Written by Jennifer Vickery, CEO/President, National Strategies
Conflict can erupt anytime, anywhere for just about any reason. Whether you are in line at the grocery store, at a sporting event or out on the town, conflict is unpredictable and sometimes unavoidable. With the ever-growing popularity of online networks and platforms, more and more people are logging on to interact with friends and sometimes even strangers. As millions of people converge online, we are seeing a new arena for confrontations: social media pages.
Although most users want to avoid these situations at all cost, opting to ignore a complaint, offensive topic or aggressive message, it is important to address the situation before it catches the eye of other customers, employees, stakeholders and partners.
“You have to be very cautious when addressing conflict on social media sites,” said Jennifer Vickery, CEO/President of National Strategies Public Relations. “While it is important not to upset your target market as they are the key to the success of your company, it is also imperative that you acknowledge and resolve the situation.”
When responding to a complaint, critique or accusatory remark on a social media site, Vickery recommends following these three steps:
1. Don’t take it personally – When a fight breaks out on your social media page due to something you or your company has written, it is most likely not an attack on you. Understand that people have many different views and that these pages serve as open forums on which they can express their thoughts; even if they don’t agree with what you have written.
“It unfortunately is so much easier for a person to critique or criticize over the internet where they can be virtually anonymous than to do so in person,” says Vickery. “Know this is usually a person’s way of having a voice, venting or expressing areas where they are otherwise unhappy with their lives, and not so much to do with you personally.”
2. Process before responding – It’s important to take time to process your response before sending it out. Writing a response that criticizes or may upset someone may do further damage to your company’s reputation and image. Use this time to really listen to your audience and understand where the person is coming from. It will allow you to create a response that will not escalate the situation.
“A good rule of thumb is to walk away for a bit and return with a response when you know you are level-headed. Before responding, ask yourself if you are feeling any anger. Be honest. If the answer is yes, take more time.”
3. Find something to agree on – Finding something that you and the other person can agree on will help to resolve the situation. That person felt comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings with you, and, by engaging in a two-way conversation, you will show them that you appreciate and respect their opinion.
“Try thanking them for their feedback and providing you with additional insight. Sometimes, that in itself is the most appropriate response and often immediately diffuses the situation.”
The key to social media is to reach out to your customers, consistently, both when they are praising your business or product and in times of conflict. The most loyal customers just want to be shown that you are listening to and willing to take their feedback.
About Jennifer Vickery: Jennifer Vickery is CEO/President of National Strategies Public Relations and is considered a PR Social Media Coach and Expert. She advises organizations and professional individuals on public relations efforts and campaigns with an emphasis on the growing trend of social media.