7 common social media faux pas committed by businesses (and what to do instead)

Nearly every business has at least one social media account these days — most have several. With the variety of platforms catered to a wide range of audiences, social media can be an essential and effective marketing tool for a business of any size. However, a social media slip-up can cause quick and lasting damage to a brand or business.

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There are several common social media faux pas committed by businesses; smart leaders should learn about and from these mistakes to avoid making them themselves. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss some of the most common social media slip-ups committed by businesses today (and what you should do instead).

1. Trying to follow every trend and fad
If you’re trying to follow every trend and fad on social media, you may find that you’ve only diluted your core message and weakened your connection with your target audience. As with marketing in any form, try to resist the temptation to be everything to everyone. Instead, stick to messages that align well with your brand and customers. Share your expertise with passion, and be authentic. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

2. Not reframing your approach during a crisis
In a national or global crisis, it is important to consider whether you should “pause” your social media posts or reframe how you are engaging online to reflect the serious nature of the matter. Companies that fail to do so appear “tone-deaf” and without compassion. This can be exacerbated if the social media content is automatically scheduled in advance and a manager “forgets” to turn it off. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group

3. Failing to stay on message
Staying on message is important. It is easy to get into the habit of posting something — anything. Make sure your messaging resonates with your clients, and try to make it fun or different; we have become immune to traditional online advertisements. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

4. Ignoring or deleting negative feedback
A business ignoring negative feedback and/or deleting the content from its profiles is a common mistake. This tone-deaf and frankly weak approach throws gasoline on the fire — it doesn’t put it out. Deal with these comments head-on in a collaborative function. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

5. Failing to be cautious
Social media is polarizing nowadays. Companies should be cautious about what they share on social media, since it can “cut off” prospective customers. Instead, companies should stick to their core messages (that is, the services/products they provide, value to customers, benefits case and so on), modifying those messages to fit the intended audiences as well as the targeted social media platform. – Quoc Nguyen, Arthur Lawrence, LLC

6. Focusing on fleeting mass media topics
With social media, focus on your brand and the specific benefits to the consumer and their lifestyle. Try to steer clear of any current mass media topics, as they are fleeting and have nothing to do with your brand’s effectiveness. It would just be social commentary, which is unneeded. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Disconnecting from the community
Being disconnected from the community and what concerns them is a major faux pas. Too often, brands are so busy implementing their long-term strategies that they forget to react to recent events or major developments that concern their target audience. Such negligence can cost brands dearly, as it might convey an image of carelessness and apathy toward major issues that are important to their users. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

7 creative ways a small company can up its social media game

An accessible marketing tool for businesses of any size, social media can really help a business connect with the public and grow its customer base when it’s utilized properly. And with some careful thought and planning, social media is an outreach method where “outside the box” creativity can definitely be rewarded.

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To reap all of the benefits that social media marketing has to offer, you can’t simply create profiles on the various networks and expect some magic to happen. You have to consider the unique niche a particular site fills in the social media space and create content that specifically speaks to and engages its users. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share some creative ways small companies can improve their social media game.

1. Focus on authenticity and consistency.
Develop a social media strategy that focuses on authenticity and consistency. As a small company, you may not have the resources to invest in a social media team that can really drive a strategy. Utilize curated content from customers and team members to help with content development while showcasing unique perspectives on your products or services. – Lerah Harris, Kforce, Inc.

2. Show your audience more than just your ‘business’ side.
People have to feel like they are getting to know you. Show them other things besides just the business. Maybe it is a group volunteering somewhere or going out to eat at their favorite restaurant close by (remember to tag the restaurant). – Christy Berry, Compass

3. Create a distinctive feature in your store as a backdrop for customer selfies.
A favorite strategy of mine is one that many of my customers who own coffee cafés leverage. Have a mural wall for people to take pictures in front of and post on social media. It is a free advertisement for the café, and, if done correctly, it can draw a crowd to the location. – Michael Bacile, The Daily Java

