Social Media Marketing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Internet makes information easily and instantly available. And  more and more consumers turn to the Internet every day to discover, locate and find out more about the local businesses in their area.

And the social web only amplifies the “information at your finger tips” for consumers that turn to peer reviews on social review sites like yelp.com as a supposedly more “trustworthy” source for feedback about local businesses in their area.

Compounded by the shift to “mobile everywhere” as we take the Internet with us everywhere we go on our mobile devices.

This should be a marketing boon for local businesses that learn how to tap into the viral nature of the social web. And, for the most part, it most definitely is! We see the profound marketing benefits everyday as we help our local business clients learn how to leverage social media marketing.

So far so good, right? So what’s the downside?

Well, it’s that same instant exposure and ability that social media affords millions of regular folks to voice their opinion that obviously works just as easily for the positive as well as the negative. It’s just as easy for one of your happy customers to say something nice about your business on one of the social review sites as it is for one of your “not so satisfied” customers to say something negative, or worse, downright mean and nasty!

Sure, we’d like all of our customers to be “raving fans”, but in the real world, we know that 100% customer satisfaction isn’t going to happen.

I think most business owners understand that an unhappy customer here and there is unavoidable. And then we do our best to improve our businesses and learn from the incident. After all, no business is perfect, and without honest customer feedback, both the positive and the negative, we can’t truly understand our customers’ problems and make the necessary adjustments to improve the customer experience.

It’s just that many small business owners are out of their comfort zone when it comes to the dynamics of instant public visibility on the Internet today. What happened to the good old days when the problem between me and my customer was much more private, and I had a better chance of containing the problem without having to air my dirty laundry in front of the whole world?

There’re a few aspects about the Internet and social media that are also at play. Most definitely, the instantaneous communication and the expansive global reach online definitely amplifies everyone’s voice. And this creates a much higher volume of noise to contend with overall.

But also, there is a sense of anonymity on the Internet. People seem to be a little bolder about voicing their opinions with the ability to hide behind behind their online social profiles and cyber personas. And the reinforcement that can come from the group dynamic inherint in many social networking environments can spur people on.

Perhaps people tend to be somewhat less less confrontational  and better mannered face to face, but an unhappy customer may feel more easily prone to leave a scathing email or post an unflattering review online.

Remember one very important thing. Businesses everywhere appreciate the power of a referal. Word of mouth advertising is one of the best ways to acquire new customers. No question, there’s nothing better than a happy and satisfying customer who recommends your business to someone they know. The bottom line, social marketing is simply an extension of referal marketing. Which of course is based on the premise that if you deliver good products, good value and a quality service, people will naturally spread the word.

Of course, if you offer a crummy product, delivery lousy service and poor value, you can’t expect anyone to spread a positive word about your business. Obviously, right? If you have a problem in this area, go fix it.  Look, if you actually deserve the criticism and complaints your customers are hurling in your direction, that will have to be your first step to remedy a reputation problem online . Sorry, I have to even bring this up!

I’m going to assume you deliver a quality product with great service, and you already strive hard to do the very best you can for your customer. That goes without saying. Agree?

So when you do encounter the negative reviews and negative feedback online, what’s the best way to deal with it?

First of all, don’t panick. Sooner or later, every business will encounter less than flattering exposure in the social networking environments online. Don’t let this scare you off.

In the next installment, I’ll cover some clear stategies and techniques to manage your online business reputation. And we’ll take a look at some of the do’s and don’ts of handling negative customer reviews that you may encounter online through the social networking and social review websites.


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