For companies concerned that social media will open up a hornet's nest of customer criticism, here's another line of thinking: "Complaints are good," said Linda Armyn, senior vice president of Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
Embrace them; ask "what can I learn and do better?" she told attendees at Friday's Summer Social Media Boot Camp, where about 100 representatives from businesses and nonprofits gathered at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage to learn social media basics and hear "what we've learned" lessons from area organizations.
On one occasion, said Armyn, a woman criticized the credit union's promotional campaign, saying it was "so cheesy I need to eat a bag of Cheetos."
In response, the Facebook page administrator asked if she would like to email her address, so the credit union could send her a Cheetos care package, which led to a more upbeat dialogue. Sometimes the best way to engage is with humor, said Armyn.
Be prepared to have followers step in on your behalf, said Melissa Kuehnle, community relations manager for St. Joseph's College. She told of a "self-moderating" occasion on Facebook when a complaint about tuition costs elicited a comment from an alumna on how she had gotten a full scholarship. Also, a while back, a student set up a Facebook page bemoaning the school's parking conditions. That, said Kuehnle, led to the school's reminding all students of the off-site parking and shuttle service.
Other boot camp sessions addressed the size and scope of various social media sites, analytic tools, some basics on how to begin.
The boot camp was organized by the Fair Media Council, with support from North Shore-LIJ Health System. The idea came about, said Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council, because so many people had been telling her, "I know I need a Facebook page. I just don't know why."
Cheryl Dender, marketing director for Sales Tax Defense Llc, a consulting firm in Deer Park, got some coaching on where to start from Jody Fisher, senior vice president, Rubenstein Communications. He said that as Dender was already familiar with Facebook, she could set up a page there for the business to include: an avatar, profile and contact information, a sense of services provided and what kinds of people/organizations could benefit from them.
Debra B. Lindner, administrator for the Long Island Women's Agenda, said she left with ideas on how to make her Facebook postings for the organization more proactive and actionable, such as including links as often as possible. Overall, the morning "got my juices going," she said.