4. Respond to comments and reviews.
Whether they’re selling a product, service or experience, strong brands on social media are strong community managers that are responsive to comments and reviews and are proactive at capturing their brand in action. By making your customer the hero of your brand story, you can capture the essence of your brand in a way traditional advertising never could. – Ethan Whitehill, Crux KC

5. Hold a sweepstakes or giveaway.
A sweepstakes or giveaway is a tried-and-true method for promoting engagement and capturing customer information. Ensure you promote your winner at the end to show full transparency and encourage further engagement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Create and share eye-catching videos.
Creative videos that stand out and connect with audiences will increase social media engagement and success. Creating eye-catching videos may be easier and more affordable than many small-business owners realize. User-friendly video creation tools are available through various platforms, third-party apps and video specialists for hire, making it possible to tell compelling stories within wide-ranging budgets. – Lincoln Jacobe, 6 Pillars Marketing

7. Share information, not a sales pitch.
Create a presence on places like LinkedIn — but not with a sales focus. You can become an information source with brief, hard-hitting posts that provide something. Help others understand a complex process or the nuances of a particular industry or resource they may not otherwise be aware of. Giving away knowledge eventually pays off if you’re strategic and genuine about helping others. – Chip Laingen, Defense Alliance

15 Tips For Businesses Looking To Ramp Up Social Commerce Efforts

Social media originally started as a platform to connect with others — now, it’s so much more than that. Social media sites have evolved into integral marketing channels and marketplaces where businesses can sell their products directly to consumers.

Forbes Agency Council

Because “social commerce” is still relatively new, many brands are still learning how to optimize their Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and other accounts for selling. Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council share their No. 1 tips for businesses looking to get into social commerce, describing the most effective ways they’ve seen entrepreneurs enter the social media marketplace.

1. Have A Holistic Strategy For Testing

Social commerce is in its early stages, but it will inevitably be huge. TikTok is investing big in social commerce and will be the dominating social media platform for this decade. Brands looking to enter this space need to have a holistic strategy to test what might work for them before doubling down. Investing in user-generated content, working with creators and refining processes are key at this stage. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

2. Publish High-Quality Content

Always remember that content is king! Regardless of how many or which social channels are used as a marketing vehicle to deliver a message to current and potential audiences, you have to make sure you stay on-brand, publish high-quality content and actively engage with your audience. Quality content always makes a difference and gathers attention. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

3. Choose The Right Platforms First

Start with the right strategy. Which platforms are you active on for which audience, and what content/messaging is right for them? Then comes the right content strategy. The audience has only a short attention span, so content is key. From there on you can tap into social commerce. It’s always on. – Maddie Raedts, Media.Monks

4. Identify Your Target Audience

Ask yourself which platforms your customers use and what type of content they like. By focusing on the proper channels and understanding your audience’s preferences, you’ll have a higher chance of succeeding. And of course, for branding, showcase your aesthetics. It’s crucial to build up your brand personality and to interact with your audience on a personal level. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

5. See How It Works For Competitors

Most brands don’t need to be on all of the social media/commerce platforms. Resist the temptation. Don’t spend countless hours and budget getting started. Wait a little longer. Watch competitors burn budget. Pay attention to who stays on a platform for six months, 12 months and 24 months. Go there. In the meantime, focus on your current customers/clients. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

6. Be Authentic

Represent yourself authentically through the platform. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and replicate what you see other top-followed brands do. As a Cincinnati-based company, we had a unique opportunity to show people who we are with the Super Bowl last month. Sometimes, it can be funny; sometimes, it can be embarrassing, but it has to always be authentic. Check out the Ickey Shuffle! – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

7. Actively Engage With Audiences

Social commerce relies on the social part of the equation. Start by building a brand presence on the relevant platforms, and encourage and develop community by actively engaging with audiences. Another option is to partner with creators on the platform who have built up credibility and influence among their followers. Either way, focus on the personal connections that will ultimately drive sales. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

8. Don’t Rely Too Heavily On One Platform

Social commerce is still in its relative infancy, and platform algorithms award newer features and products. It is best to test on every platform and not rely too heavily on just one. By utilizing artificial intelligence technology to find and partner with creators and platforms who can best promote their products, brands can generate authentic collaborations driven by consent that truly inspire audiences to purchase. – Ricky Ray Butler, BEN

