For brands of all shapes and sizes, social media is both a blessing and curse.
On the one hand, platforms like Twitter can instantly give your brand the exposure it needs to break into the market. On the other hand, it hands a megaphone to every single person who's ever had a bone to pick with you — legitimate or not.
According to a recent survey, 72% of brands are woefully unprepared to respond to criticism on social media. In an arena where just one customer mishap can spiral out of control in minutes, it’s astounding that so many brands are so ill-prepared.
Part of the problem, of course, is the sheer scale of social media. Without a dedicated digital team, it can be hard to stay abreast of the entire online conversation. Critics can quickly fall through the cracks.
Today, I want to talk about an essential tool for dealing with criticism that every brand needs in its bag: the customer advocate. With a little bit of training and incentive, you can unleash your advocacy team as an effective bulwark against online criticism.
Here are 3 tips to make sure your advocates are prepared for that work:
Ingrain Culture & Values
More than ever, transparency and authenticity are vital to connecting with both current and potential customers. How you deal with criticism is the true (and public) test of your values as an organization.
For advocates, it’s vital that they well understand the company they intend to represent. In large part, this comes organically through their interaction with your brand.
That said, there’s much you can do to instill this kind of cultural awareness:
- Training Sessions
- Exclusive Online Coaching
- Insider Content
Salesforce does a fantastic job of this with their Trailblazer community. They’ve so instilled that community (they call it an ohana) with their culture and core values that when you talk to a trailblazer, it's almost as if you’re engaging with Salesforce personified.
It seems like every month we hear a story about how Wendy’s roasted someone new on Twitter. They're not the only brand scoring points for letting their unique personality show online: MoonPie, Hamburger Helper and Denny’s have each carved out their own idiosyncratic space on Twitter.
People like brands with personality. They don’t want soulless corporate types tweeting at them from behind a lifeless social icon. The same is true with advocates, especially when they're trying to address criticism on your behalf.
If your advocates are mindless drones who’ve been trained to parrot the company line, don’t expect them to influence too many people.
If, on the other hand, you invite and encourage them to infuse their own unique personality into the way they talk about their experience with your brand, then you’ll have an advocate who actually convinces people.
Filter & Embrace
Most of the time, online criticism is just trolling.
Sometimes, however, your critics can be your indirect best friend. Beneath the layers of digital frustration and internet inhumanity, there are genuine nuggets of insight.
It's crucial that you teach your advocates how to shed the trollish husk and get at the valuable nugget of truth that lies within. This is hard work – and it doesn’t scale – but it’s likely the most valuable thing you can do with online criticism.
Advocates are a vital part of any online brand. You don't have time to deal with every critic that comes along, much less in the personally intensive way I suggested in #3 above.But with properly incentivized advocates, you’ll have a scalable weapon in your hand against online negativity.