Although social media can have many positive effects for business, unfortunately, there are negative effects of social media too. But they can be fixed. For example, United Airlines took a hit in their market share after a passenger was forcibly removed from his seat because the airline overbooked the flight. The passenger, Dr. Dao from Kentucky, was dragged down the isle of the plane while other passengers watched in shock. One passenger yelled “This is wrong!”. Other passengers used their phones to video the entire incident. Subsequently, the video was posted on Reddit and quickly went viral. United had an opportunity to take a wrong and turn it into a right. A bad social media situation can be fixed.
Company Reaction to Social Media Disaster
Following the initial public outcry of the video showing the passenger forcibly removed, United had an opportunity to handle the crisis. United CEO Munoz, however, failed to calm the storm. His description of the event particularly upset many people. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” A second outcry on social media took place after the CEO’s comment and his description of the event as “re-accomodate” upset many people. The apology fell flat and many people commented online that he was not sincere when addressing the public. Reassurance was what was expected, but finger-pointing is what the public received.
Additionally, it was reported that later that evening, the CEO sent out a letter to United employees stating, ” I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond.” The public was mad, and for good reason. The airline wanted its paying passengers to give up their seats for United employees. The passenger in question had a paid ticket and fully anticipated arriving at his destination, but United decided they needed his seat for employees.
This is an example of a bad customer service.
A Video Goes Viral on Social Media
The video of the incident on the United Airlines flight was hard to watch. As the passenger was pulled from his seat by security, his face hit the arm-rest causing his nose to bleed. You can hear the screeching and the gasping of other passengers. Then, the doctor was dragged down the isle of the plane while on his back. It must have been a humiliating experience for the ejected passenger.
Social Media Negative Effects
As many small business owners know, social media can be used effectively to market products and services. A company’s brand can be built upon and even used to engage future customers, conduct customer relations, and more. But in this case, social media negative effects have caused the company to lose quite a bit of market share.
The Art of the Response
It is important that business owners have a plan in place before the crisis happens.
Guidelines for a social media response:
- Timing counts and most social media users expect a response within 24 hours. Any longer might discourage future communications.
- Don’t respond to each and every tweet and comment. Do respond at the same venue where the poster has asked the question.
- If you receive an angry comment, always take the high road and respond calmly with the facts, your point of view and an apology (if appropriate).
- If a negative comment is tied to monetary compensation, be very careful. We have seen reports of a negative review being posted for the purpose of extracting money from the company. Yelp, for example, was notified of an offer (by a reviewer) to the company owner. The reviewer offered to remove negative comments in exchange for payment (from the company). It might not be illegal, but it is certainly unethical for a customer to offer removal in exchange for money. Each social media incident should be viewed as different and not handled with a cookie-cuttter response.
Respond to Negative Comments
You can be a hero to your customers. Respond to comments in a way that demonstrates to the reader that you care about your brand and acknowledge the person’s point-of-view. Your response, if carefully crafted, can actually take a social media crisis and turn it into a benefit for the corporate brand. If written carefully, you can turn a negative into a big positive. If handled well, you can be a hero to the social media user. It can take a lot of time and planning, but it is well worth it.
Respond to Positive Comments
Social media is a communication process. Even to positive comments, you should respond. If someone is praising you, re-tweet it. Go for it! It is okay to toot your own horn. At the same time, do not feel compelled to respond to a comment that does not warrant one.
Follow Up with Social Media Reviews
Don’t forget to follow up. If you have an angry customer, be sure to outline steps taken to minimize future reoccurrence. An angry customer wants to know that their time spent writing the review is time well spent. Follow up with them to reassure them. People want to be heard! Some people will want to know that their comments resulted in a positive for others. But there are a few people out there that comment in a way to "get" something. Those are the people that you might not be able to make happy. In this case, be careful. Pause before responding.