With a bevvy of social media tools and industry-leading best practices at her fingertips, Easy Media team member Sunny has experience helping hundreds of apartment communities stay on top of their social media efforts. But one recent client wasn’t interested in staying engaged — instead, they wanted to completely deactivate their Facebook account.
This client was a lease-up apartment community that had repeatedly pushed back its opening date. Frustrated future residents were piling complaints onto the property’s Facebook page, and the property manager was at their wit’s end.
“They were getting a lot of negative reviews and negative comments,” Sunny remembers. “At one point, the property manager said, “I can’t deal with this anymore. Shut down the page.’”
This is an all-too-common impulse among brands when social media engagement takes a dark turn. It’s understandable — while a study from Convince and Convert shows that 53 percent of social media users are more loyal to brands they follow on social media, that loyalty is likely to go the other way when real-world frustrations arise.
But as Sunny points out, shutting down one social media page hardly erases your weak points from the entire Internet.
“In [the client’s] mind, shutting down the page was going to solve everything,” Sunny says. “But in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Well, there are a billion other review sites, and you’re just going to get more negative comments elsewhere.’”
Those review sites include Google, Apartment Guide and Yelp — all websites that often present more hurdles than Facebook does when it comes to responding to comments, and flagging inappropriate ones.
Rather than quitting the game altogether, Sunny suggests these 4 tips for handling negative social media comments:
Tip One: Acknowledge The Concern
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s certainly worth noting how important simple acknowledgement can be, even if you can’t immediately do anything to solve the problem at hand.
And as Sunny recognizes, the fact that clients are taking the time to voice their concerns at all shows that they might be willing to work with you, so long as you extend understanding to them.
“Acknowledge their feedback, whether it’s negative or positive,” she says. “Appreciate them for taking the time to put their feedback out there.”
Tip Two: Work Toward A Real-World Solution
Think about it. If you had a serious problem with a friend or family member, you’d probably want to solve the issue in person, or at least pick up the phone and call them.
The same holds true for business-client relations. Real problem-solving is most likely going to take place offline. When it comes to addressing negative social media comments your best bet is to first acknowledge the concern, then suggest talking more in-person.
“Have some sort of call to action, like ‘come see us at the office,’” Sunny suggests. “Think about how they can actually alleviate what their issues are, rather than just saying ‘sorry, tough luck.’”
Tip Three: Keep It Professional
Through her work, Sunny knows that business-client relationships can often bleed into personal attacks on social media. One reason this is prone to happening is that people often have their guard down when using social media.
“Usually it’s such a casual platform because it’s just used for personal social networking,” Sunny says. “But when you bring businesses into it, you can still see that casual tone when dealing with clients or residents.”
Keeping your tone professional is the key to mitigating this. Sunny also has a simple guiding rule: never say something online that you wouldn’t say directly to a client’s face.
“Bring that professional language into it,” she says. “As a person, your response is to engage in that argument, but the best way to handle it really is from a professional standpoint.”
Tip Four: Keep Response Times Short
A lot of social media engagement strategies focus on posting intriguing, useful content for your clients’ use. This is certainly important, but it’s hardly the only piece of the puzzle — especially for service-based businesses like apartment communities.
“Putting content on pages is important, but what people notice even more is when they get a timely response to their question,” Sunny stresses. “If someone comments on your photo and says, ‘Hey, do you have any two-bedrooms available?’ and then they get a response in 20 minutes, people will notice.”
In the end, Sunny failed to convince her client that staying on Facebook was the best option. She hopes that in the future, brands will choose to pick up the engagement baton, rather than dropping out of the race.
“We can post as many updates as you want, and we can post photos if you want,” she says. “We can help you respond to this, but let’s do it in a productive way rather than just shutting down communication on Facebook.”