Social media, ranging from DIGG and Facebook to REDDIT and FARK, can be boon to your business. When a customer or member of your community recognises something remarkable that you do, they can tell the world and the world will beat a path to your door. The unfortunate downside of having such a responsive media with so many civilian “reporters” is that negative reports travel just as fast and they can destroy your business. Most of us can remember terrible images of animals being abused on commercial farms, pizzas being tainted and car collisions caused by manufacturing defects. Those images rebrand the businesses they are associated with, and many do not survive.How can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? Here’s my advice: * Remind those who work with you that the world is watching. People behave better when they remember that what they do may become public. Encourage, recognise or reward behavior the public is likely to see. The key thing is that you demonstrate that you care what employees do and you care what people believe about your business. * Keep your employees happy. Some of the most toxic social media is generated by employees who have a legitimate axe to grind with their employers. If they can’t get their concerns addressed internally, they may well seek for resolutions outside the business. * Respond to customer support and satisfaction issues immediately. Employees should always be courteous. Put protocols in place so that employees can sort out dissatisfied customers very quickly. * Create strategies for generating positive social media every week. If your company has a fan club on Facebook posting thousands of happy customer stories, it is unlikely that a few angry words by one will cause a problem. * If negative social media does come to your attention, respond to it immediately, honestly, professionally and politely. Bad social media should be handled by corporate presidents and other high-profile professionals. Treat it like a TV appearance. * Seek legal remedies, when appropriate, to handle customers and employees who spread inaccurate and damaging statements about you. You can make websites pull down misleading information, and you can go after individuals to make them stop targeting you. Some enterprises make employees sign confidentiality agreements to help inhibit the transfer of information outside the company. * Don’t let negative social media overwhelm you. If your enterprise is sound, your people are good, your products and services valuable, social media is unlikely to damage your business for long. If you follow these seven steps, you’ll find it is fairly easy to stay on the right side of the social media masses. While it may seem strange that so much of your business must be governed by what the masses might say about you, the truth is that word of mouth has always been key to business survival. The internet simply makes it easy for words to travel very fast and very far – and to be remembered for a very long time.
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