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How One Angry Customer Can Ruin Your Business With Reverse Online Reputation Tactics

Hilary Martin is an internet professional specializing in SEO, SEM, and social media.

What Do Your Customers Say About You Online?

Social media evangelists have been busy for years trying to explain the importance of social media to your business. Despite their best efforts, many businesses have chosen not to implement a social media strategy at all. Meanwhile, social media channels continue to grow at an explosive rate.

In my opinion, ignoring social media is a mistake that causes you to lose potential customers. Up until now, I considered this just a lost opportunity. Recently, I have come to believe that ignoring social media channels is not merely a wasted opportunity, it can actually cause serious damage to your business.

You Have No Social Media Strategy

I recently had a bad experience with a local business. Prior to choosing that particular establishment I had done a cursory google search and found that it had a few good reviews.

After the bad transaction, I googled the business again. I left negative reviews on Insider Pages, City Search, Yahoo, Google Pages, and Yellow Pages. These review sites outranked the business’s own Facebook Page on Google. The next time someone googles that business they will find my review five times before they get any other information about the company. This took me about 15 minutes to accomplish. I’m probably also going to blog about it on my personal blog and that posting will be worded and tagged appropriately enough to show up easily in a google search.

Had I wanted to, I could have also tagged their Facebook page and talked about my negative experience. I could have posted a negative review directly onto their neglected Facebook wall and (judging by their twice-per-year updates) they probably wouldn’t notice for quite some time. What I am saying is that I can actually use their own Facebook page to divert their potential customers! Meanwhile, I can also use 4Square to leave a helpful tip to do business elsewhere. Or even to advertise another business that treated me better.

Your Social Media Strategy Is Poorly Executed

As I thought about all the ways I could trash this business for ripping me off, it occurred to me that I often use social media as a tool to fight back at businesses that burn me. A few months before another business had upset me. They did not respond to emails directed to their customer service department. This company does have a Facebook and a Twitter account. I posted negatively on their wall and to their credit, they promptly responded with a generic message directing me to contact customer support.

So as I began the process of getting my money back via the credit card company, I started complaining about it on Twitter. In each tweet, I would @ them so they knew I was talking about them. I tweeted several times and I was retweeted several times. No response. All of my followers saw that there was no response.

I did get responses from people who use the service asking me what the company had done. So I told them. I continued to mention the company in each tweet so they could monitor the conversation or jump in at any time. For a couple of weeks, the manager of their Twitter account ignored a public conversation in an open forum about their poor customer service. Because the company refused to interact with me, I interacted with their customers instead. Does that sound like it would be good for business?

How to Deal With That One Angry Customer

I recalled a few months before when I experienced poor food service at a restaurant. The receipt asked me for my feedback, so, in a fury, I typed up an email and off it went. I was still feeling a little jerky though, so I also tweeted about the bad experience and mentioned them. Because the restaurant was a large corporate chain, I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. But I received an email response within the hour. They informed me that they were getting that store on the phone and fixing this immediately. So not only did they respond promptly, someone took the time to write me a personal email rather than sending out some generic response.

Within only a couple of hours, they responded to me on Twitter and offered to help. Then so did their online reputation manager. All on Twitter. I’m willing to bet that had I made a Facebook complaint I would have received a personal response there as well. Before the end of the workday they had resolved the issue and I didn't have a bad thing left to say on any channel. In other words, they shut me up in a hurry.

Still Think Social Media is Dumb?

So let's suppose social media will not help to grow your business. But forget ROI and instead think Reputation. What are people saying about your business online? What conversations are going on about your particular industry or business on Twitter? Who is recommending your competitors on Facebook? If you don’t know, then you can’t say that you are a part of the conversation. If this is the case then you are surrendering your business's reputation to anonymous internet users. And the angry ones are the most motivated.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Zora Thomas on February 14, 2020:

Trinity Solar from Wall N.J. did not give me what was promised. They are not keeping to there part of the contract. They claim the salesman was new and did not know. I was contacted by a higher up who asked for a couple of weeks to get me what was promised and was never contacted again. Tryed calling and was ignored. The whole job was a screw from the beginning to now. Everything went wrong. They even damaged my roof. Just waiting for a leak.

Rami Hamodah from Calgary on March 07, 2019:

16% of customers expect a business to respond to an online negative review within 1-3 hours!

Klaus Forster on September 23, 2018:

This is a controversial issue with some pretty good thoughts about it on this blog. Thank you Kasio for sharing them. I thought the other day as well about this question, to find out if my business was waterproof against something like that. And I ended up with a different view on it:

Rachel Holbert-Jones on June 25, 2018:

This is so true when it comes to businesses. And it doesn't just apply to businesses. Professionals also need to monitor and stay in touch with their social media accounts taking care to make sure positive posts rank highly or creating new positive posts/articles. I know professionals who think they don't need any social media account, blog, anything. And think it's wise to stay hidden online. But if a business associate, colleague or anyone for that matter gets angry and there is no way for them to contact them or they ignore the angry comrade whatever the angered person posts will be first(on the 1st page at least) of search engines. I've found this out the hard way a couple of times both in my personal and professional life. Ignoring or not being prompt with an angry customer is a big no-no. And this was before the advent of review sites but if someone could post it somewhere they would.

Kasio Martin (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on July 30, 2012:

Good point, Vincent. However, I spoke to brand advocates in this experiment in the "poorly executed" section. When I tweeted about the brand several people tweeted me back with something to the effect of, "But I LOVE them, what did they do?" When I told what they did those people were disappointed. When the brand did not respond everyone I was tweeting with saw that. So maybe they are still "brand advocates" but they saw how the company responded to my complaint: not at all. In this case, I think the company weakened its own brandvocates with their poor strategy. Wouldn't you agree?

Vincent Strong on July 30, 2012:

Nice hub. But you do need to make mention that through all the efforts of interacting on the social medium, the end result should be to garner as many Brandvocates as possible. People, who by your doing on the various sites, have come to love your brand so much, they would defend your name, or refer an online query to you. Of course you can't really control, and manage that they will have your back covered all the time, so the more you have the better.

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