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Brad Brenner

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Fearless Facebooking

fearless facebookTo Facebook or not to Facebook. While this proposition may not be Shakespeare, it is an inevitable question for virtually any company engaged in strategic marketing today. Too often, CEO’s respond with a rapid “NO” for one reason only – the fear of negative comments or reviews.

That’s understandable. Way back when (say ten years ago or so) before Facebook, blogging and other social mediums became integral marketing tools, marketing communications were, for the most part, unidirectional – from the company to the customer. Little risk. Little feedback. A customer’s dissatisfaction was often more an irritant than a significant concern. It was something for customer service to deal with – certainly not marketing.

Like it or not, that was then. Today’s social customers can (and do) express their opinions quickly and easily through a variety of Internet platforms. The fact is, whether your company has a Facebook page or not, your customers do. By providing a forum for them to express negative (and positive) comments, you at least have the opportunity to view these comments and to react. The good news is that, with the right strategy, you can actually turn these negative reviews into real positives for the company and use them to GROW your business.

Respond. A complaint should actually be seen as a great opportunity. It allows you to prove to everyone that your company is listening and responsive to customer input. And that is HUGE. Think about it. What is the most frustrating thing about dealing with your credit card company or the phone company? It’s not the mistakes they make as much as it is the powerlessness you feel when dealing with them. It’s that they just don’t seem to care. However, if you finally find a customer service representative that is understanding and helpful, that same business can turn into the greatest company in the world.

When you respond to complaints via social media, you become a wonderful company, not only to the person with the original complaint, but to everyone following the conversation. Examples of companies that gained strong customer loyalty with the help of complaints : Apple: response to complaints about iPhone antenna issues. Amazon.com: fast response to complaints about shipping delays. Starbucks – response to higher pricing complaints.

Learn. A customer complaint should be seen as an opportunity to improve your product or service. Some companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in focus group research for this type of input and you’re getting it for free. Don’t waste the information. On-line retailer eBags.com began to receive negative reviews on their website from a disgruntled customer. An open dialogue with the customer resulted in several suggestions for an improved design. eBags made these adjustments and the bag is now one of their best sellers.

Make friends. No one today expects 100% glowing reviews. It’s how you deal with the negatives that make the difference. Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and other social media forums provide businesses with the opportunity to engage potential customers in a non-pressure dialogue that can build a professional friendship and turn lookers into buyers and one time customers into loyalists.

The bottom line is that today’s customers ARE social customers and it’s much better to address complaints on your own terms than on those that you have absolutely no control over. And if there is any doubt in your mind that social networks need to play a critical role in your overall marketing strategy I leave you with the following statistics:

  • 25% of social network users are between 35-44 years old.
  • Facebook has about 150 million users in the U.S.; 30 million are between 35-54 years old.
  • The average LinkedIn user is 44 years old.
  • There are about 26.9 active Twitter users in the U.S.; average age is 39 years old.

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More Stories By Brad Brenner

Brad Lee Brenner is a master blogger, radio host and founder of Brenner Associates, a public relations / communications firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Over the past thirty years, Brad has written hundreds of articles that have been published in trade journals, newspapers and online news sources. His focus of expertise includes technology, the medical industry and communications for the digital age.