We have all had it happen a disgruntled employee, a disgruntled customer; then you hear that someone has posted a negative comment about yourself or your company on social media. How do you know when that happens? How can you monitor comments about yourself or your company to ensure that you are not wrongly accused or convicted based solely on an individual's feelings? I remember when people had the courtesy to move on from a bad situation regardless of who's a fault it was, or they would say their peace to your face. Still, it is easy to hide behind a keyboard, make comments anonymously, and then disappear into cyberspace. I don't know; I was taught that if you are afraid to put your name on it and take credit, you should keep your opinion to yourself, but that is not how it is done now. How do you protect yourself and your company? We will explore some of the basics you should be taking in the world of social media and fake news.
Many good things come out of social media. It has become a favorite when it comes to brand recognition, gaining company or personal visibility to a large audience, and engaging your customers in conversations about your company's ongoings. With all the excellent exposure and popularity of social media, the lines between personal and professional are becoming blurred, forcing individuals and companies to search for a way to control their message, branding, and messaging in social media. There are many opinions on how to control your message on social media. Still, according to Post Beyond, there are some necessary steps to take to get control over your companies' social media message.
Building a Social Media Policy, leaving your social media branding or acceptable posting guidelines open to interpretation, or calling common sense, is like opening pandora's box. Creating and maintaining current and relevant social media policy is critical for holding employees accountable for their social media behavior. It creates a business awareness for social media and the message it sends to consumers. Again, according to Post Beyond, some of the items that your social media policy should include are:
- Brand vision and the message of your branding
- Goals of acceptable use of social media for the entire organization
- Roles within the company, who is responsible for posting information about the company and who is not
- Clearly define the rules, privacy, and regulations of what and when items will be posted to social media.
- Consequences and legal risk, this could be compliance or client information.
Implementation of Social Listening programs, social listening is about keeping track of what is being said about your organization online. The Internet is moving at lightning speed, so humans can't track and respond to all the information posted. For example, Twitter has almost 100,000 posts per minute, so using the human to track your branding would be an impossible task. Some of the critical features of social listening software are:
- Flexible queries that help improve results
- Reports that are outlining who is talking about your brand, competitors, or industry
- Twitter, Facebook, Indeed, and LinkedIn filters that search for negative keywords
- Demographic data, which could include the interests, occupations, and location of your audience
- The ability to identify trends in your industry
The key with social listening software is knowing what you don't know and removing negative feedback or offering a rebuttal of the comment, which you have to be careful of because employees are not limited to human resource rules. Still, companies must be careful in what you write in a rebuttal. Social listening software also allows you to look for oversharing, employee or customer complaints, or false information about yourself, your team, or the company. Social listening tools can also push people who are searching for information about your company to positive feedback so that it can work both ways.
Part of the responsibility of your social media team is to have a Crisis Plan. Technology can’t protect you from everything, so having a crisis plan is essential to your overall social media policies. You will have to face the angry employee or that confidential picture that got posted at some point. The key to any controversy is, to be honest, and most importantly, briefly do not add fuel to the fire by trying to over-explain a lousy situation. Stick to the facts, the real problem, the solution, and keep it only to those who need to be involved. Any inappropriate posting will happen at some point. Most of them are by accident, but none less in the world of social media, news travels fast; the combination of policies, technology, and oversight can protect you and increase your social media awareness.
As I said, most social media snafus are simple mistakes or lack of social media awareness on the part of employees. Social media has become such a big part of our lives. At times, we treat our business's social media posting as if they were personal postings, giving away information that you would not or should not make public from a business perspective. Some steps you could take to raise employee social media awareness are:
- Training for the employees you will allow to post on behalf of the company training them on the appropriate use of social media and the companies’ social media policies.
- Employees who will be using social media on behalf of the company should understand and be trained on how information is used in cyberattacks via social media, which is very common. Employees should be trained on what to look out for, how to prevent an attack from a social media platform, and the company's overall potential and risk due to social media.
- Checks and balances have internal processes to review tweets or social media posts before they are posted. Ensuring that the information is accurate, current, and relevant is key to reducing mistakes and protecting your reputation.
