Topic: Uncategorized

Engage Target Media Wins Coveted Film Award at SEMA

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Engage Target Media announces their short documentary film, “Just Kos: 60 Years of Kolor Power” won the Audience Choice Award, “Best in Show,” at the Optima Ultimate Film Festival on Nov. 2, 2016, at the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.

“Just Koz” follows the evolution of the House of Kolor brand from inception to present. Based on interviews with founder Jon Kosmoski and long-time friends and colleagues, the short film details the triumphs and trials only found behind the scenes at a legendary company.

“The very fabric of custom car culture starts with Jon Kosmoski,” said Kristen Felder, CEO of Engage Target Media. “Today, many fortune 50 coating companies benefit by selling the very products he pioneered. We owe so many things to Jon that, as an industry, we’ll never be able to repay.”

Filmed inside Kosmoski’s House of Kolor shop and lab and throughout Minneapolis, Minn., the film features personal accounts, family photos and unique look at the builds that put House of Kolor on the map. 

Films were selected for the festival through three-part submission process focused on automotive content. Films were judged on story-telling, authenticity, creativity and individuality. Finalists were announced in late October. “Just Kos” was selected as winner on Nov. 2 by members of the automotive industry.

The film, which took nearly one year to complete, was produced and edited by Engage Target Media staff. Credits of the film include:

Executive Producer: Kristen Felder

Director: Eric White

Research and Writing: Allison Carter and Eric White

Producers:  Allison Carter, Eric White, Jenifer Childs and Avery Moorehead

Camera Operators: Corey Gattin, Terrell Case and Eric White

Lighting: Terrell Case, Avery Moorehead, Corey Gattin and Eric White

Sound Operator: John Kennedy

Editor: Terrell Case, Eric White and Corey Gattin

Technical Advisors: Tony Larimer and Kristen Felder

“At ETM, we felt that the opportunity to tell Jon’s story at the SEMA Optima Film Festival was small way of saying thank you.” Felder said. “This wasn’t a film produced for a corporation. It was a film made from the hearts of the painters that see color through the eyes Jon gave House of Kolor.”

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House of Kolor celebrated its 60th Anniversary at the 2016 SEMA Show. The annual trade show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world and draws more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries for unlimited profit opportunities in the automotive, truck and SUV, powersports, and RV markets.

“The staff at ETM believes that everyone has a story just waiting to be told,” said Felder. “We can never repay what Jon Kosmoski has given the paint world, but we can ensure that his story is never forgotten.”

How to Use Facebook to Launch a New Product or Service

If you are launching a new product or service, you want to create some excitement with your customer base about what’s new.  Facebook is a great way not only let everyone know what’s new, but to generate excitement.

However, to be successful, you need to plan ahead and make good use of some of Facebook’s tools for business.  It’s not difficult, it just takes some planning.  Here are four steps to help you get started.

1: Pre-launch – PlanningFacebook Image tool

To be successful, you need to plan your strategy a couple of months prior to launch. Two or three months

should be sufficient.  This planning should include all of the materials you want to share on Facebook.  This includes the design of any ads you may want to purchase in addition to the images you will use in your posts.

Be sure to consider the sizes of your images.  You’ll need different sizes for ads as well as your posts.  Remember that Facebook only allows 20% of an ad to contain text.  Facebook has a handy tool to verify you do not violate this rule.  Visit the Facebook Grid Tool and upload your image.  The tool will place a 5-by-5 grid over the image.  Click the squares that contain text to see how much text you are using and if it is acceptable.  Watch this Facebook video for information about text in ads.  Also, check out our blog on optimum image sizes for different social media sites.

If you don’t have an ad agency, or know an artist who can design a print ad for you, consider using Fiverr.com.  This website offers services and products that range from graphics and design to online marketing. The freelancing marketing services include ad creation, infographic design, video animation, and much more. The price of services begins at $5.  The transparency of buyers’ reviews will help you to
choose the right seller.

2: Pre-Launch – Create Excitement

As a part of your pre-launch, consider if giveaways are appropriate for your new product or service.  Will there be a special sale or discount period when you launch?  If so, how will customers access the discount?  Is a contest appropriate for the new launch?  If appropriate, one lucky customer can win the free product or service free.  Perhaps allowing someone to be the first to use it is appropriate.

It’s also best to plan and write out the posts you will make on Facebook and other social media.  Writing these ahead of the launch will help insure you cover the important points you want your customers to know.  Each should reveal a little more about the new product or service.  Begin with teaser posts about two or three weeks before the launch.  A series of pre-launch teaser posts might be:
“Something big is coming to (Business Name) in July.”