9. Dedicate Resources To One Audience

When creating a new social commerce campaign, it’s critical to streamline to an initial audience. Dedicate your resources to one specific group and create a great campaign, instead of spreading yourself thin. Do research initially on your prime customer demographic and then follow up that research once the campaigns begin, particularly with A/B testing to see which campaigns are strongest. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

10. Know Where Your Audience Is Already Spending Time

Know what social platforms your preferred audience is spending time on. These demographics have been shifting, so don’t assume. Look at the data. Next, brands need to consider ad infrastructure. Which platforms are already set up to drive social commerce with minimal friction? The more steps there are between your content (or ad) and the purchase, the harder the conversion is going to be. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Be Sure You’re Ready To Handle It

Social commerce can bring new opportunities for revenue, but verify that it’s something you can actually handle. An effective social media strategy involves high-quality content (that represents your unique brand) and consistent engagement with followers. If you already run a successful e-commerce operation, can you stretch your current resources into also managing the social media side of things? – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

12. Ensure It’s The Right Fit For Your Brand

Before you launch on any platform, ask yourself: “Is this environment right for our brand?” In the same way having a stall at the local flea market may not be right for your brand, so too may social commerce be an ill fit. Do not erode your brand’s perceived quality through a mismatch. – Hamish Anderson, Three Piece Marketing

13. Understand Each Platform’s Unique Nature

Understand the unique nature of different platforms. It’s important to understand how e-commerce works on different social media platforms, and that they all operate differently in terms of audience delivery, metrics, typical consumer response and so forth. This includes having different media to push out on each platform. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

14. Be Ready To ‘Pay To Play’

Make sure that you are ready to “pay to play.” One of the largest trends in 2021 was the reduction in organic social media success and engagement across the board. So in 2022, if you are looking to throw your hat in the social commerce ring, per se, you need to have a nice advertising budget secured and set aside. A killer post is not going to make you millions. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

15. Do Your Homework

Before your brand jumps onto these platforms, do your homework. Make sure you can provide the type of content that resonates on social media and that your prospects are actually on these platforms. Look at your website and brand. If you start using social media to drive traffic to your website, and there’s a disconnect between your brand and brand messaging, it’s a waste of money. Don’t sell — infotain. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

10 effective ways e-commerce businesses can demonstrate a social mission

In today’s hyper-connected, information-rich marketplace, consumers can easily find out quite a lot about businesses. Many customers search for and choose to patronize companies that embrace a social mission that they believe in, seeking an emotional, personal connection based on shared values.

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With e-commerce playing an ever-expanding role in the shopping habits of both consumers and businesses, companies in the space need to find creative ways to make connections with prospective buyers. If your e-commerce business’s brand involves a commitment to one or more social missions, it’s essential to demonstrate that to your target audience. Here, 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share effective ways to do just that.

1. Carefully consider the issues to focus on.
To be successful, an e-commerce business should be authentic, transparent and reliable. Consumers — especially younger consumers — purchase from brands that mirror the values that they hold in their daily lives. They are also influenced by social and environmental issues, and to be relevant, businesses should prioritize which missions to focus on. – Shikha Jain, Simon-Kucher & Partners

2. Display your social mission on your landing page.
Display your social mission on the landing page of your company’s website so it’s one of the first things that a consumer sees when they find your brand. It can help to better communicate your brand’s values and engage consumers in your social mission. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

3. Partner with a nonprofit.
Try partnering with a nonprofit that shares your social mission. This is a great way to give back in a transparent manner while also making it clear where your ideals lie. Also, partnerships like this are great for boosting profiles and even better for special events. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

4. Highlight your team’s work.
Highlight those who work for your business and what they are doing for social impact, rather than what your company is doing. Make it about the power of individual service and sacrifice. People love to hear human stories much more than reading about how much was raised in corporate donations. – Chip Laingen, Defense Alliance