- Limit access to social media accounts; not all employees need to access your social media sites. Locking down your social media feeds so that no post goes live until it is reviewed from the public side will cut down on misinformation, phishing, and disgruntled posting in your social media feeds.
- Change your social media password regularly or anytime you feel that the accounts have been compromised or you have a change in personnel on your social media team.
Removing inappropriate or negative posts in social media can be difficult, but there is a way to manage these posts. When social media became popular, it quickly proved itself when communicating with customers and individuals. In today’s world, it is essential to maintain that presents to have constant communication with people interested in your products, services, or just interest in your business. It has also become the favorite for everyone who thinks you didn’t bend to their every whim, or if you made a simple mistake and they decided they wanted to make you pay exponentially to whatever happened to them. It is essential to be consistent in handling complaints, and you need to make sure that you handle complaints the same way as if the customer or individual was standing in front of you. According to Khj Branding Activation, here are some rules for managing negative posts on social media.
- Respond Timely, in today's electronic world; customers expect to receive a response from you the same day; your timeliness in responding indicates that you are taking the complaint seriously and eager to find a resolution.
- People want to know they have been heard; most of the time, when some give you a negative review, it is because they encountered a problem with your product or service. They may be mad or very frustrated, but either way, most of the time, they have tried other avenues to get your attention and don’t know what else to do.
- People want you to own the issue, and they want you to acknowledge that your product or service didn’t meet their expectations. Apologize for it, show them that you value them as a customer, take action, and then move on; don’t dwell any longer than needed.
- Customers want a solution. You’re going to try and make the situation meet their expectations, explain the options, discuss how you are trying to improve as an organization, and what steps you will take to keep it from affecting other clients.
- Almost…again rarely delete a post that indicates that you are hiding or ignoring or not valuing the customer's feedback. Treat social posts the same as you would if the customer was standing in front of you. Respond to the post and provide corrective information, but don’t get in an online argument because that indicates to other clients what their relationship will be like if they do business with you. However, sometimes you need to block an online profile due to profanity, spamming, or blatant negative attacks.
When strategizing on a social media management strategy, regardless if you are dealing with positive feedback or negative feedback, it’s about managing the analytics of who is looking at your online profiles. According to a Salesforce survey, the average consumer uses ten different online channels when looking for or communicating with businesses. Your online profiles are the Yellow Pages of today, and it is essential to understand how companies and competitors are offering products and services through social media. Using social media analytics can help you streamline your message to focus your efforts on meaningful customer support and service activities. You are allowing you the opportunity to respond quickly to customer questions and feedback on your products and services. According to a Salesforce survey, 72% of customer service teams already provide customer service on social media. 13% plan to use social media for customer service in the next 18 months and 55% already use messenger apps like Facebook messenger. These statistics are an indication that businesses need to pay attention to how they will utilize social media in the future; the days of the traditional contact page on your website are going away quickly.
Best practices are the first step to putting together a successful online strategy and developing policies to manage that strategy. Keeping in mind that your social media presents are your public relations department and branding, which is providing products and services. The cautionary thought here is that social media is very public, moves very fast, and quickly escalates a situation making issues seem much more significant than they are, especially when the feedback is negative. Keeping in mind that you should have a team of people working together to manage social media and approving posts, these same individuals should also review comments and manage any response. However, don’t panic; responding quickly is essential, but it doesn’t have to be instantaneous; your team should take a reasonable amount of time to discuss scenarios on the response and determine if the response should be online or addressed privately.
In today's world, documentation is king; you need to make sure that you are taking screenshots of all social media communication, especially if the comments are accusatory or derogatory. If the case goes to litigation, this written correspondence could be the difference between winning and losing in court. This also means you need to meter your online reaction to the post; in some cases, although you don’t want to delete a post if it can be avoided, sometimes not responding will be the best course of action from a legal perspective. Your responses could be used against you in court, so if you’re going to respond, make sure that you demonstrate the proper sympathy and empathy to the customer's concern, along with a proposal on how to rectify the situation to their satisfaction.
