Wedding blogger Alison Tinlin (@MrsPandP) is the UK’s most prolific tweeter – what she doesn’t know about social media simply ain’t worth knowing. Here she looks at turning the negatives round to help your business grow
Back in the early days of social media, the platforms were a way to bring people together, and to bridge a divide across the borders of time and distance. For the small business owner, it was the way forward to have their voice heard other than print media or word-of-mouth, and that was incredibly exciting.
Apps such as Facebook, Twitter and, more recently, Instagram have been a wonderful way to engage with customers and clients. It’s about knowing where customers are, what they think, what they want and connecting to that to bring them a service or product that is both beneficial to them, and, in turn, grows a successful business for you.
Capitalising on your brand’s social presence is crucial to its existence; today having a website is not enough. A visible online existence creates instant transparency and makes people more likely to trust you – people want to communicate with you, know about your products and service and what you are getting up to.
What you need to focus on is your target market. You don’t need to utilise every platform – work out which one delivers the best for you. Then you need a strategy that means your presence is going to convert to sales.
Suggested post ideas can be things like: asking customers a general question for research; sharing advice features; new or evolving product features; or posting inspirational quotes.
Facebook Lives and Instagram stories are also an amazing way to personalise your content – people love to see the person behind the brand, and feel more connected with you.
But social media is not without its pitfalls. Electronic manipulation and the spread of misinformation can topple even the most successful brand.
People like to voice their displeasure when things go wrong, and these platforms give them an outlet. While in the past that could have meant a glass of wine and a rant to a friend about what has been unjust, these days the click of a mouse or a few taps on a smart phone means that customer complaints reach a far greater audience.
How we deal with negativity and hostility can make or break a business – mistakes or falling short of expectations happen from time to time, whether you are the tiniest home business or the hugest of brands.
Sometimes, a solitary negative review based on a poor experience can be justified. But it is when that review garners support (even from those who haven’t had any dealings with the company but jump on the bandwagon anyway) that irrevocable harm to a business can be done.
If the worst happens and there is a backlash, consider these tips to help you weather the storm…
• Always be aware what is going on in your platforms. That way you can address any problems swiftly before a situation spirals; being absent – and therefore being seen to be ignoring an issue – is the quickest way to make something small into something huge.
• Acknowledging a person’s feelings and perceptions of you – even if they are wrong – is the best way to calm down a situation before it escalates. Be factual but not defensive in response.
• Take the issue out of the public forum. When people make a complaint through social media there will be supporters; you must make it known and clear on your platform that the matter is being dealt with privately, to ensure the professional face of your business stays professional. A response is essential, because if people feel stonewalled or ignored, dissatisfaction starts to grow.
• If for some reason you have not lived up to expectations, be honest. Sometimes things outside our control (such as illness or bereavement) cause issues and delays. While you don’t have to share all of the details, letting people know an actual reason can let them cut you a little slack.
Social media can be your friend, but it can also be your mortal enemy. It’s not just about promoting your content – it’s about creating meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Learning how to use it in a constructive way can take time, but it is time worth investing in.