Responding to Social Media Criticism: A WestJet Case Study
Something I hear a lot of from companies thinking of getting involved in social media is, "what if someone says something negative or criticizes our company?"
My response is generally that if someone is going to criticize your company they’re going to do it whether you’re on social media (Facebook page, Twitter, etc) or not. So, better to have them criticize you to your face, so to speak, where you can see, acknowledge and respond to it rather than where you can’t see it and you miss the whole conversation.
Complaint or Opportunity
As WestJet states in their case study they look at complaints as opportunities to "showcase their problem solving and communication skills". No company is perfect and mistakes will be made. How they get dealt with often says more about the company’s integrity and corporate culture than anything else.
7 Tips to Help you Deal with Social Media Criticism
- As Scott Stratten says "Don’t feed the trolls". When you encounter criticism consider first whether it’s worthwhile to even respond. Do a little research into the critic’s background to see if this is their M.O.
- When possible take the complaint offline or use a private response method (email or DM) rather than airing it in public.
- If you choose to respond, remain polite no matter what. Even if you are right in your response, you will lose in the court of public opinion if you appear to be a bully or condescending.
- In social media, the critic’s audience is just as important as the critic. Respond as if you are talking to all of them since they will be judging you as well.
- If the critic mis-states the facts, and they often do, politely correct them stating the correct facts and offering the background information or proof.
- If a reasonable compromise can’t be reached, simply thank the critic for sharing their opinion, and let it go. The audience is more likely to remember how you dealt with it than the actual problem.
- If your company is in the wrong it’s often best to simply acknowledge the mistake and do your best to make it right.
WestJet makes its share of mistakes and has its share of unhappy customers, rightly or wrongly. If you have flown WestJet you’ll know that they aren’t your average airline and as their case study demonstrates their approach to social media aligns closely with their corporate culture.
Their keys to success: "right information – empowerment – autonomy".