5. Be present locally.
One of the best ways to share your mission is to have a physical local presence. Many e-commerce businesses focus on casting a wide net digitally, but they forget the human element of having an impact on consumers at their local level. These are the causes that often mean the most to customers. – Nathan Scherper, Sherper’s

6. Include your social mission in all communications, and share photos.
Make sure you put your social mission on each page of your site, and include it in all communications. Do not put it just on the home page and forget about it. Also, post photos of checks being hand-delivered to recipients. People look at pictures more than they read written words. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions

7. Engage in public conversations.
Participating through social media and engaging in conversations about projects you are passionate about helps bring attention to your organization’s “why.” Make yourself and your company a part of the conversations that you care about — discuss the social aspects of what your certifications bring and the impact on the “why.” Make it about the causes. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

8. Back up social initiatives with objective data.
Businesses can say they are committed to a social initiative, but they need to back it up with action. Why is the cause important to the company and its stakeholders? What benchmarks have already been hit? What are the goals for the next phase of the initiative? What is the plan to meet them? Without objective data, a company may be accused of “slacktivism.” – Mark Zinman, Zinman & Company

9. Share your mission and service on social media.
Sharing on social media is a great way for a business to demonstrate its social mission to customers. If the mission of the organization is to provide a service, they should provide a form of it for free on social media so that customers have an opportunity to interact and test the service without a commitment. – Mackenzie Toland, A New Leaf Therapeutic Services PLLC

10. Show the measurable impact you’re making.
One of the best ways an e-commerce business can demonstrate its social mission is not only clearly articulating that mission on the website and all marketing collateral but also backing up the statement with the measurable impact, whether that’s related to an environmental or social impact. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

Nine less common ways to increase transparency through social media

Social media is a great marketing tool that can catapult a business or brand to success if you know how to use it to its full potential. When you take advantage of all the useful tools that social media platforms have to offer and understand how to strategize the content you share, it can be the best and least expensive way to reach a large portion of your target customers.

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There are several ways for businesses to use social media to increase transparency, many of which are still uncommon. If you know what they are, you can make the most of your social media pages. To provide some of these lesser-known secrets to success, nine members of Business Journals Leadership Trust discuss various ways that professionals and brands can use social media to increase transparency.

1. Focus social media content around FAQs.
Focus your social media content around your frequently asked questions. Be proactive in answering your customer’s questions before they even ask. This will help you educate your audience and draw them closer to you so that you can build engagement with them. Also, a great byproduct is that sometimes this will uncover another level of customer misunderstandings that you can address to increase conversion. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

2. Capitalize on negative reviews by owning up.
Positive reviews on Facebook and other platforms can help build your credibility, however, negative reviews can have a huge impact on the perception of your brand as well as your ability to compete for new business. The most reputable brands capitalize on negative reviews as an opportunity to take ownership and turn detractors into raving fans, and prospective customers will always take notice. – Melea McRae, Crux KC

3. Use social media to highlight successes.
Social media can have positive and negative implications. An organization should use social media to highlight company successes. This is great exposure for an organization. Potential clients may be looking at this when considering you for a contract they are procuring. On the negative side, spotlighting key staff successes provides an opportunity for competitors to poach your resources. – Jerry Ramos, Ramos Consulting, LLC

4. Show behind-the-scenes company culture.
A brand can use social media to show the behind-the-scenes of how it operates, share employee highlights and talk about company culture. This can help increase transparency and show authenticity. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Communicate clearly with customers.
Increased transparency helps to drive successful communication. When an organization is communicating clearly with their customers on a public platform, others are able to view that information as well. This creates a culture of transparency within and outside of the organization, giving future customers an opportunity to see what is really inside. – Mackenzie Toland, A New Leaf Therapeutic Services PLLC

6. Cross-market with partners and community.
One way to use social media to increase transparency is to cross-market with partners. Once you start that conversation and dialogue on social media, connecting with partners and your community, your followers will better understand who you spend your time with and your “why.” When you cross-market across partners and platforms, you amplify your effect and your message to both audiences. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting

