Negativity happens. It’s an unfortunate side effect of public discourse, and tricky aspect of every startup employee’s job. Though it’s never fun in the moment, a negative situation that has been well managed will speak wonders to your brand, and to your reputation.
Here are 5 tips to help you effectively manage negativity in your community:
1. Have A Plan In Place
Negativity can often rear up quickly and with little warning to your team. It can happen during the business day, or after hours or on weekends when a community manager is on their own. It’s important to have a negativity plan in place that everyone on the team is comfortable with, so that when the storm hits you’ll be prepared to weather it regardless of where you are.
Key components of a negativity plan include classifying the different types of negativity that you may encounter so that you and your team have a shared understanding of what to respond to, how you will respond to it, and what should be escalated. You’ll want to include clear escalation paths, as well as some sample responses so that other team members feel comfortable in providing an initial response, if necessary. We (Get Satisfaction) put together a Negativity Plan Template for our customers, so feel free to check it out.
2. Do Your Homework
You may be tempted to jump in right away when you see a negative comment but take a moment to do due diligence. There is so much information you can gather with just a few clicks, and it will serve you well to take the time to do so.
Who is the person making the negative comment? Are they even a customer? How much time has passed since the original comments were made? What was the context that the comment was made? Understanding the answers to these basic questions will help you diffuse the situation, and determine whether it should be handled by you or escalated to an executive or even a PR firm.
3. Respond Swiftly
Just as important as doing your homework is responding swiftly. Think of tip #2 as a last minute cram session, not research for your final master’s thesis. Remember, about 40% of people complaining on social media expect an initial response within an hour. That doesn’t mean you need to provide a full answer, complete with workaround, reason for the issue, and coupons for a discount next time. A simple, “Thanks for letting us know! We’re sorry for the trouble. Let us look into it and get back to you,” will go a long way.
Remember to show some empathy when initially responding to negativity, even if the person is expressing frustration in a way that would not make their grandmother proud. You don’t know what’s going on with them, so try not to make harsh judgments. Even if your empathy doesn’t come naturally, the person receiving it will feel it, and it will likely make a big difference in how the situation plays out.
4. Always Close The Loop
An initial response is only half the battle when managing negative sentiment. You have to remember to follow up with your users and close the loop. By letting people know when an issue is fixed and being as transparent as possible about why it occurred, you’ll take major steps towards building lasting goodwill towards your brand.
5. Track & Measure Sentiment
Take the time to track the issues people are having, the features they’re having them with, the sentiments that are associated with the situation, and escalate your findings as necessary. It makes a difference whether a glitch makes customers slightly annoyed, or completely turned off from your brand. Capturing, and promptly sharing, this information can help your product team make well-informed decisions when determining which bug fixes and feature requests to prioritize. New product features based off of community feedback and swift bug fixes often leads to happy users. And happy users are the reason why we do what we do each day.
What other suggestions do you have for managing negativity?