It’s vital to address any complaints or grumbles on your social media channels quickly and factually before they escalate, and to know at what points it’s appropriate to delete any comments.
How to view complaints on your social media channels
With social media channels open to potentially thousands of people who may be studying, or thinking of studying with you, someone going public with a complaint can sound like a nightmare. It may be tempting just to delete a negative comment that someone has made to mitigate the potential harm, particularly if the view is false or someone is just trolling.
However, burying a complaint on social media will do you more harm than good. Once it’s out there, you need to deal with it. So instead, view any complaints you get as an opportunity. It’s a chance for you to set things straight and showcase how fair and effective you are at managing problems. It’s also great tool to listen to your customers. If some concerns or complaints keep coming up, then you can easily see a trend and it gives you a chance to do something about it.
What types of complaints do you get on social media?
Complaints on social media can come in all shapes and sizes. They may be simple problems or questions, personal to a particular person. It could be a wider general complaint about your institution, staff, and other aspects of the education someone is receiving from you. It could be something about living in New Zealand, through to laws or government policies and other topics. It may even be something unrelated to you and completely out of your control.
Whatever it is, you need to address it.
Don’t delete negative comments
Never delete a negative comment. It will only aggravate the situation, or move the conversation elsewhere. It will also bring into question your integrity, not only to the person complaining, but to all your followers as well. Remember your followers are also your advocates. If you manage complaints well and fairly, it will show.
Also keep in mind that once something is out there on the internet, it’s done. You can’t take it away - chances are that many people will see a negative comment before you have a chance to delete it, and you’ll look foolish trying to cover it up like it never happened.
Get a screenshot or document the complaint
If a negative or controversial comment comes up on any of your online or social media channels, the first thing you should do is take a screenshot or document it in some way. Things can be deleted or modified, so it’s important to have proof if the matter is contested or if the issue escalates to a more serious matter.
Manage the emotions
Sometimes a person will be trying to get an emotional response from their post - either from you or your followers. It is vital that you never take a complaint personally or engage or challenge a person negatively. Always stick to the facts and remain cool. Remember that your response will be judged by both the person posting and all your followers. Being right might not be the end goal. You don’t have to reply to everything, or get in the last word. If the comment is clearly just an attack with no resolution being sought, know at what point to let it go.
“There are three sides to every online interaction: yours, mine and the view of everyone watching us.”
Count a quick ten before hitting reply!
Like any occasion when you need to respond to a complaint or negative comment, stop and get a quick second check on it first - especially if it’s something that isn’t clear cut. Like email, it’s easy to blat off a quick response in seconds. Don’t. Before you post your response, talk it through with your colleagues, or leadership if you need. However, don’t delay it for too long and get tangled up in any internal sign-off processes - just make sure someone else has sense checked what you’re saying.
Dealing with disclosure
In some, hopefully rare, circumstances you may be faced with a comment that discloses sensitive information or makes a criminal allegation. In circumstances such as this, you will need to provide appropriate advice to the person posting the comment, and encourage them to either contact you with more information or the relevant agency.
Word travels swiftly on social networks, so respond quickly, particularly during a crisis. We’re talking hours (or less) here, not days. A slow response will damage your reputation.
Online to offline
The culture of social media demands that you address the issue. That doesn’t mean you have to discuss every detail in public (and in fact, it may not be appropriate to). So aim to take the complaint offline as quickly as possible.
This means your response may say something like: “Thanks for letting us know about this. We want to fix it for you. Please contact me at…” or “Please PM me”. Also when it’s resolved, make sure that you resolve it online too. It may be something like: “Thanks so much for letting us know. I hope the issue has now been resolved for you.” If it’s on Facebook, make sure you comment on the original stream where the complaint was written
You set the tone
The tone you set for all your online channels is vital - the way you say things portrays who you are and how you value your followers. A calm, positive, reasoned tone creates an atmosphere where aggressive negativity or attacks will seem out of place. Avoid sounding like an authority or making out like someone’s complaint is silly or unimportant.
The Rule of Two
If someone is determined on being negative and only wants to gain attention, you may want to apply the Rule of Two.
Grant: “You guys are the absolute worst. I can’t believe you actually have the guts to accept American currency for your terrible product!”
Business: “We seem to have fallen short in your eyes, Grant. Can you tell me more about what happened, and I’ll do whatever I can to assist?”
Grant: “It won’t matter. It’s not like an idiot like you can fix all that’s wrong with this ridiculous company.”
Business: “I’m sorry you’re unhappy, and would like to help if possible. Please contact me via private message if you’d like me to give it a try.”