7. Promote employee-generated content.
Use social media to promote employee-generated content. Videos on TikTok and Instagram, for example, can really help to give potential employees and customers an authentic glimpse into your culture. – Kenneth Bowles, WilsonHCG

8. Be vulnerable and share personal stories.
Social media provides an opportunity for business owners to be vulnerable and really share their story — the good and the bad. When transparency is present, it is relatable and people respect it and are able to feel connected to you. When someone feels connected, they tend to be more open to listening and supporting whatever it is you are doing. It can be uncomfortable, yet so rewarding. – Amber Duncan, Jackie

9. Release statements and interact directly.
In times of crisis, social media can be a powerful tool. Brands can use social media to release statements, which allows a large portion of their customer base to stay in the know. They can also use social platforms to interact directly with customers who are affected by the crisis. Consider social media an effective community management platform, not just a photo-sharing app. – Lauren Reed, Reed Public Relations

7 clear signs it’s time to scale up your company

Every entrepreneur starts their business with the goal of growth in mind. But when sales begin to pick up, it can come with mixed emotions. Growing your company can be both exciting and daunting because there are pitfalls both to moving too quickly and too slowly. Scale up too soon, and you may find you don’t have the reserves to support added staff and operations. Wait too long, and you may miss the window for becoming a top player in your niche.
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It’s essential to wait for and recognize the signs that your business is really ready for the next step. So what are the signs that your business is not just prospering but is stable enough for you to scale up? Below, seven industry leaders from Business Journals Leadership Trust share their expert advice on the definitive signs that the time is right for leadership to scale up the company.

1. You’re unable to focus on the big picture.
It makes sense to wear many hats in the beginning, but if you find yourself completely in the weeds or handling every client request and putting out every fire, you know you need to scale up. If you don’t, you won’t be able to focus on the big picture and your business will become stagnant. – Jen Vargas, JVComms

2. You have the right team in place.
Having the right team in place is crucial before scaling — especially if growth is funded by outside investors. Ensure everyone is on the same wavelength in your growth roadmap. – Dorian Rader, OneTen° Capital

3. There’s a balance of support and sales.
We try to focus on the controlled growth of the company. Because of the nature of the consulting business, we maintain a strong focus on current project lead times, team availability and the backlog of work to make decisions about what direction to take the company in. It’s a delicate balance of making sure we have the team to support the work in the sales pipeline and vice versa. – Jamie Anderson, Emergent Software

4. You have a strong bench of talented workers.
If you have a strong bench with talent who can do more and handle complexity, you have a strong formula to scale. Additionally, if you have built strong processes that allow you to push more water through big pipes and essentially allow you to wash, rinse and repeat the work, then you are ready to scale. Lastly, if your competitors are scaling, then you’d best be ready to scale too. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

5. Your resources are overflowing.
You’ll know the time to scale up is right when resources are overflowing: when your company has a surplus of cash flow and more prospects and clients than your team can service. Scaling can consist of additional technological support or additional staff. With an abundance of resources, pitfalls can be minimized and efficiency can be paramount. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

6. You’ve built up sufficient revenue.
It’s a good time to scale when you’ve built up a war chest from profits or fundraising activities and the market is right to capitalize on disruption. – Todd Marks, Mindgrub

7. You’ve got a methodical approach in place.
You’ll instinctively know when it’s time to scale up your company in terms of employees, square footage, capital investments or overall resources. Always make sure you don’t overinvest in scaling up; instead, do it with a more methodical approach. Try scaling one area then moving to another so you don’t push all your chips to the center at the same time. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7 ways to identify and leverage the best primary marketing channel for your business

There’s no shortage of marketing channels these days — in fact, when it comes to pinpointing which channel will be the most effective, business leaders may sometimes think there are too many. There’s no single marketing channel or method that’s the universal best — a strategy that works for one business won’t necessarily work for another.

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Smart marketing isn’t about being on every channel or trying out every new trend. It’s about being on the same channels your target audience is and finding the method and message that speaks to them. And while there isn’t a single marketing strategy that works for every business, there are methods for developing one that do. Here, members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share ways to identify and leverage the best marketing channel for your business.

