge your complaint or extend your compliment. If you wanted to deal with a national company, you might have written a letter or called an 800-number for a customer service department. Two of the three options for contact may have yielded an immediate response or resolution, and one might believe in this age of e-mail and online social interaction the turnaround time should be faster. Perhaps, but does satisfaction come as quickly?

Think about how you use social media in your business. What is the purpose of your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your YouTube channel? The primary function for all, at first thought, is to disseminate information to current and future customers – videos demonstrate products and services, while short status updates alert people to last-minute deals and changes in shipping or availability. In addition to promoting your business, social media is an important tool for promoting your ability to handle your business. Direct answers to customer queries and feedback shows that not only are you perceptive to people’s needs, but you are willing to take action when needed. Given the immediacy of social media and the potential for viral PR (consider how quickly a complain about a business burns through Twitter now as opposed to the grapevines of old), you may have convinced yourself that social media does nothing but good for your company’s image.

It’s possible, but as with any other marketing method there are risks to take. One of the most important maxims to remember about online communication is that nobody can truly hear your voice over a computer – you can type out a status intending to be humorous and one person is bound to take your words the wrong way. That’s why it’s important to note how misuse of your social media can do damage, and know how to keep that from happening.

1) Don’t neglect your profiles. Answer comments and questions in a timely manner. This is not to say that you need to be on Twitter and Facebook 24/7, but if a customer has a question about a specific product it’s best not to leave them hanging for days on end. If you worry about missing new posts, there are ways you can set up for notifications to push through your mobile device or e-mail. That way you can keep track of any activity.

2) Don’t get defensive. You may have a number of people maintaining your social pages, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it may open the door to the occasional shot from the hip when responding to a complaint. It is important for every administrator of your profiles know that every word posted represents the company, not one individual. As such, if a customer or potential customer is offended by an off remark he/she will only see your logo, and associate the bad experience with you. It is important, therefore, to handle delicate online situations with grace, expedience, and tact.

3) Don’t delete. Nobody likes a black mark on a Facebook wall – it’s the closest thing to an ugly bruise, and your first inclination may be to delete the post. Think about it, though – if the complaint is valid and not a trollish call for attention, you should use the opportunity to address publicly what you intend to do to resolve any problems. The plantiff will see how you are attentive, and others will realize that you are a company of value, one that listens.

Can social media ruin customer relations? Not if you know how to handle various situations, and use your profiles for more than straight advertising. Well-rounded profiles lead to the conversions you need.

Kathryn Lively is a social media specialist assisting clients with social media writing and Facebook marketing. Clients include vendors of  organic mattresses, travel companies offering cheap European hotel reservationsVirginia health care servicesNorfolk Realtorsglobal trade portals, and Gainesville bed and breakfast inns.

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  • Marketing Consulting

    It’s awesome to be a part of an industry that is in its infancy! That,
    and the fact that my clients mostly don’t know what I’m talking about
    and I just love explaining how cool it is and when I get all passionate
    about it the selling part comes so naturally!

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