When you read a newspaper article or something in a magazine that you disagree with, do you whip out pen and paper (or Blackberry), dashing off a note to the editor? And do you then wait to see if your insightful letter—edited for space of course!—appears in print? Not likely! Now it’s almost too easy to register an instant complaint. Click on the comments button, let them know how wrong they are, hit ‘publish.’ You, and every other reader with a gripe, get an immediate forum. You can forward your comments, and the offending article, to everyone you know, on Facebook or Twitter, or via email.
If you promote your business on one of these sites, you know how fast word travels. Reaching customers in great numbers, at high speed, is a gift. But if an unhappy customer wants to tell the world, complaints travel even faster than instant coupons. And if his gripe is not quite accurate? Too late: the truth may be out there, as “The X Files” proclaimed, but it’s competing with dramatized inaccuracy.
In this New Year, many of us are still finding our way around the social media universe. It’s tempting to instantly fire off a volley of defense when someone floats something wrong or unkind. But a fine whine can strike a sour note. If you rise above the complaint, tactfully setting the record straight without maligning the complainer, your classy ways will outshine the gripe. And if the gripe has merit, a calm explanation beats a war of the tweets. Okay, the complainers are still out there. But if they know you’re paying attention, maybe their next tweet will be a compliment instead.