After my last article on how social media is going to be a game- changer in the expanding retail market in Kenya, I received a lot of feedback from online readers.
Most of the comments centred on the fact that businesses do not like negative feedback appearing on their social media pages and therefore have a tendency to disappear from social media very fast. The reason behind this is very simple and entirely human and understandable.
None of us likes negative comments, even brands do not want their reputations soiled on social media. Yet negative feedback is great and definitely better than no feedback as it allows you a lot of room for improvement.
Nothing will have a customer singing your praises like proving them wrong.
That said, what do brands or businesses need to do in order to reduce negative feedback that has become almost endemic on social media platforms?
First, be authentic. Technology is not the end of everything, it is just a means to achieving your business goals.
If you are true to your business values offline, it should show in the way you interact with your online audience.
Be as true to your values and core business as you can. Care about the people on the other side of technology as much as you care about the ones you meet face to face.
Your customers are the reason you get out of bed every morning, so let your online interactions attest to this.
Second, be helpful. Technology when used mindfully and properly is a great tool. Rather than seeing social media as a public relations tool, use it to provide solutions your customers are in need of as they make use of your products or services.
Rather than ignoring negative comments and feedback, businesses would benefit from investigating complaints and taking prompt corrective measures if necessary.
Third, acknowledge comments. It is exhausting for customers to keep posting feedback on social media platforms with no sort of acknowledgment.
Customers feel like they are talking to a brick wall and we all know how that feels like in our relationships. It is courteous and speaks volumes about the way you think about your brand and customers when you take time to acknowledge receipt of any sort of feedback.
Lastly, be thoughtful. Being on social media is like having a megaphone that you can use any time you want but you really do not have to.
If all your posts or updates are self-promotional then your online audience will quickly get exhausted with all the sales chat. Be thoughtful with your use of communication.
Humour your customers every so often and let them see the human side of your business.
Final word: You must have seen or experienced social media shaming. This is what disgruntled customers resort to when they have complaints against certain business practices. They go to social media to make an example of these brands or businesses by publicly shaming them.
This then spawns off an outpouring of outrage from other seemingly outraged customers and it then forces the business owner(s) to withdraw a product or service or change the terms of their offers. At its worst it has seen businesses offering public apologies for their wrong doing.
Social media shaming need not happen if businesses started taking their business (pun intended) seriously and valuing their customers.
As for customers before you get on Twitter and Facebook to summon everyone to express your dissatisfaction, think like a business owner, what if this was your business?
The first course of action needs to be a well written private email to the company expressing your disappointment.
Businesses need to be more prompt with their responses to customer complaints, they need to care about their customers and show it.
Great businesses are the ones that have a reason that goes beyond money and profits for their existence. They need to see themselves as adding value to the communities they operate in.
And just because technology has changed the way we interact with each other, we need not throw out the rule book on good behavior.