People are talking about you and your business, and whether it’s good or bad, you want to be part of the conversation. That’s where social media comes in.

Social media is a unique tool that enables your brand to have one-on-one conversations with your consumers. It’s vital that business owners understand how to have those conversations so that your brand communicates effectively and so you can manage your reputation with your customers and potential customers.
You need to be active on the social media sites where your customers hang out, responding in a timely way, but you also want to encourage customers to use social media to give you public feedback.

Encourage Feedback

I always suggest to my clients that they encourage their satisfied customers to give them public feedback online. This can be on your website but increasingly it’s on social media or on one of the countless review sites out there for every industry. You can’t put words in your clients’ mouths but you can make sure you ask the happy customers to be honest about their experience.

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This does two things for you: it leverages the satisfied customer’s experience so that potential customers get positive, unbiased opinions about working with you, and it also provides insurance for when the occasional customer writes about a bad experience.

When Bad Things Happen

These days when something goes wrong, customers don’t call a 1-800 number to complain — many find it more satisfying to share their concerns with the world on Twitter or Facebook. A lot of business owners worry that allowing complaints on social media will leave them open to criticism that could be bad for their brand but I remind them that such customers will talk about your business anyway, and it’s actually better to be part of that conversation and to have the chance to see and guide what’s being said than to ignore it.

In fact, most people recognize that bad things happen from time to time and when your audience sees you respond honestly and promptly to a problem, often their reaction to your brand is even more positive than it would have been if there hadn’t been a problem in the first place.

Don’t Delete—Respond

You can always delete a negative Facebook post, but chances are, if someone has a gripe and you don’t address it, they will likely find five more places online to complain about your business.
A better approach is to deal directly and promptly with the concern. Sometimes it’s a legitimate complaint. When you respond to a concern in a timely and honest fashion, apologizing and offering to help the customer through the situation, the rest of the world sees how you deal with customers. If the situation is a private one or a complicated one, I advise giving the customer your email or phone number and taking the conversation offline to deal directly with the situation.
Sometimes people just want to gripe. Your audience will recognize someone who just wants to complain and will appreciate that you deal well with such people too.

Ultimately, social media offers you an opportunity to provide great customer service to your clients, but you need to be prepared to respond quickly and transparently. When you do, whether your customer feedback seemed positive or negative at first, you can leverage that experience to build your brand.