“Watch this space for a big announcement on July 13.”

“Don’t miss out.  See what’s happening in July at (Business name).”

As the launch date approaches, build excitement by revealing a little more about the new product or service.  This would be the time to start mentioning customer benefits in your teasers.

product excitementA week before the launch, your post might be:  “Everything you know about Customer Service is about to change!  (Business Name) is taking it to a new level starting July 13.”

“The only way to experience (service) is to be here July 13 – see for yourself.”

If you are introducing a new product, perhaps a discount may be in order for the first few weeks.  One of your posts or an ad could be a coupon for customers to print.  Alternatively, you can post on Facebook a ‘secret phrase’ that customers can mention to get the discount price.

Don’t forget to use video!  Make a video of you or someone in your shop talking about how excited everyone at work is about the new product or service.  Post a few days before the launch.  If you are remodeling or expanding, post pictures of the construction work.  If you are adding new equipment, share pictures of the installation process.

Your launch plan should have the posts written out along with the date and time when each will appear.  Stagger the times from morning to early evening for maximum exposure.

3 – Launch – Keep Excitement Going

The launch phase will probably vary in length depending on the product or service.  As far as promotion is concerned, it will never truly be over.  However, you should have an end date for the largest promotional push.  At this point, you want to figure out what you can do to keep the excitement going.

This is the time to launch a Facebook Contest. After launching a new service, perhaps now is the time to have a naming contest.  If appropriate, let customers have a chance at naming the new service.  The winner gets a year of the service at no cost or a substantially price reduction. Consider what is most appropriate for the new product or service; then, maintain excitement by teasing the contest.

You may find it appropriate to shoot a video of the first day with the new product or service.  Include customer testimonials and reactions.  Other customers talking about your business and your services is a great way to introduce new customers to what you do.

If you decide to spend money on a Facebook ad campaign, focus most of your ad budget on the pre-launch phase.  If you have something to offer of value or a coupon, split your resources more evenly between the pre-launch and launch phases.  You may want to consider having a different budget for the coupon or special offer phase of the campaign.

4 – Post-Launch Thank You

After the launch period, you will want to thank your audience and customers.  Show your customers how much you appreciate them by thanking them for their support during the campaign.  Even if they did not make a purchase, let them know you appreciate their business over the years.

Also, use the post-launch thank you to tell your audience what is coming next.  More surprises?  Another contest?  Give your audience something to look forward to.

Most important, learn from your experience so you can improve the next one.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What gave you the biggest bang?

Facebook can be a great place to let the world know about your new product or service.  However, don’t forget to promote your special product launch or new service on your website as well as your other social media, not just Facebook.

No More Silent Films

If you want to make great looking videos and use a quality camera, like a DSLR, you are half way to audio-volume-high-hiyour successful venture. However, don’t overlook one very important piece of the puzzle – the sound.

Unless you are in the business of shooting silent movies or music videos, audio is rest of the story. In most cases, your audio will probably be someone talking. Hearing the speaker clearly is every bit as important as camera framing, scene selection or lighting in a quality video.

This post covers tips to help make the sound in your video be as compelling as the rest of the production values.

Why Does My Audio Sound Bad?

You should never rely on the built-in microphone of your video camera for recording a person speaking – no matter how expensive your camera. The audio recorded from speakers in the camera’s built-in microphone will sound very hollow. It’s not the best choice for recording the human voice.

The reason is that the camera’s built-in mic picks up every sound around it. It picks up not only sounds from the front of the camera, but also sounds behind the camera. Any sound your camera operator makes, the servo-motors in the camera – for the zoom lens and such, and the fan from your heating and cooling equipment, will all be heard.

If you have a DSLR camera, it most likely has a separate mic input that accepts an 1/8 inch plug. Use this for recording your audio. The only time you should use the built-in microphone from your camera is for recording ambient background sounds of your environment.

Lavalier Microphones

atr7000_lavalier_1_sqThe ideal microphone for recording a single person speaking is a lavalier mic – one that attaches to clothing. The design of a lavalier mic is specifically for recording the human voice.   This is the type of mic television newscasters use.

Clip the mic on the clothing about 6 inches from the speaker’s mouth – usually about the second button on a shirt or blouse. This positioning avoids picking up room noises or anything in the background that is not a part of the video.

