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When Dealing with Social Media Negativity DON'T Use Corporate Speak

By Amy StarkAug 9, 2011

A while back Patric Welch - aka @MrNoobie - posted a blog bemoaning a bad customer service experience he had with Cha Cha which, "gives free, real-time answers to any question both online at ChaCha.com and through mobile phones ..." ChaCha is great when you need questions answered like, "I'm at the corner of 96th and Michigan Road, where is the nearest Subway?"

Social_Media_Best_Practice_Be_HumanI personally knew nothing about Patric's blog until I saw a tweet from Robby Slaughter: "@mrnoobie myself & many others are talking about @ChaCha accuracy at http://is.gd/eNu5h. Join us!"  So I did.

I was surprised to see that the first response from Cha Cha was posted at least 40 hours after the blog was published and it read:

"... I’m the VP of Web Products at ChaCha. I just wanted to chime in to apologize for any bad experience you might have had recently. We are very focused on improving the quality of our service, and I’ve forwarded your comments to folks inside of ChaCha so we can address the issues you’ve found. We have many planned improvements in the works for our service over the coming months that should greatly enhance our quality. We also have big plans for our website as well as our iPhone application. …  So, thank you very much for giving us a try. Thank you for your comments. Know that we are listening and we greatly appreciate your feedback. Humbly submitted..."

This is fantastic verbiage for a corporate brochure, however it was ineffective in this particular environment and it only fanned the flame.  This response did not connect with the conversational tone of the blog post or comments, and it could have easily been used for ANY complaint. It was a one size fits all response.

In Social Media Content is Vital but Conversation is King!

When was the last time you approached someone at a Chamber After Hours networking type event and used phrases like, “planned improvements” or “greatly enhance our quality”?  Those are the type of phrases used in a brochure not in a one-to-one conversation.

This well-written corporate speak response does contain three great examples of things that can help in crafting responses to negativity on social media platforms:

  1. Chime-in - Colloquialisms always add a touch of humanity.
  2. Folks - This is a great word that rarely -- if ever -- appears in corporate literature.
  3. I've / You've - Contractions are used in speaking more than writing. Highly educated people rarely use contractions in writing and it can show in their social media responses.

Here is an example of a non-corporate speak response that may have ameliorated the situation:

"Hey it’s my job to pay attention to what’s happening out in the blogosphere [no one really cares about your corporate title]. I’ve been looking over your post AND the comments [let them know you are paying attention]. We’re always disappointed when someone doesn’t have a great experience using our service. Could you please help me by listing a specific example of the problem you've had, then I’ll make sure to get the info to the right FOLKS here at ChaCha [Help is a powerful word. People rarely refuse to help when asked]" 

When you reply to negative comments on any social media platform it's important to stay away from cookie-cutter responses and don't type anything that you wouldn't SAY to someone face-to-face.


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