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Proactive vs. Reactive: Transparency in social media

In light of the recent Blue Bell ice cream recall, many of our stores have been answering customer questions about when the products would be pulled off the shelves and if they could get a full refund for the affected products. With any product recall, it’s important for retailers to be as transparent as possible with the information. Overshare if necessary.. You would rather your customers be safe, right? This kind of transparency is just as important in social media as it is when you’re talking to a customer in-store or over the phone.

Cara discussed transparency in marketing in one of her very first blog posts. However, she focused more on the positive aspects of it. The kind of transparency I’m referring to is related to negative circumstances, like a recall, how to be proactive, rather than reactive, and honest in your communication to customers.

This honesty is just as, if not more,  important when the mistake isn’t a vendor recall but rather within your own store. I’m not advocating that you tweet every mistake your store makes, but you should address certain issues while they are happening. Keeping silent will only fuel rumors and allow the misinformation to spread.

For example, if a popular item is out of stock, get ahead of the questions and post or tweet about it. Let customers know that you’re aware of the issue and when they can expect to see the items back on the shelf. Some customers might not see that tweet or post, and they still might ask you about it, but by putting out the information you are letting your followers know that you’re going to take care of it.

Another important issue that is certain to receive customer feedback is increased prices based on commodity changes. Some customers might not realize that supply and demand is dictating how much it costs the store to purchase inventory so they don’t realize you have to increase the retail price to make a profit. While you certainly shouldn’t post/tweet every time the price increases on milk or ground beef, you should listen to customer feedback. When you see that a significant number of them are voicing their unhappiness about these price increases, a simple post explaining the issue will go a long way. It won’t make everyone happy but it will show that you are not ignoring their concern and feedback.

There is one negative issue that definitely needs to be addressed immediately. If there is any criminal activity in or on the grounds of your store, it is very important that you keep your customers informed about what is happening. Of course you won’t be able to share certain details if, for instance, there is a police investigation of a robbery that occurred in your store. You can, however, let your customers know that it is being investigated, that all parties involved were unharmed if that’s the case, any changes in store hours if there is damage to the store that needs to be fixed, and approximately when the damage will repaired. This isn’t a pleasant topic for anyone involved and it’s not something you will want to share. But your customers have a right to know. Again, hearing it directly from your store is important.

When considering signing up for social media accounts with us, a major concern for many of our retailers is that customers will say negative things about the store on their page. They believe that this is going to make the store look bad so they want to avoid doing it all together. Unfortunately, if a customer really doesn’t like your store, he/she is going to say bad things about it on social media whether your store has a profile or not. As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, you have the opportunity to change the story rather than sit back and let the story unfold without the correct information or your point of view.

Do you need help getting the right information posted to your store’s social media profile? At AWG, we can help you create a social media strategy that works for your businesses and brings value to your customers.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie