Opinion

An emotional Facebook is still the brand's friend

For brands, Facebook's 'Like' button has been a welcome badge of approval. But now the social network is getting real with a range of emoticons, including anger. With customers unafraid of showing how they feel, Marina Cheal, SVP marketing at Reevoo, asks whether brands should be running scared.

Facebook: has rolled out 'Reactions' range of emojis
Facebook: has rolled out 'Reactions' range of emojis

Facebook’s ‘Like’ button has always been a bit of a misnomer. Few commenters really just ‘like’ a post. Often they feel compelled to add "...but I really LOVE it" or "isn’t it fantastic!" After all, how can anyone just ‘like’ a birth announcement or a wedding? But just as often, the comments are filled with "What I really mean is DISLIKE".

Nothing inspires a Facebook rant like customer-service issues, product failings or a marketing mishap. But traditionally, feedback has been buried in reams of comments – or, worse still, deleted by nervous comms teams. Now, with Facebook’s ‘angry’ face, there’s nowhere to hide.

This is a good thing.

The detailed customer feedback that finds its way into the Facebook comments section can be extremely useful. Spontaneous and unfettered, it’s the source of all sorts of hugely valuable insight into how your product or brand is really resonating with customers. But distracted by the smattering of likes at the top, it was perhaps easier not to notice (or to turn a blind eye to) the less glowing views below. Now signposted by that angry, yellow blob, a grumpy customer is suddenly much harder to ignore.

Face the facts

Brands need to stop running scared from negative reviews. It’s to be hoped that they are generally doing their best for their customers, but sometimes things just don’t live up to expectations. The worst thing marketers can do is try to sweep it under the carpet.

Acknowledge the negative feedback and try to understand what caused the reaction. A thumbs-down is an opportunity, not a problem.

Acknowledge the negative feedback and try to understand what caused the reaction – is it a fundamental problem with a product or a business unit, or was the post itself just a bit off-colour? Is this an issue you need to take in hand, or just the bandwagon rolling through? A thumbs-down is an opportunity, not a problem.

The alternative? Take 'complainvertising'. Hasad Syed, a disgruntled client of British Airways, couldn’t elicit a response from the company through any channel about his lost luggage. In frustration, he actually paid $1000 for a promoted tweet. It soon got BA’s attention. And the attention of the airline's 318,000 Twitter followers. Hasad’s tweet gained 73,343 impressions, an 18.7% engagement rate, and a world of pain that BA could have avoided by simply acknowledging the complaint in the first place.

Real-time brand bonus

For a quick and dirty way of finding out how consumers feel, Facebook has just handed brands a bonus. Add up the smilies or the scowls, see what impact you’re having and deal with it in real-time.

If scowls lead to comments, scour them for inspiration. Because how you deal with those scowls is important.

And if scowls lead to comments, scour them for inspiration. Because how you deal with those scowls is important. The instinct is to rush to defend, or even lay the blame elsewhere. By far the most effective way is to apologise first, engage second and explain later. Engage one-to-one, and start a conversation – it’s not called social media for nothing.

Of course, it’s always better if you can head off negativity at the pass. Don’t wait for a thumbs-down – solicit feedback so you can put your energies into constantly improving your offering while showing customers they’re being listened to and valued. And when you’re actually faced with customer negativity, don’t take it as a reason to run and hide. Embrace those little, angry, yellow faces. It’s your golden opportunity to turn that frown upside down.