While the social sphere is highly regarded as prime real estate to strengthen customer interactions and engagement, a new report warns retailers of bad buzz, which can test their abilities to market in the dynamic, fragmented and real-time environment of social networks.
The new eMarketer report "How Retailers Handle Negative Buzz on Social Media Sites,” found that although many retailers have developed a large marketing presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, disgruntled consumers are increasingly using them as forums to complain about these companies and their mishaps. As such, retailers cannot afford to take negative buzz lightly when it can adversely affect their reputation and sales, according to the report.
“Once a retailer is criticized on Facebook or a similar social venue, it has three basic options for dealing with the situation: respond to the criticism, stay silent (perhaps to allow loyal customers to come to its defense) or remove the negative comments when possible,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the report.
One of the cornerstones of the stay-silent approach is to cultivate customer advocates. These are loyal customers ready to defend the brand when it is attacked. According to Grau, retailers can do this by granting loyal customers special privileges such as an early look at a new product or the opportunity to try a product before it’s for sale. Retailers also stage exclusive events where loyal customers can provide feedback, hear about the retailer’s plans and rub shoulders with company executives.
Some retailers, while hardly welcoming negative criticism, see it as learning experience and an opportunity to reconnect with valuable customers and reaffirm business values.
“They listen to what customers are saying to identify and solve problems before they balloon into much bigger issues,” Grau said. “This behavior reflects a different mind-set: Customers are not adversaries but partners to be treated with respect.”
The report aims to answer key questions like:
- How can retailers turn negative buzz into an opportunity to deepen bonds with customers?
- What options do retailers have for responding to negative buzz?
- What preliminary steps can retailers take to reduce the likelihood of social media attacks?
- How are retailers using Facebook and Twitter to resolve customer complaints?
You can download the full report here.