At this point, if Grant continues to complain, just let him do so. You’ve made two legitimate attempts to solve his problem. He has acknowledged this to be true by replying back to you, and the spectators will see the same. Now it’s time to let it go and walk away. Nothing will be gained by replying again and again. You’ve done your part. You’re on record. Move on.
The Rule of Two does not dictate that you always have to answer twice, just that you never answer more than twice. One reply is sufficient for the majority of scenarios.
Source: Business 2 Community
Give people the right avenue for complaints
In some cases, people are angry at something going wrong and just want to vent to their friends, or force your hand to address an issue. So make sure you publicise other options for people to talk to you and outline clearly who they should contact if they have any complaints. Make sure you then follow through with the person quickly.
“Social media is about the people! Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.”
Have a social media policy to advise when to delete or block
Under some circumstances you may need to delete a comment or even block a user who is continually abusing your site. For example, racist, derogatory, pornographic, etc, comments, or ones that are obviously just trying to use your site to sell a product or service.
To make sure you’re doing this consistently and effectively, you will need to have a simple social media policy for both staff and users of your sites.
As a guide, some reasons you may include for deletion of a comment could be if they:
- Contain spam, advertising, solicitations or include links to other sites
- Are clearly off topic or disruptive
- Are obscene, vulgar, or sexually explicit. This includes masked words (***), acronyms, and abbreviations
- Are chain letters, pyramid schemes, or fraudulent or deceptive messages
- Promote particular services, products, or political organisations or campaigns
- Infringe on copyrights or trademarks
- Advocate illegal activity.
- If you are going to block users, you may like to have a guideline around this, such as two strikes and you’re out.
And always say why - always say in public why a comment has been deleted, such as ‘This comment has been deleted because it breached our social media policy.’
Examples of social media policies
Social media policies don’t need to be more than a few straightforward and transparent points - both for your staff using and managing your channels, to the people using them.
For staff - some points your social media policy may cover:
- Only those staff who have been trained on the use of social media may comment and moderate.
- Use your common sense and always remember you are posting on behalf of the institution.
- Be careful discussing things where emotions run high (eg. politics and religion) and show respect for others’ opinions.
- Correct any mistakes you make immediately and be clear about what you’ve done to fix it.
- Do not discuss any sensitive information to or about your institution, such as financial information, student trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, giving out personal information about customers or employees, or posting confidential or non-public information.
For the public - some points your social media policy may cover:
- We welcome your views and comments!
- Please feel free to share your news, photos… [note anything else you want to encourage]
- Note that we do not tolerate vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, or comments we deem to be offensive or disparaging [add any particular points you may want to make on what you will not tolerate or reasons comments will be deleted and users blocked]
- Please note that if you have a complaint, concern or question about our institution, the best way to have these addressed is by contacting [enter in any contact information]
- The comments expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinions and official position of this institution [add your name in].
Managing the trolls
A troll is someone who posts comments for the sole reason of causing trouble or offending people. These people can take up a lot of your time if you let them. Once you’ve engaged initially and been rebuffed, save yourself some sanity and end the conversation. If the person escalates or becomes offensive, consider if you need to delete the comments or ban them - let your social media policy guide you.
Exercise: What would you do?
Imagine the below comments have been made on your institution's Facebook page. How would you respond? Leave your possible response in the "add a tip" section.
Your immigration visa website is not working. I have tried everything and put in my information and I get an error. I want an update on where my visa is at please. Can you give this to me?
Dont eva study here eva!!! They dont teach. Bad education. Teachers no nothing. My agent told me they r good and they r bad. Avoid!!!!!
Prevention is better than cure
In some situations, you can pre-empt negative social media feedback. For example, there may be upcoming policy or other changes that affect international students. In such situations, it’s a good idea to develop responses with key team members, or other stakeholders, in preparation, and to actively monitor your social media sites to see how the changes are being received.
I am an agent offering great services for international students. Contact me right now to get the best information on studying in New Zealand.
“Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But in the age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.”
Keep your eyes open
Use Google Alerts to keep an eye on your reputation. Google Alerts and similar services let you to enter search terms, such as your institution’s name, your Twitter handle, and just about any other name or term that relates to you or the topic of international education. The service scours the internet for any match to your terms and emails you when it finds any. A bit of trial and error will help you feel comfortable with the volume and nature of the matches.
- Always address a complaint on social media
- Act quickly
- Get a screenshot and document the complaint
- Stick to facts, never get emotional
- Manage any disclosures appropriately - get professional advice if you need
- Try and apply the rule of two and take the complaint offline as soon as you can
- Have a social media policy - both for people using your channels and internally for your staff