How to give Feedback to brands using Social Software

Today is Thanksgiving, an American Holiday where we give thanks for all that we have, and we do it with others. What a perfect time to discuss sharing and feedback in the social sphere.

Social feedback is a good thing, if done correctly, it can help companies include customers and prospects in shaping better products and services, I’m all for it (and have written about it extensively) and am in the position companies to participate.

A few days ago, I gave my public feedback about three brands on my blog, most of which responded in a timely fashion. Having been on the receiving end many times for public feedback for my employer, I know what it feels like.

[While it’s so easy for consumers to ‘blast’ at brands with negative criticism, let’s consider taking the high route to encourage better behavior from brands, give them actionable recommendations, and be accountable as brands respond. These social tools give us the opportunity to build a better products and services, let’s use them responsibly and maximize their abilities]

Today, I’d like to set forth some ground rules for those who plan on leaving feedback from their social tools. These will help both the customer, their network and peers, and the brand to make improvements.

How to give Feedback to brands using Social Software:

1) Put yourself in the position of others

For many, posting their brand grievances online is a frustrating and liberating experience, a swell of emotion will be part of the experience, including the desire to lash out and spread the frustration you once had. While it’s never a great idea to post when you’re emotional, consider how the readers of the post will feel. Your network and friends, will they glean the helpful information about the dangers in the product or service if it’s filled with emotion and four letter curse words? Secondly, consider yourself in the position of the recepient of the bad news, by griping will it make them more likely or less likely to respond? Try substituting the name of the brand you’re complaining about with your own company’s brand and see how it goes.

So write out your feedback in the way you feel, then walk away for an hour, and take another look, does it meet the criteria listed above? Remember good online feedback isn’t just about you releasing your frustration, but also about improving products and services for you, your friends, and the brand. Also, be sure this is the right place for feedback, if the company has an active support forum, you may want to at least post there first, or cross post, linking them together.

2) Don’t just complain, give recommendations
It’s so easy to point out the faults of others, I could spend all day writing a gripe post about every brand I come into contact with. The responsible and sensible contributor will offer recommendations or scenarios to help improve the service. Really call it out, and spend the time to make it actionable for these companies, it’s quite possible they’ve never looked at it directly from your perspective (scary huh?) and when management reads your post (not filtered through corporate politics) they’ll have a better sense of what you want.

Spend the time to make sensible and realistic recommendations, what could a brand do that would win your trust over and you’d be willing to tell others about. Do keep in mind that there are often strategic limitations that can’t appease every request, but at least these brands have a starting point.

3) If the company responds, acknowledge, be collaborative

Now the table is turning. I’ve spoken at many conferences for PR and marketing and I encourage those on point to respond quickly, authentically and with genuine concern –even if they don’t have the answer right away. Many times, bloggers just want to know that they are being heard. Here’s how the roles reverse; after providing your feedback (given the two conditions above) and the company responds via email or comments, you are expected to update your post to reflect the actions of the brand. Why is this? remember that we’re working in a collaborative sense to offer feedback, and that requires communication both to and from. Secondly, it’s likely your feedback will easily be found on the internet (for many years to come) and you should certainly offer a company reprise if they’ve really earned it. If you remember the example of Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell example, he’s know touting the virtues of Dell –as they’ve come full circle.

So update your posts when your brand first contacts you, but more importantly after issues have been resolved or fixed, it’s the responsible thing to do. No need to do in real time, just be sensible.

So there you have it social folks, here’s some guidelines that I will be following in my online feedback, and I hope that you pass this to others, as with these many social tools the opportunity to build better products and services is here.

This is one of the ways a web strategist gives thanks!