“Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter’s wand — itself a nothing,
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyze the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! Take away the sword,
States can be saved without it!”
– Edward Bulwer-Lytton, novelist, and playwright
Have you noticed that nearly everyone has something to say these days—especially online? It’s not your imagination! People have become increasingly emboldened by having the opportunity to use social media as an outlet for their individual voices. Most of the time, people use their social media platforms to share positive, funny, and uplifting messages, whether their own thoughts, or through memes. Unfortunately, on the flip side, we see more than our fair share of negative messages as well. In either case, once something is said on the internet, it can exist indefinitely… there is no going back.
In one of our recent blog posts, “Service for the Customer,” we addressed the importance of providing excellent customer service as one way to avoid receiving negative reviews online. However, you will always have at least one disgruntled individual who has no qualms about letting you know how unhappy they are — either on your social media platforms, within your blog comments, online review sites, etc. – nor will they hesitate to make their feelings known to the public.
Along with the opportunity and easy access to do so, each of us has the power to use words, both positive and negative, to express ourselves. So, what’s a business to do? Here are a few ways you can “sharpen your own sword,” so to speak, and make your words – and those of your audience – matter.
Acknowledge ALL comments
Although it’s tempting to simply ignore or delete the negative comments, it could end up being one of the worst things you do as a business. For one thing, it will give an unhappy individual yet another excuse to continue negativity towards your business. Every comment, whether positive, negative, or neutral, should be responded to since doing so helps you better connect with your followers by opening the lines of communication.
For customer service purposes, every negative review provides an opportunity to turn the situation around for a win! It’s not always easy, but it’s important to always be polite and professional when communicating online with your followers. Avoid swear words, even if they’re using them. Be mindful of your loyal customers; if they happen to see you being rude to others, it may affect their opinion of your company as well as their decision to continue doing business with you.
Note: Spam and vulgar or offensive comments are definitely exceptions and should be reported and deleted.
Mistakes can happen in any organization. Quite frequently, brands are called out by their audiences for what may seem to be a minor error, such as a typo or misspelling. However, there are times where a major blunder could occur unintentionally, such as internet controversies, offensive posts, inappropriately timed posts – perhaps due to prescheduling – or engaging in an online argument with an individual that goes sideways.
Regardless of whether the blunder is tiny or gigantic, the first step to take as business owner is to apologize. Even if you disagree with the individual, saying, “We are very sorry,” goes a long way to start the process of resolving or avoiding further conflict. The damage is done, so attempting to cover up or ignore the mistake will only make the situation worse for your business. Instead, immediately accept responsibility and take ownership for your error with a public online apology. When issuing your public apology, make sure you are sincere. Most people can tell the difference between a fake one that translates to an ‘Oops! We got caught!’, and a genuine, heartfelt sentiment. Your audience will appreciate your honesty.
Obtain positive feedback and customer testimonials
One of the most effective ways to reduce impact of a bad comment on your company image is through earning positive reviews, which will far outweigh the negative ones! If you’re not sure how to ask for feedback from your customers, HubSpot offers a few tips to help you get started:
1. Ask the customer in person.
2. Leverage moments of customer happiness.
3. Begin with an open-ended question.
How will you use your words today?
Taking the time to share kind words online, such as a recommendation for a local business or nominating someone for an award, can be powerful and even life-changing for them. This makes the metaphorical pen very mighty indeed. Which takes us back to the famous saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” According to one interpretation, writing is a more powerful tool than violence, and a pen can accomplish far more than a sword. It implies that the power of writing is timeless, whereas the sword’s power is fleeting. Our words have power, so we should always consider using them in a positive way and on a regular basis.