Your business’s social media pages act as a digital shop window – they help potential customers decide whether they want to go in or not! This is why it is so important to cultivate a positive image on social media. This is even more important as we come out of lockdown and small businesses need to get people through the doors again. This article outlines a few things you should think about before posting.
Is Your Business Welcoming?
When I ask this question, I want you to consider how you would feel reading a post from the perspective of a) an existing customer and b) a potential new customer. You must be careful to avoid alienating them.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking your existing customers will all return post-lockdown! Financial problems, fear of the virus, worry of inadvertently breaking the rules, becoming accustomed to staying at home and general underlying tension are all things that could prevent old and new customers from stepping into your shop or cafe.
How you communicate your business’s Covid-secure policies, new opening hours, booking systems, etc. will affect whether people come through the door. Now, I am not telling businesses what procedures they should or should not have in place. What I am saying is that you must think carefully about how you communicate with your customers. I have seen far too many (mainly small) businesses being too aggressive on social media regarding their Covid-19 regulations and whilst they probably think they are doing the right thing, they are almost certainly turning people off.
For example, I have seen businesses put up posts saying “NO MASK NO ENTRY” or implying in some way that customers who do not wear a mask or who are reluctant to do so are stupid or malicious. Regardless of your personal opinion, this is a sure-fire way to annoy and alienate people!
Social Media as a Double-Edged Sword
Isn’t is brilliant when your phone won’t stop buzzing for all the likes, shares and follows? Social media is a fantastic way of getting your business out there, but it can also have a negative impact on your business’s reputation if it is not used carefully.
Let’s take the example I used before regarding face masks:
One big and obvious issue with this approach is that some people are exempt from the compulsory wearing of masks. By taking such an absolutist and aggressive tone, you are potentially going to make those people feel excluded from using your business.
Is that really the image you want? All it takes is for one person to share or retweet your post, tag their friends, a newspaper or a relevant charity or regulatory body and your business’s reputation is put at serious risk. Suddenly, hundreds or even thousands of people who didn’t even know your business before are seeing it in a bad light.
People are far more likely to be willing to comply and actually visit your shop or cafe if you treat them with respect and create a welcoming atmosphere.
How about something like this:
“Please be aware that it is now compulsory for everyone to wear a mask in shops, except for those who are legally exempt. We would love to see you in-store, so please remember to bring a mask with you. We understand that some people are exempt from wearing a mask and would like to reassure those people that they are of course welcome in-store. Thank you for your co-operation, and we look forward to seeing you soon.”
Sounds better, doesn’t it?
Make it Easy for People!
Remember – you need to make it easy for people to want to visit your business. Wearing a mask or queueing outside might sound simple, but taking an aggressive tone and failing to communicate clearly gives people another reason to get out their phone and order online, where there is even more competition.
This rule applies to everything you post online, be it Covid-related or otherwise. If you’re reminding clients of your cancellation policy, be sure to remain polite as you never know who is going to see what you post. As frustrating as it is when people cancel at the last minute, you cannot control everything and you do not want to put off potential customers by putting abrupt block-capital messages up on social media.
Don’t Get Into Arguments
Finally, try not to get into arguments with people on social media! It never looks good for your company logo to feature alongside a string of angry Tweets, no matter what it is about. Now, that is not to say that you should just ignore any and all negative comments or reviews (especially reviews!).
As a rule of thumb, this is how I advise my clients to deal with negativity on social media:
Negative reviews / feedback
These need to be dealt with efficiently and in a way that shows that your business cares about customer feedback. Be polite, apologise for the problem and offer to help the customer by offering a refund or to discuss the issue further. How exactly you respond should depend on your own honest assessment of whether the complaint is genuine and legitimate and what you can realistically do to resolve the issue.
So what do you do if you believe a negative review or feedback to be false and / or malicious?
If you are sure the review is fake (i.e. you never served that particular customer, for example), first make absolutely sure. Go back through your records and check that you didn’t work with that customer or send that product to that person. Once you are sure, the best thing to do is simply reply saying: “I’m very sorry, but we have no record of ever working with you”. If they are complaining about a product bought online, ask them for the order number so you can check your records.
If the individual is deliberately spinning a situation to make your business look the bad one (e.g. the customer broke the Contract by failing to pay for time and as a result you suspended services, but they are claiming you failed to complete the service without an explanation) perhaps just point out that the situation is not as the individual claims it to be and that if they want to discuss it further they can contact you privately.
If the individual continues and you know it’s purely malicious, the best policy is probably to block them and move on.
Negative comments on your posts not directly related to your business
Sometimes you will receive seemingly random, negative comments from strangers on the Internet who are frankly just out to cause trouble. These comments may contain false information and it could have negative implications for your business. Sure, people are entitled to their opinions, but false information and accusations could damage your business.
Generally speaking, I advise my clients to block anyone who is clearly levelling false accusations and misinformation. However, if they are asking a genuine question, there is no reason why you shouldn’t engage politely and calmly. This will help you generate trust and credibility.
When it comes to social media, you must choose your words carefully. Think about how your business comes across to people on the outside. Is it welcoming? Does it appear to exclude anyone? Is it clear about any rules, procedures or regulations? Does it make it easy for customers to use your business? By taking a bit more time to think about what you post on your business’s social media accounts, you will create a positive image and atmosphere for your customers. In a world where social media is so vital to first impressions, make sure the impression you give is a positive one.