Ahhh, Social Media. It makes it so easy to talk directly to the companies you know and love. Ask about specials, discuss with friends and compliment the chef. But it also makes it super easy to complain, criticize and make suggestions that might not be so kind.
As a consumer, giving feedback is useful to all companies, if and only if, it is constructive. There are several things to consider before posting negative comments on a business page. First check their policy on what can be posted. Many companies will have a small blurb stating what is or isn’t acceptable to post on their page. Constructive Criticism they will allow; abuse, vulgarity, spam or even just plain overly hurtful comments will be removed and are completely at the discretion of the page’s administrators. No one cares if you think your server was fat and ugly… so the company can take down those posts. They do, however, care if your sever was friendly.
Secondly, if you are going to complain about something, be sure you are doing it for the right reasons; otherwise people will see right through you. Compulsive complainers who do so just to get free product, money back or to push people to the business’ competitors without actual backing to their complaints will only go so far. And be careful, because just as negativity spreads like wildfire for companies, so it does for people who frequent social media sites as well. “Oh it’s just John again. He complains about everything and I can’t tell if he’s even ever shopped there!” You know the kind!
Thirdly, remember that once it’s posted on Facebook, Twitter, etc, it can’t really be taken back. So be careful about heat of the moment, ‘I was just having a bad day’, ‘sorry, I was drinking’, type posts. You don’t want your bad moment to affect a business’ reputation for days, weeks, or longer.
On this same note, give the business the opportunity to make their mistakes right before taking to the internet and publishing how horrible they are for all to read. And if they do make you happy after the unfortunate issue, then post about what a great job they did in fixing your problem. Maybe they didn’t show up for an appointment due to a family emergency, maybe they didn’t have the product you wanted because a delivery truck didn’t show, maybe they had a disgruntled employee walk out on them and that’s why your food was cold. How a company reacts to an issue that you have far outweighs the fact that there even was an issue and it’s a better meter for determining if you’d like to continue your relationship with them.
Lastly, be careful how you phrase your comments about businesses and make sure they are based entirely on fact. If not, you could be in some serious trouble. According to an article on Lexology.com titled “Social Media defamation victories assist companies in fighting reputational attacks”, they mention that “Clay Corporation v. Colter is part of a larger trend of defamation actions brought by businesses against online commentators based on their false and defamatory statements. In fact, a recent Washington Post article reported that due to the explosion of online review websites, such as Yelp, lawsuits based on defamatory information posted to these sites are “on the rise.”’ If you go to a restaurant and your pasta was cold, you can post that.
If you go to a restaurant and your pasta was cold and you post that this restaurant has the worst pasta ever and no one should ever eat there, you could be in for a visit to the courthouse. Especially if the restaurant can prove what you posted damaged their reputation or cost them money. In a world where the customer has learned that they are ‘always right’ and that companies will go out of their way to make them happy, consumers have started feeling safe to post whatever they want about a business in the hopes they will get some kind of “reward.” But companies are fighting back and winning. Free speech does not always apply, especially when your statement is false or exaggerated. And don’t forget, many businesses, especially small ones, are struggling day in and day out in this economy to make ends meet. They want to know what they can do better or can continue doing to keep you coming back, but one exaggerated statement from you on their page could cost them much needed income they use to feed their family or to pay their mortgage. Always be truthful about what you post, always give them a chance to make it right, and always brag about businesses when you’re happy about them. Remember, your one post goes a long way…they don’t call it the World Wide Web for nothing!