Online businesses need not do everything the same way. Websites are not necessarily always essential, some businesses have Apps which are effective for their businesses, whereas others have no use for them whatsoever.
Some businesses use Facebook pages to their maximum potential, creating communities, using Facebook advertising to promote posts and get people to take action, which could include even moving people to their websites to read a blog post, buy a product etc.
Some use YouTube or Vevo to build a following as they demonstrate products, entertain, opine or educate, others set a scene with a Pinterest boards, or showcase their wit and intelligence with a Twitter account which is a magnet for their targeted followers. For others, snapchat holds more appeal for their customers and sorts of fans.
Any of the above can transform or add an extra element to the service or product you offer, and should be decided on strategically. There is something attractive about making the world smaller, bringing a big brand closer – there is nothing like the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you get noticed by the brand themselves. Whether it is the thought that they could read your comment themselves, or it could be a reply to or retweet of a comment on twitter, a blogpost comment which they have deemed worth replying to, a “like” to a comment on Facebook, or ecstatically for some, a caring and thoughtful answer to a product or service question.
However what about when things go horribly wrong, or a simple mistake gets out of hand? This sort of thing escalating on social media occasionally makes the news because calm feedback to a complaint and a genuine reply with an intention of putting things right can really separate a good brand from the bad and the ugly, and the bad and the ugly can create a baying keyboard crowd rapidly which some newsmakers believe is worth reporting on. An online business fighting back turns into a train wreck fast, and like an accident scene or house fire, viewers come from miles around to form their own opinions, or promise to boycott a product or take a stand in some other way. A public apology without grovelling where needed is a mature and classy reaction. Sometimes there is nothing that could be done to restore the loyal client of before, the damage is a little too great, but seemingly arrogant silence can further exacerbate matters, and defensiveness and mockery of your disgruntled client can start an outright war, so avoid this tactic at all costs.
The most important thing is to be available to listen, and that’s why a private way to receive complaints is often a good idea. It is useful to have a channel, for those who feel they need to get something off their chest, to take action through, where they can share their troubles with someone who really counts. If they post their issue in public, they can be referred to this as part of their response. We all like to feel we have the ear of the CEO, and a reply from said mover-and-shaker within the company can do a lot for damage control. To not be reachable online is surely the ultimate sin in this 24/7 connected world.
However what about troublesome trolls spoiling the ambiance of your Facebook community, or your blog comments? In this case, if attacks get personal or off-topic, they can be deleted and the troll can be blocked as a last resort if there is simply no reasoning with them. If this is not possible a lack of acknowledgment of them is acceptable, as unreasonable behaviour can evoke the tide to turn away from them. Most people get that to respond to people behaving irrationally can only make the situation last longer than it needs to, and to retreat away from such behaviour is the sensible action to take, even if an attempt to agree to disagree is publically taken.
Therefore, at the very least, if you have a website, a good contact page is needed, with at least two avenues of contact, including a telephone number attended to during business hours and with an answer phone where messages are responded to within 15 hours, assuming that a message could be left at 5:05pm and not be listened to until 8:05am the next morning.
Social media as discussed above, could also be important, but again it needs regular monitoring and responding to. It may seem like the Kardashians and Biebers of this world have the egos of Titans, but part of the reason they have such huge fan bases is because, as gigantic as their brands and fan bases are, to their fans they are still accessible, even if it is mostly an illusion, the same illusion which keeps people buying lotto tickets, in case one day they are the lucky ones to be shone down upon.
Like it or not being online in this day and age has certain responsibilities, one of which is to allow clients to contact or respond to you. Best contact with clients is of the sort where they can successfully reach you, and get some sort of positive response which may start with an auto-responder on your contact form telling them you have received their attempt to reach out to you.
I heard of one auto-responder which contained a simple smile emoji 🙂 because after all, a smile is a positive response in all languages.