How to Handle a Social Media Backlash at Your Small Business

Social media is a great leveler for small business owners.  You can find your customers and get your message out into the world without a huge sales and marketing team to pay.

But it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. 

A disgruntled customer determined to let the world know about it or a misjudged post that attracts someone’s ire and all of a sudden your good name is being dragged through the mud.

You may be small, but you are not powerless.  Here we take a look at how social media affects small businesses and how to handle a backlash.

Make sure you’re covered by business insurance

Okay, so that assumes the worst-case scenario happened but that’s what insurance is for.  You pay for it hoping you won’t need it but thank your lucky stars for having it when you do!

Prevention is better than cure

It much better to avoid a backlash than having to deal with one so make sure whoever does your social media management follows these pointers:

  • Check the news before you post, especially so if you schedule content.  You don’t want to brag about your smoking’ hot product when forest fires are raging and threatening lives.
  • Don’t capitalize on world disasters to promote your product. 
  • Get a second person to check all posts before they go out to check for typos or jokes that aren’t in universally good taste.
  • Assume your post will be shared beyond your core customers.  Are you willing to stand by it?  If in doubt, leave it out.

Get ahead of any brewing backlash

Try to spot problems before they get out of hand. Check for mentions and comments about your business regularly, either manually or through a tool.

Once a tweet or post goes viral, you’ll be running to catch up and might never get ahead of it so if you’re aware of a potential problem early on you can plan how to respond thoughtfully and carefully.

Plan your response

Don’t fire off a defensive reply out of anger or passion for your business.  It will fuel the fire and turn a storm in a teacup into a worldwide hot topic.

But you can’t ignore it either because the internet is talking about you and demanding a response.

Buy yourself time if you need it by letting people know you are aware of the problem and are looking into it. 

When you’re ready (and by ready we mean within hours not days) here are some dos and don’ts:

Do own the problem.  It might not be your fault, but your brand is going to be taking the hit.

Don’t make excuses.  It’s the same as saying ‘not our fault,’ so explain what happened and what you’re doing about it.

Do speak from the heart.  People want to hear from you and not the company, they want to know a real human is dealing with the problem.

Don’t make a non-apology apology.  It’s worse than not apologizing at all so be sincere and genuine.

If you haven’t already, take some time to put in some processes and protocols for yourself or whoever you delegate social media work to.  How do you want to handle negative comments about your service or product?  If you delegate, then at what stage do you expect to be involved in a customer complaint?

Hope for the best but always plan for the worst so you can head off potential problems before they become real ones.