1. Begin with business objectives and KPIs.
To determine the best channel for your business you must start with your business objectives and key performance indicators. For instance, if your goal is awareness and branding, a campaign that broadly targets large offline audiences would be effective. However, if you want to drive local business in a neighborhood or small market, geotargeting your consumer on a digital or mobile device could be the best approach. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

2. Market through your existing customers.
My primary marketing channel is my existing customers. More than 95% of my business comes from my current clients. Having proven results and trusted clients speak on my behalf provides the best indication to potential clients about what their experience will be working with me and the value that they will extract. Plus, I offer a money-back guarantee, which advertises my commitment. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

3. Make the most of online lead sources.
We use the online lead sources that are already paying for Google Adwords. For example, we use angi.com for leads. We know we can’t outspend angi.com, so we let them do the hard work and bring clients to us. We know that conduits like them are also going to fight for the top spots, so we want the top spot on those companies’ sites. – David Wescott, Transblue

4. Consider your target demographic.
We use the marketing channel most relevant to our target demographic. It makes sense for us to sell our solution where it is needed most, as that is where our customers tend to be. The channel is how we make the most contacts to help change people’s lives for the better. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

5. Leverage social media’s multifaceted benefits.
Every marketing strategy is unique, and the channels you use will vary depending on your business goals. The primary channel we use is LinkedIn. Social media is a low-cost tactic that simultaneously increases exposure, website traffic and brand awareness, allowing us to share our expertise with our well-curated networks, which in turn fuels leads and sparks lucrative business partnerships. – Melea McRae, Crux KC

6. Find ways to drive traffic to your website.
Our website is a massive driver of leads for our business. When looking at the people who visit our website, we primarily see our best leads coming from organic Google searches and our listings on directory websites, which share customer testimonials and examples of our work. – Jamie Anderson, Emergent Software

7. Boost your outreach through networking and content.
My primary marketing channel has been networking and referral, and LinkedIn is often the method that provides the connection of both. I have also created a podcast to elevate my voice and extend my borders of thinking and prospects. – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

7 ways to turn customer complaints into valuable learning experiences

At some point, even the best-run business will encounter and have to deal with a customer complaint. The obvious first step is to resolve the issue, but it’s also important to step back and look at the “big-picture” perspective. When leaders do that, there are two options: They can view customer complaints as “nuisances” that have to be dealt with or as valuable opportunities to learn.

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As many leaders note, when a customer complains about your product or service, they’re actually doing you a favor — they’re showing you where you may be coming up short. And it’s just as important to know where you’re struggling as where you shine. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart strategies to help your business create processes and methods for handling and learning from customer complaints.

1. Measure and incentivize decreases in complaints.
Measuring a decrease in customer complaints helps drive problem resolution and problem prevention for many organizations. Done well, companies can encourage learning from mistakes or complaints, making it less likely there will be repeat mistakes or issues. Coupling these learnings with incentives associated with driving a decrease in customer complaints is a winning formula. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

2. Consider the thought behind the complaint.
Never view a complaint as a nuisance. Try to think about the underlying thought behind the complaint — is something wrong with your product? Are people misunderstanding how to use your product? Once you’ve figured out the reason why someone is complaining, own it and commit to fixing the issue. – Jamie Anderson, Emergent Software

3. Don’t get caught up in the customer’s tone.
Always listen to customer feedback, and don’t get caught up in the tone of the feedback. Review it from a higher level where you can gain insights into things that can be learned or improved upon. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

4. Reframe complaints as feedback.
Reframing a complaint as customer feedback and insight opens the door for a dialog to improve the problem your company is solving. Being curious and open-minded allows organizations to ensure their solutions are the best for their clients’ needs. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

5. Uncover the facts and determine the truth.
First and foremost, it comes down to determining the truth. Uncover the brutal facts. Look at each review and ask, “What could we have done better here?” When we do that, we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, which allows us to relate and have empathy. That leads to the “why,” the “how,” and resolving the issue for the client and making things right. – David Wescott, Transblue