Considering some of the legal ramifications of social media and the written word, you never want to put yourself in a situation where you are making a bad situation worse in public. It is essential that when responding, you follow a couple of basic rules. First, never blatantly attack in a manner that is rude and outrageous; you could expand the issue by getting others who watch your social media feeds involved and exponentially expand the argument with no ability to win. Be cautious of known social media users who are only out there looking for a fight; trolling is very popular and could interject a person with no skin in the game into your argument. Don’t put yourself in a position where you might lose control, which could lead you to say something that might come back to get you in court. Some other basic rules of thumb are:
- Don’t get emotional; you must keep your cool
- Remember they are a real person; they may be angry or frustrated, so don’t add to the situation
- Their complaint may favor you if people see how you positively handled the situation in a respectful meaningful manner that is good Public Relations, and remember social media is public relations.
The same rules apply for personal social media accounts, and since we are now a society that loves to share, you have to be very careful what you share and with whom. It simply is not that hard to track people on social media, and small security holes can be exploited and lead to hacking of your accounts. According to the Society for Technology Management, some of the basic rules everyone should follow are:
- Use strong passwords or phrases. The longer it is, the more secure it will be, however, and make it something you can remember without writing it down. However, be cautious about using children’s names, birth dates, dog or cat names, the everyday things that you or someone who knows you is going to know.
- Use different passwords for each social media account; depending on how many you have, this might require a password vault; there are many them out there, so do some research and find one that best suits your needs.
- Set up your security answers; most social media sites allow you to do this. However, the most common one is the mother's maiden name, so be careful not to pick that one, especially if your mother has a brother that could be posting on your social media feeds.
- If you have social media apps on your phone, make sure that your phone is password protected, ghosting phones or hacking phones, especially if they have their Bluetooth turned on or WIFI on, is an easy process, and phones without a password are far more likely to be hacked.
- Be selective with friend requests; make sure that they are friends of yours. The real danger these days is that the word friend has become blurred with an acquaintance, or in some cases, predators, so before accepting a friend request, make sure that you know who these people are and that you want to be friends with them. Ghosting and fake accounts are very common these days on social media, so understand and be aware that they are traps.
- Click with caution when on social media. Social media accounts are routinely the target of hacking, so look out for misspellings, language; if it looks like someone translated it directly from Chinese, it is not real, and make sure that the post fits and sounds like something the person you know would post.
- Sharing, we are a culture that now loves to share but don’t blur the lines between public information and private and don’t overshare. Social media's purpose is to be social, but remember, your posts are an insight into your life, your relatives, your kids, your likes and dislikes, and this information could be used against you. There is more to a picture than a simple picture; what is in the background says a lot about you and where you live or where you go. This information can lead to you becoming a target for hacking, crimes of opportunity, identity theft, or worse case, personal attacks.
- Ensure that you have read and understand how to set up your privacy settings on social media feeds and then customize them to protect yourself and those who may see your posts.
- Ensure that you have an anti-virus on your computer with endpoint security. Anti-Virus with endpoint security will give you some protection, but ensure that your operating system and programs are current and up to date and remove programs that you no longer use. Encrypt your hard drives, so any data that is stolen could be useless.
- Remember to log off when you are done with any social media site. A logged-in computer is gold to a hacker, which could also lead to compromising your business systems.
Managing and monitoring social media can be very difficult; the reality is that you can’t stop people from posting negative things about yourself or your company. These days, people are not typically brave enough to have negative conversations with you face to face, so we have become dependent on social media to make us feel good by posting comments in a public forum anonymously. This is why it is essential to monitor social media and be responsive to comments, but weigh that with the value of responding, sometimes silence on your parts says more about the poster than you. Today, people who don’t put their name on their comments are viewed as disgruntled, which discredits their comments, and people understand that for the most part, so don’t take it personally and don’t write an emotional response. If you are looking for some tools that will help you with this process, you can check out some of the links below; these are some social listening packages that might get you started:
- Mention: https://mention.com/en/social-media-monitoring-tools/
- io: https://www.falcon.io/solutions/social-listening/
- Sprout Social: https://sproutsocial.com/features/social-media-listening/
By Scott M. Lewis, President / CEO Winning Technologies, Inc.
About the Author: Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 36 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with hundreds of large and small businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium, and small companies, and Winning Technologies' goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management, and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies by calling 877-379-8279. To learn more about Business Manager 365, visit businessmanager365.com.