One of the easiest ways to damage your practice’s online reputation is to ignore your audience when it tries to engage with you on social media.
You don’t necessarily need to reply to every little tweet or have the last word in every conversation (and in fact, there are situations where you shouldn’t), but to build your practice’s online presence, you’re going to have to get your hands a little dirty. After all, it’s called social media for a reason!
It can be tricky knowing how to handle responses on social media, though. We’ve put together this handy guide to help you navigate anything the Twitterverse (or Facebook-verse, or any other –verse, for that matter) throws your way!

How to Respond on Social Media

Do…be responsive.
Pet owners will ask you things on social media because they want an answer – so be ready to give one! Even if you’re advising them to make an appointment for a more thorough answer, the response will help build trust and confidence. Ignoring questions, requests, and even strong statements on social media is essentially no different from ignoring someone standing at your counter.
This point is a double-whammy. First, although you can schedule automatic replies on some social media platforms, this should be avoided. It’s impersonal, and on social media, impersonal is the last thing you want.
Second, even if you avoid scheduling automatic replies, that doesn’t mean you aren’t writing out automatic replies. Keep an eye on your responses, and if you find that you’re starting to sound too repetitive, try sitting down and developing a few different ways to express the same point. This will help keep the automatic-sounding tone out of your social media responses!
Do…be timely.
We’re not saying you’ll need to spend all day on social media, but it’s important to set a response time policy that you can follow consistently. After all, it isn’t just one person watching – your response and its timing will be visible to all of your clients. In fact, Facebook even monitors average response time for your page’s inbox and posts it on your page to give your followers an idea of how quickly they can expect you to answer.
It’s important to make sure you know exactly what you’ve written before you hit Enter, especially on Twitter. Re-read your response at least twice before you post it; be sure you haven’t made a spelling error, and be sure that your tone fits with your practice’s online tone.
Remember that you don’t have the added benefit of body language and facial expressions to support your message, so if your reply is to the point but lacks warmth, you can come across as abrupt or annoyed. You can also use emoticons to help convey your tone, or sign off at the end of the message to give it a personal touch.
If you do catch a spelling error or other issue in a response on Facebook, you can edit it by clicking on the little pencil in the top-right corner – but Facebook will show that your response has been edited, and the edit history will be visible. On Twitter, though, once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Do…keep answers short.
The trick to effective social media responses is that they should be short and sweet. Your readers are there for quick conversations and to skim through content, so make sure your responses are appropriate. They’re not just visible to the person you’re responding to – they’ll be out there for future customers’ reference as well.
Stay consistent with your social media tone and approach, and if you need to expand on something, be sure to include a link to a resource like ClientEd, where they can find further information. This is a great way to share your website with your followers, too!
Don’t…take it personally.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but because it’s so hard to pick up on inflection and tone on social media, it’s very easy to misinterpret things. Be sure to listen carefully and read between the lines to figure out what they’re really getting at.
Do…mind your manners.
Again, this might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget. Take the time and respond to compliments that your practice receives – on Facebook, a simple “thank you” is often enough. On Twitter, if it’s a great compliment, you can retweet it and share your thanks.
If someone brings up a good point, or brings an issue to your attention, there’s no harm in thanking them for it. People appreciate when a company of any size can show humility.

Handling Negative Comments

Even if you have the best customer service in the world at your practice, negative comments can and do pop up from time to time, so you’ll need to be prepared. When it comes to negative reviews:
Do…take the high road.
Always, always, always take the high road. You always represent your practice when you’re on social media, even if you are using your personal account instead of the practice’s page to interact.
Don’t…delete them.
In most cases, deleting comments is a bad idea (although there are exceptions). If the comment’s poster notices that their comment has been deleted, this can anger them further and escalate the situation.
Instead, treat the situation as you would handle a negative review on a third-party site, where you can’t delete them.
Do…take it offline.
There are cases where it will be more appropriate to take a discussion off of social media. Contact the person, either by email or telephone if they’re a current client and you have their information, or through a private message. If neither of these will work, invite the person to contact you so you can address their concerns directly.
Don’t…feed the trolls.
As useful as it is, the Internet does have some downfalls. This includes a small segment of the population, commonly known as trolls, who post comments and tweets with the sole intention of getting a rise out of the target.
If you have truly listened to an issue, offered one or more reasonable solutions, and they are still not happy, it’s time to end the conversation. Invite them to contact you by telephone (not email), and make no further replies.
Don’t…put up with cyberbullying.
If your practice is experiencing harassment or seeing an influx of unsavory language from people whose only purpose is to attack your practice, it’s time to consider using the Delete button. At the end of the day, do remember that social media is a customer service channel. If this person was standing in front of you making a comment, good or bad, how would you handle it? This will help you stay on track when deciding whether or not to respond and what to say when you do.

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