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Personal Branding Online: Dealing With Criticism

I talk about social media all the time in this space, and you’ve often heard me talk about the incredible personal branding opportunities offered by blogs and social media. But like most things in life, while there are great benefits to branding interactively over the internet, there are drawbacks. And in the case of social media and blogging, the drawbacks are the other side of the coin that makes those platforms so valuable to begin with—namely, the real time and interactive nature of conversation. Every business would love to have a “viral” campaign—a video or other promotional material that explodes in popularity and is viewed by millions of people in the span of a couple of days. Social media makes this possible. But it also means that negative feedback can be rapidly spread. So what to do when you see a negative blog comment or critical message via social media?

The first instinct for many people is to delete any negative comments if possible. But this is often a mistake. For one thing, if you do it often people will catch on to the fact that you are censoring feedback. And then everything positive that you’ve done is tainted. But even more importantly, a public criticism or complaint can actually be a great opportunity to win over customers and prospects. Because by publically responding to a complaint and fixing the situation, you’ve just sent a very public message that you care about your customers and that you will make things right.

Say you’re a restaurant, for instance, and a customer complains that your kitchen forgot to include chicken on his take-out salad. Take the opportunity to apologize and offer him something great—a free entrée on his next visit, perhaps, to make up for your mistake. I’d argue that such an exchange is even better than if he hadn’t complained to begin with. When you get right down to it, customers understand that everyone makes mistakes. Many businesses don’t care enough to make it right—but now your audience knows that you do.

The internet is a great platform for personal branding, but it does expose you to public criticism from time to time. If you or your company faces such a situation, remember to view it as an opportunity to impress your audience with your commitment to your customers. Apologize and do what it takes to fix the situation—you’ll be glad you did!