1. You will be judged on the tone of your response. Be humorous, but not flippant. Be polite, not argumentative. Consider every contact individually. Does this person require assistance, or are they simply letting off steam?
2. Don’t hide behind a logo, be human. Make one employee your single point of contact for social media. This should be a senior marketer with a good grasp of frontline customer services, not an intern with plenty of Facebook skills but little idea of how your business really works.
3. Deal in facts. If your company is being attacked for something that isn’t true, politely offer a link to a source that backs up your side of the story. Treat every comment in the same way you might in a retail environment: other customers will be listening.
4. Show that you care. Emphasise that the reason your company has a social media channel is to listen to customers’ problems and act on that information. Promise to investigate the problem and keep that promise. Social media happens in real time, so be quick.
5. You may need to move the discussion away from a social media platform to email, or even telephone. This has two benefits: first, it removes the oxygen of publicity. Second, it permits you to be much clearer and more precise than you can ever be in 140 characters.