ALL CAPS MAKE YOU LOOK CRAZY (And Other Lessons from an 'Epic Meltdown')

Yesterday Buzzfeed posted “the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever.”

(Note: depending on your place of employment, may be NSFW).

In short, two restaurant owners – recently on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – went to town on their Facebook page, ranting against Reddit and review sites in multiple misspelled, swear-filled postings.

At Reputation.com, we spend a lot of time counseling our clients on the best approaches to handling contentious social media commentary and negative review feedback.

This episode is an excellent primer on what you should never, ever (seriously, not ever) do in five easy takeaways:

ALL CAPS MAKE YOU LOOK CRAZY. If you are brand-new to the Internet, it’s perhaps possible that you don’t know that all caps is the equivalent of shouting at someone at the top of your lungs. But probably you’re not a noob so just dial down your digital voice already. Also, a gentle reminder: customers generally don’t dig being yelled at – either in person or online. It’s always easy to say something sarcastic, cutting or ill-tempered but if you’re a business, no matter what you’re selling, you’re also in customer service. Put on a happy face and resolve the issue like the professional you are.

Swearing at your customers and commenters is always bad (but always). Like yelling, cursing at your customers also falls squarely under the heading of “Things We Must Promise Never To Do – Even If We Are Insanely, Irrationally Tempted – Because We Want to Stay In Business.” Swearing makes you look classless and clueless – and it inspires patrons to pick up and take their business elsewhere.

Online arguments are a fool’s errand. Remember that old saying, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel?” Guess what – in today’s world, no ink’s needed and everyone’s a publisher. As of yesterday afternoon, the Buzzfeed article was up to 9,000 Facebook shares and 47,000 “likes”. That’s just one social media outlet and all these results cost posters absolutely nothing. But the reputational impact to the business is huge.

Patience, young Padawan. Most companies will never experience such an extreme clash with social media. But even a small number of negative reviews or a Facebook post articulating a problem that goes unresolved or ignored can spell trouble for a business. For many companies, especially small or medium businesses, dealing with online commenters is the last thing they want to do. But exercise patience, set some time aside each day, and be calm and courteous as you respond. Often it can be useful to connect with the person offline – so that you preserve the his or her privacy, avoid highly visible escalations, learn more detail about what happened, can discuss the issue in more depth, and resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction.

A comeback means repentance. In a case of this magnitude, the company would have to do something incredibly meaningful (and huge) to start repairing its reputation. But of course, that involves acknowledging that they Might. Have. Been. Mistaken. That, you know, swearing, screaming, threatening legal action, denigrating commenters, etc., was not appropriate. For most companies, simply taking feedback to heart and really implementing changes accordingly will be more than enough to start earning back customers. After all, everyone loves a comeback story and America is home of the second chance.

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