Many companies are afraid of reader comments on their blogs, Facebook pages and other online forums.
What if someone posts a negative comment? Will it hurt my business?
Perhaps they should be wary. The NY Times ran an article yesterday that sheds new light on reader comments and their effect on other readers.
The study by Dominque Brossard and Dietrama A. Scheufele from the University of Wisconsin interviewed nearly 1200 people to discover some startling results.
Nasty reader comments, those that contained epithets and profanity, polarized other readers and skewed how they interrupted the content.
Mean attacks from anonymous posters who hide behind pseudonyms can distort how other readers interrupt the content. On the web, reader interaction, the exchange of information and ideas, is one of the biggest benefits of online participation.
Customer reviews and recommendations are very important to many online users when they search for new products and services.
So how do you temper the nastiness of anonymous posters?
Many companies have developed rules to actively moderate reader comments. Some do not allow any comments.
Several months ago I had re-posted an article sent to me on Facebook. An acquaintance posted on my page an out-raged response that was filled with profanity and vitriol. I wondered if the language and tone would have been the same face to face, but on a social platform, this person was not being very social.
My first instinct was to admonish the commenter for his incivility and untrue accusations, but I counted to ten and decided how to respond.
While the post had generated several positive comments and only one negative one, I decided not to respond to the comment and to remove the post that had clearly ignited a firestorm with this reader.
As I use Facebook, Linkedin and my blog to build relationships and promote my business, it didn’t serve my goal to engage in open warfare with someone who felt it was okay to be nasty on a social platform.
After deleting the comment, I also blocked the commenter from posting on my Facebook page again. A comment that is obscene, profane, bigoted or contains someone’s private information does not need to be tolerated.
Was I wrong?
Turning critics into fans is something I promote with clients. Ignoring an unhappy customer can be a huge error, but this person was not nor would he ever be a client.
Responding to a customer’s concerns or problems online quickly with an apology and then responding in detail privately with a solution is critical.
A fast response sends the message to the online world, that your company is listening to its customers and tries to fix problems promptly.
By taking the issue off-line, you avoid a public back and forth that could prolong the negative situation.
The goal is to try to find some common ground. A disgruntled customer can often become one your biggest fans if handled correctly, but sometimes you are dealing with someone who is unreasonable and no amount of placating is ever enough.
Saying you are sorry is not an admission of guilt. There are several ways to apologize so the complainer feels heard:
- I’m sorry you had this experience.
- We’re sorry you feel this way.
- We’re sorry you are having a problem.
I like comments from readers, even ones who disagree. Opinions that are different than mine are fine, as they encourage debate. But I do insist on civility and no swearing.
Rude behavior is just unacceptable.
Conflict in inevitable if you are in business today. No one is perfect and no company is perfect. Every company makes mistakes, but how you react and resolve customer service issues will be broadcast to the world on social platforms.
You can avoid letting negative comments damage your reputation by:
Constantly monitoring your forums for negative comments
Developing a plan to respond quickly
Determining what resources you can allocate to respond to negative comments and fix the issues
Failure to do this can have long term affects on your reputation and sales.
How do you handle negative comments? Feel free to post below. I welcome your suggestions!
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