6. Listen and refine best practices accordingly.
Customer feedback is one of the most valuable components in building a great company. We need to listen to customers and refine best practices accordingly. It doesn’t make a difference if you are a restaurant, a retailer or a B2B company — listen closely! – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

7. Keep a positive, customer-centric focus.
Some of our best opportunities in IT have been in the wake of a disaster. If you view challenges as a chance to prove your worth — as a time to show why clients are engaging you in the first place — you will often find they are your best opportunities to shine. Keep a positive, customer-centric focus throughout challenging times, have a “can-do” attitude and be solution-oriented. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

8 ways to improve your business’s social media presence and enhance audience engagement

Social media has become a crucial component of nearly every business’s overall marketing strategy. While sharing high-quality content is crucial, the best social media strategies aren’t one-way message boards. Rather, businesses must also interact with their audience, allowing customers to get a glimpse of the real people behind the brand as well as to share their own insights and experiences.

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If you can build mutually beneficial relationships with the members of your social media audience, they will build a real connection with your brand. To improve your company’s social media engagement, try these eight tested strategies recommended by the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust.

1. Tag other accounts.
Comments and tagging other people to bring them into the conversation is a great way to drive engagement. Tagging others is a direct way to ask for a response and to build interactions. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

2. Post challenging content.
Create intelligent posts. Even if you have a brand voice that appeals to a young audience, it’s not wise to judge that they will not be interested in “intelligent stuff.” Posts that are challenging, such as smart and tricky questions, can catch the attention of any audience, add the element of change and do not look promotional. – Alina Clark, CocoDoc

3. Target problems and solutions.
Targeting key problems and engaging in real-time solutions is a great way to increase engagement. Combined with storytelling and real human experience, the social part of “social media” can become three-dimensional and interactive. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

4. Highlight the content author.
Use images that spotlight the content author. Instead of just adding a link to an article that may bring up a generic image, take the time to create social cards with the author’s picture, name and company, as well as the title of the article. This helps break through the clutter and showcases the author and the brand. – Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing

5. Work to spark interest and curiosity.
When I’m trying to deliver a message, I try to get my point across through my words or actions. On social media, you’re trying to spark a desire in the listener — to get them to say, “That’s interesting,” “That’s thoughtful” or “I’m curious.” Social media is exactly what its name implies — a social platform. Compared to an onsite or in-person presentation, we can be more creative and engage tens of thousands of people on social media. – Timothy Haluszczak, SteelBridge Labs

6. Respond in real time.
The best way to interact with your social media audience and facilitate engagement is to be active and respond in real time. Don’t just “set it and forget it.” – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Encourage audience-generated content.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, it’s important to encourage two-way communication. Contests are a great way to interact with your customers — for example, they can share photos showcasing how your company or product helps them. This valuable user-generated content allows you to build brand evangelists who can recommend your products and services to those outside of your existing network. – Melea McRae, Crux KC

8. Publish interactive, collaborative posts.
Collaborative posts, such as surveys or contests, pull a lot of engagement, especially when they’re based on a trending subject. Also, ask for expert influencers to collaborate on an article to reach a bigger network. – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

13 Best Next Steps To Take When Customer Complaints Go Viral

General Mills faced a PR crisis earlier this year when someone posted a claim on social media saying that he’d found shrimp tails in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch breakfast cereal; company leaders took heat for not responding properly or with enough speed.

Whether or not a business is truly in the wrong, when a customer complaint gains attention in an online public forum, it can go viral quickly. This is why all companies need to develop a plan for addressing negative claims that blow up on social media.

Forbes Agency Council

To help, 11 members of Forbes Agency Council take a look at techniques for limiting the damage viral customer complaints can do to a company’s public image.

