Negative reviews – Proof that responding works!

Back when I was Products Editor on, I received a steady trickle of emails and phonecalls on the same theme. Each one was from a product manufacturer or retailer who had received a negative review or forum post and wanted to know what they could, and should, do about it.

Five+ years ago, the answer was mix of the insight and common sense that I possessed at the time. Unless the review or post was libellous (in which case the legal requirement was to remove it), the best thing that company could do would be to respond publicly with a polite and reasoned answer for what may have caused the problem, and if possible, potential solutions. That way they not only reached the complainant, but also the huge audience who would view everything without necessarily posting. It also ensured that the situation was likely to be defused straight away, rather than building up steam.

Photo courtesy Lars Plougmann on Flickr (CC Licence)

If only I’d had the 2011 ‘The Retail Consumer Report’ from Harris available at the time. (h/t Mediapost and Mack Collier). The survey of 1605 U.S online adults reveals:

  • 68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social netowkring or reviews site got a response from the retailer, which led to 18% of them becoming loyal customers and buying more.
  • Receiving a response meant 33% went back and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted their original negative review.
  • And given that a big part of making sales and getting loyal customers is based around surprising them with things that make them happy – 61% of consumers would be shocked if a retailer responded to their nagtive comments on the social web.
  • Plus, nearly a third of consumers research on social networking and reviews sites when they’re shopping online.

I’ve finally got some empirical evidence to back up my conversations all those years ago! Funnily enough, the evolution of those conversations was a questions and answers section named Ask An Expert, which asked representatives from suitable companies to be available to respond to reader questions. I’d prefer you didn’t mention the amount of interest and funding sites like Quora have generated more recently!

But it’s actually an even more important approach to me now as a business owner, not only do I continue to advise clients to respond publicly to negative complaints in a polite, responsible, and most importantly, active way, but I also have a responsibility to monitor and respond to comments and reviews of the two businesses I’m running to make sure that we do the best by our clients and customers. And if after all that, you’d rather ignore my advice, Harris research and any negative reviews, then I guess pointing to the example of Craiglist and Craig Newmark won’t change your mind. I can only hope you’re not a client, and you happen to run a marketing or web design and development business!

No more social media excuses…

If you’re still thinking that your industry, business or employees aren’t able to use social networks and social media marketing effectively, you might want to take a look at this:

Army Social Media Handbook 2011

View more documents from U.S. Army.

Yep,that’s the U.S Army Social Media Handbook, January 2011, from the official slideshare account of the U.S Army. And not only that but they’re actively asking for feedback on it.

And if that’s spurred you into action, but you’d like some assistance, I’m always happy to help!

Corporate twitter acounts spawn ‘Twitteriocy’

Picked up via Pistachio Consulting, is Jeremy Pepper’s post on ‘Twitteriocy’, or some simple rules on how to use a corporate Twitter account, and basic etiquette – inspired by a personal encounter with someone following him.

While I don’t think microblogging benefits from too strict a set of rules, the guidelines he lays out are simple and provide a pretty good grounding.

Be yourself, don’t follow everyone back, use a decent client like Tweetdeck, be engaged, be personable, be responsive, be a person, and remember that social media, including microblogging, doesn’t work for every company or individual.

So something very similar to the best practice for all social media!

I’d add:

  • Be realistic, and don’t expect 1000 followers overnight, or 1000 referrals from every link you post.
  • Stick with it – if you’re going to use these tools, be prepared for the mid-to-long term commitment needed. It took me two attempts at using Twitter to understand why it was so invaluable and addictive. And far longer to try and find the right level between addiction and a reasonable amount of time investment.
  • It might still be worth registering your brand name to stop ‘brandjacking‘, but use it to lead people to your real representatives.

Any more?