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“Behold the power of social media!” shouted the mighty internet wizards, and the world was beholden unto their mighty reviews and viral media. So beholden in fact, that an apartment complex in Florida has started strong-arming potential tenants into signing a “social media addendum” on their lease applications.

The addendum requires them to agree to pay $10,000 (yes, ten thousand) for any and all “bad reviews” of the complex they may feel the need to post online. You know, like a review about how staying at the complex involves being forced to pay an insane amount of money for posting stuff online? Here’s the actual addendum, for those interested…

Look, this whole social media thing is ’new’ and ‘change’ is bad. I get it old timer, I do. You’re worried about operating in a customer-empowered world where you can and will be held accountable to the entirety of the internet. But there are much better ways to handle negative social media feedback, such as addressing it as thoughtfully and sincerely as possible – or, shock horror, trying to prevent bad feedback in the first place with effective customer service (and not with insane addendums).

Social media is hard, so here are my two top pointers on handling social media based complaints effectively (and avoiding the internet lynch mobs):

The Streisand effect is real; don’t mess with it.

When someone throws a digital egg at your business via social media, your first urge might be to unleash your lawyer hounds on the would-be critic, or even try to intimidate the wretched reviewer into removing the offending complaint. Think very carefully before attempting either course of action. One of the golden rules of the internet states that defensive reactions have a way of attracting publicity – negative publicity. Everybody lines up to watch the gibbon going nuts in his cage.

The Streisand effect is named after singer Barbra Streisand, who attempted to sue a photographer in the hope of forcing them to remove a certain photo of her dangerously placed mansion from the California Coastal Records Project. The result? The story went viral and the offending photo ended up all over the internet, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Not to mention the permanent damage to her public image. The Streisand effect is real. Never threaten your customers; it will solve nothing and always make things worse.

Actually interact with your critic’s feedback. But do it right.

You just spotted the following tweet about your firm:

Firm X overcharges more than *current celebrity* likes fame!! [Insert witty one liner here] #FML

This kind of feedback is hard to answer and bound to sting a little. Not only will you need to suppress your urge to rage tweet in response, but you’ll have to ensure your staff members have the same steely resolve. You also need to give yourself time to cool down, and then prepare a response that’s as thoughtful as it is positive. Honestly, effective customer interaction like this is still a rarity and that makes it a powerful tool: address your critics’ concerns in a cool, calm and helpful way, and you may turn them into your greatest advocates!

To summarise, it’s best to avoid any complaints in the first place via effective and helpful customer service. But when the negativity hits social media, it’s best to be known as the brand that gives rapid, helpful and satisfying responses. By actively engaging your customers, you’ll not only get useful feedback on any problematic parts of your business practice, but also find you’re more likely to be able to keep any problems between your customer service department and the customer – rather than gaining the attention of the entire internet.

About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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