1. Get To The Bottom Of It Right Away

Get to the bottom of the issue as fast as possible so that your next actions can be better informed, and gather a team to make sure you are considering different perspectives. Rather than ignore the situation or delete comments, acknowledge mistakes. Make it as short as possible; dwelling or engaging beyond what’s necessary will only heat things up more. – Maddie Raedts, IMA – Influencer Marketing Agency

2. Tell The Truth And Move On

If the claim is inaccurate, put the truth out there and move on. Today’s consumers, especially younger consumers, will no longer be pacified with apologies. They want to see sustained action. If the claim has any truth to it, it’s time to take a hard look at your business practices and fix the issue that was brought up. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding

3. Control The Narrative

You must control the narrative, amplify the positive and hush the negativity. In the case of General Mills, they should’ve sent a rep out to pick up the box of cereal and have it tested. This way, they remove the control from the public. When results come back, tell the truth while amplifying the positive and hushing the negativity. – Brent Payne, Loud Interactive, LLC

4. Don’t Deny Or Make Light Of It

This is a nightmare scenario for a brand. Have a plan for a situation such as this so that employees know how to handle it well and quickly. Don’t try to sweep it under the carpet by denying or making light of it. Try to get the person offline immediately to address the issue directly and come to a resolution that won’t make the situation worse. Let them know that they are authentically being heard. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

5. Seek Counsel Immediately

I would suggest turning to a PR or communications specialist ASAP to fast-track a plan of attack. It is good to have a specialist available to tap into, as not all of us have the most astute understanding of how the media and the audience at large will react. Seeking expert help will help you untangle perception much more effectively. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

6. Grasp The Full Context First

When social media crises strike, I always advise companies to get it fast, get it right, get it out and get it over. They need to grasp the full context first: what was said, how it is trending within a wider community and how stakeholders feel about it. Drawing available data from across social media platforms allows companies to suss out the original source, assess the situation and better strategize. – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications

7. Acknowledge Your Concern

As a first step, in an effort to be transparent, you should acknowledge that your company is concerned about the situation and those affected. Show that your company is in control and doing everything possible to address the problem. Finally, demonstrate your commitment to rectifying the issue while identifying the problem and ensuring that it won’t happen again. – Joey Hodges, Demonstrate

8. Don’t Be Emotional And Defensive

Always make sure you get ahead of any bad PR. Transparency is key. Sometimes it’s tough to be in that position, but you have to issue a positive and proper response. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and rush responses out in a defensive manner. Hire a professional and craft the proper response that won’t open you up to more criticism. – Blake George, BMG Media Co.

9. Use Humor In Your Response

Companies can make PR crises work in their favor; this requires leaders to be honest and timely in their responses. The best responses creatively use humor to make people laugh about the misstep, which can spark new campaigns and generate even more interest in your brand. Invest in your brand’s resilience and ensure that your marketing team is prepared to take advantage of any crises that occur. – Alana Sandel, Marketing For Wellness

10. Build A Social Governance Policy

Define what constitutes a crisis and develop a policy. A social listening program can help you identify emerging issues before they turn viral. By monitoring brand sentiment, you can have advanced warning on surges in social media activity. Once a crisis is identified, a well-developed social governance policy will allow for a quick and effective response to issues that have the potential to negatively impact your brand. – Larry Gurreri, Sosemo LLC

11. Don’t Let The Response Become The Story

The first tragedy of a crisis communication is when the response itself becomes the story. The second mistake is making a judgment before you know the facts. The third is reacting emotionally and making excuses. The Cinnamon Toast Crunch social team, unfortunately, violated all three principles. The key is to show empathy and let the general public know that you are on the case; the rest will take care of itself. – Kami Watson Huyse, Zoetica

12. Find Out The Validity Of The Claim First

If it’s true, then do the right thing and take ownership of the mistake. We are all human, and most people can appreciate others admitting their mistakes and asking for forgiveness. However, if the claim is false, then I think it’s important to address that fact and restate your commitment to serving others at the highest level possible. – Ryan White, Social Revelation Marketing

13. Go Big With Your PR Response

When such a claim is put out about the brand, make sure you go big with your PR response, and do it at lightning speed. Leverage this opportunity to put a spin on the original misleading claim by doing a large media campaign that builds off of it and corrects the message. Make it light and comedic, but absolutely correct the message. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC