I advise a lot of businesses who are considering setting up social media profiles, and the one worry I always hear is ‘what if someone makes a complaint – won’t we look bad?’.  This is an understandable concern, and I have two main things to say about it:

1)       Just because you don’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, doesn’t mean that no-one is saying anything bad (or good!) about you.  You just don’t know about it, that’s all.  Take the example of Paperchase, who at one point didn’t have a Twitter account.  A designer felt that one of their designs had ripped off her own work, and she took to tweeting to vent her frustration.  Soon her tweets had gone viral, with Paperchase blissfully unaware.  When they finally got their act together a week later, the damage had been done.

2)       The way you deal with the complaint can enhance your reputation and give you a chance to put things right.

Here are some basic ground rules for handling bad publicity on your social networks.

- Set up monitoring systems so you can see immediately if someone has mentioned your business.  After all, it might be a nice thing they are saying too!  Google Alerts and Twitter searches (for your company name) are key.

- Make sure your Facebook page wall is enabled for fan comments.  If you don’t let people post for fear of what they might say, not only are you stopping people from complimenting you and starting discussions, but you also run the risk that if they want to complain they will simply comment on an existing post as the only way of doing so.

- Just as you would in ‘real life’, if someone complains, apologise nicely and ask how you can make it up to them.  You’ll do your reputation the power of good if you admit your shortcomings and approach the situation positively.

- Don’t panic. A post on your Facebook wall is unlikely to be read by that many people, as status updates from fans don’t go into your fans’ newsfeeds.  And not everyone is going to see a negative tweet.  But do act quickly to nip the problem in the bud.

Here’s a great post about this from Social Media Examiner, with some extra tips and advice.  I suggest you save it for reference, with the hope that you don’t need it….

And finally, remember that negative comments on social media channels are very rare.  On the social platforms I manage for my clients, I can count the number of complaints on one hand.  People don’t usually use these methods to complain, but if they do, then the right response can work wonders.

Over to you.  Have you ever experienced complaining customers on your social channels, and how did you handle it?