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October 18, 2007

Respond, Don’t React, To Social Media

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Everything we’ve heard about social media tells us that marketers should take the opportunity to engage with users. They should invite customers to share their experience, while also participating in the conversation themselves to build the brand and make the company feel tangible to users. It was always about connecting with customers and creating that warm, fuzzy feeling. However, one small business has decided screw that, let’s fight back!

Greg Sterling writes ‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Café where he explains how Oakland’s Cafe Rooz is now displaying "No Yelpers" stickers after they encountered "a stream of would-be critics ‘with attitude,’ predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business." As a result, Yelpers are now persona non grata at the local café.

Do we think this is wise?

I mean, I get that people talking smack about the company that supports you and your ability to eat is a problem. I get it, I do. But is antagonizing the very group that has already proven they have no problem being vocal, snarky and mean really a good idea? Do you really want to make these people feel alienated from your business or do you, perhaps, want to re-engage them and try to make things better?

Personally, I’d go the second approach. I’m not sure if the sticker was designed to discourage customers from participating on Yelp or if they’re just there to unwelcome past Yelpers, but either way this is a lost opportunity.

Here are some alternative approaches Café Rooz could have tried out:

  • Instead of creating negative stickers, put up stickers inviting customers to log onto Yelp and comment about your business. Set the tone that you care about them and their voice.
  • Use the café’s wireless connection and set up a Yelp station where customers can head over to the site while still enjoying their coffee and tell the world how great you are.
  • Create a Yelp account and participate in the conversation. Don’t write false reviews or turn into a spammer, but respond to the criticism, explain how you’re going to fix things, and invite customers to come back and give your business another try, maybe with a discount.
  • Create some goodwill by hosting a Yelp event at your store and inviting past and future reviewers.

And those are just the things I came up with off the top of my head. I’m sure if the Café Rooz people used a little brainpower they could have thought up a million different ways to combat the negative criticism. Ideas that didn’t include creating stickers that basically say "You’re Not Welcome Here; We Don’t Care About You". Just because your first instinct is to fight, doesn’t mean you should follow it.

In this case, all the press seems to have helped the business and the community around it to grow. You can still find the Yelp listing and these days, reviews are pretty positive. But they got lucky. Setting the tone that you don’t want people’s opinions isn’t a good idea for any business.

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One response to “Respond, Don’t React, To Social Media”

  1. Evelyn writes:

    I really, really, like this idea! I think this is excellent advice and it’s actually a twist to the “kill ’em with kindness” routine. I would have given Rooz and A+ for customer service! Some people “get it” and some people just don’t have a clue! So, we give our business to those with a clue! :)

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