3 mistakes to avoid after social media bashing

Now that social media has a strong presence in consumers' lives, one person's negative experience with a company easily can become a public relations nightmare as the story gets shared repeatedly across various online sites.

Unfortunately, that negative publicity often is multiplied when companies make missteps, by either attacking the consumer with an overly emotional response or remaining silent and offering no defense to a poor online review, reported CIO Magazine.

As insurers wade deeper into social media, they're feeling the impact of online comments and reviews of their products, services and customer service. In fact, consumers are reaching out to insurers through social sites like Twitter to express their complaints and criticisms, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. One consumer, who kicked up a PR firestorm after tweeting that Aetna wouldn't fully cover his cancer treatments, drew a personal response from CEO Mark Bertolini in 2012. What's more, 70 percent of all opinions and comments about insurers posted on social media sites in 2011 were negative.

To help companies like insurers improve their online presence, Jay Shek, CEO of Locality, a search engine for businesses that uses Yelp ratings and reviews, compiled a list of four common mistakes companies make in response to negative online reviews. Here's three of them, as presented by CIO Magazine:

1. Counterbalancing with fake positive reviews

Some companies add fake positive reviews to a social site to hopefully downplay a negative one. The problem, though, is the company could get caught, which then leads to a separate public nightmare. Review sites like Yelp are improving their ability to discover fake reviews with web filters, increasing the chance the company will be found out.

2. Reacting emotionally

"It's natural to react emotionally, but you can't let that come through," Shek said. "Reacting negatively reflects even worse on your business than the initial negative review." He recommended either ignoring single, opinionated reviews (because there's little insurance companies can do to rectify the situation) or acknowledging the customer's frustration and providing steps to solve or at least address the problem, CIO Magazine noted.

3. Looking for a quick fix

Many companies often try to implement a quick fix, including offering the consumer a future discount, to rectify a poor online review or comment. "You don't want to train consumers to complain in order to get discounts and free stuff," Shek said. Instead, he suggested companies conduct the initial outreach offline, which provides an opportunity to really understand the consumer's situation and find a resolution. Then the company can post the results online. "Whether or not you've made the customer happy, the fact that you were open and honest about the problem and tried to address it increases your reputation online," he told CIO Magazine.

To learn more:
- read the CIO Magazine article