There seems to be a universal human instinct to try and get rid of anything portraying us negatively. Or really anything portraying us in any way other than how we want to be portrayed.
I, myself, am guilty of this.
So, one of my greatest challenges in learning how to be the best public relations professional I can be has been learning to ignore this instinct. Like I said in my last blog post, honesty is a key element in creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with your publics.
Part of honesty, is transparency. Transparency means you let your publics see all of you, the good and the bad. Even the “bad” you have no control over.
Including negative comments on social media.
The rapid growth of social media is forcing brands to hold two-way conversations with their publics. This is a great thing. It means consumers have a platform to be heard, and brands, if they want to be successful at this whole social media thing, have a platform to listen and resolve.
But what a lot of brands mess up is the whole “listening” thing. Brands’ social media audiences are often their consumers, and many modern consumers don’t want to consume if they are not being heard.
So one of the worst things a brand can do on social media, is delete comments of consumers criticizing them.
In 2014, Smuckers was revealed to be spending a lot of money on Anti-GMO Labeling efforts.
Consumers who were unhappy with this took to the brand’s Facebook page to voice their opinions in an effort to be heard.
But instead of listening to and engaging with their upset publics, Smuckers deleted the comments.
Not cool, Smuckers.
Smuckers broke the cardinal rule. Good PR practices do not equal erasing the bad.
So, Smuckers, here’s what you should’ve done:
Listen and respond.
You could’ve taken this opportunity to listen to what your consumers want and need in terms of GMO labeling, engage in conversation and learn how to be a better brand for your publics.
Instead, you erased criticism in an effort to maintain image.
Now, you’re droning on about how you welcome consumer feedback, as long as it doesn’t contain political commentary and misleading information.
Well, I’m going to help you again, Smuckers. This is what you should be doing now:
Make your consumers feel valued for their comments. Consumer comments are how you grow, even if they’re an argument against you.
So, listen and respond. Social media is a gift to brands, but you should use it wisely. Use it to remain open, honest and transparent. Through the good AND the bad.
Okay, I’m done being stern. Let’s have a good laugh. Here’s some brands who are not doing too hot with social media.
Image from Edward Conde via Flickr, edited with text in Canva.