There are two types of lavalier microphones – wired and wireless. A wired lavalier mic is good to use when the speaker is close to the camera. A wired lavaliere has a long cable that plugs into your camera. The price range for a good wired of lavalier mic ranges from about 30 dollars to 100 dollars.

A wireless lavalier microphone is a good choice if you have a situation where the on-camera speaker is required to walk around for a demonstration or is a great distance from the camera. The wireless mic eliminates a situation where the mic cable might pull the camera or cause a trip hazard.

A wireless mic has two parts – a transmitter and a receiver – in addition to the microphone itself. The subject wears the small transmitter. The receiver is at the camera. Wireless microphones start around 150 dollars and can cost up to a thousand dollars.

Whether you use wired or wireless microphones, depending on the manufacturer, you may need an audio adaptor. This box-like piece of equipment converts the large plug (called an “XLR” plug) to a plug that fits into your camera.

Handheld Microphones

There may be videos that require several people to speak on camera.   This is a good situation for your SM58-2moderator, or lead person, to hold a handheld microphone in front of each person who speaks. This would include the moderator himself.

There are wired and wireless handheld microphones. The prices start at just under $100 to several hundred dollars.

For all microphones – lavalier and handheld – the price is based on the frequency response of the mic. Usually, the more you pay, the better sound quality you will receive.

Don’t Forget The Headphones

shure-srh440-studio-headphonesWhen you record a speaker, it is always a good idea to have your camera operator, or another person, monitor the sound as you record your video. You must use headphones to monitor the sound. With headphones, you hear only what is recorded. It also allows you to listen carefully for any extraneous background noises. Most cameras have a headphone jack for listening as you record.

Remember, sound is an important part of every video, don’t leave it to chance!

Video = Memorable Social Media

Everywhere you look today, video is popping up.

Consider this: Television is no longer the first, or even the primary, screen in our lives today. Surveys show that YouTube now reaches more 18-34 year-old US adults than any cable channel. However, it’s not just 18-34 year-olds that are watching videos on YouTube. Adults, parents and grandparents, are watching and posting their own YouTube videos.

Video is becoming so common, that nearly every publishing and social media platform now has, or is integrating, video capabilities.

Facebook Videofacebook-video

Even Facebook has embraced videos. Remember last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket challenge? For many people, it was the first time they uploaded a video to their Facebook account. Since July 2014, the ALS Association has received over $115 million in donations!

Even more remarkable, Facebook had a 50 percent increase in the use of video from just May to July of 2014. Facebook announced in September 2014 that it now delivers one billion video views per day! It is no wonder Facebook is introducing new video features to its site.

People Remember Videos

We are visually oriented; that is why we remember videos. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million words. Actually, 1.8 million words! According Brainshark, a communications training company, the information retained after watching a one-minute online video is equal to about 1.8 million written words!

Videos speak in a way words and static images cannot. If you haven’t already, you may soon find yourself using Google to find a video to answer a question. Admit it, watching someone demonstrate something is much more effective than reading about it.

As a content creator, you should be creating videos that are relevant and engaging for your audience. Don’t worry about trying to create the next viral video. If you create content that your audience just can’t help but share with others, the viral part will take care of itself.

Using-Video-Marketing-For-businessUsing Video for Your Business

So, how do you use video for your business? Show off your work! Before and after images, video progress of your work or a time-lapse for automotive repairs are perfect ways to show off your work. Adding a date stamp is a subtle way to reinforce how quickly you accomplish your great work.

There are other ways to use video besides highlighting your work. You can use video to show off your facilities and employees. Perhaps you have new equipment; show it off with a description of the customer benefits it offers. Highlight your employee of the month and their work. You might consider giving a mini-tour of your facilities. You might want to offer a special discount for customers who specifically mention the video when in your shop.

Another good use of video is customer testimonials. Ask if a customer is willing to talk on camera about your business. You can have them talk about your awesome customer service, or how quickly the work was performed and if they would recommend your shop to their friends.

Perhaps you have an awesome holiday light display. Show it off! If you sponsor a local sports team, show highlights from the latest game.

Spread the Videos Around

Do not just post your video on YouTube or Vimeo. Link to it in your blog posts and on your website. The great thing about posting a video on YouTube is you can link to it on your website and get twice as much exposure. Also, encourage those who find your videos to share with their friends and followers.

Your videos can lead potential customers to your website or blog, and your website or blog can direct current customers to your video channel.

 

Video Lighting Tips

When planning a video shoot, it is important to plan the lighting. The reason is simple – the camera does not perceive light as well as the human eye. Generally speaking, anytime you shoot video indoors, the shoot will require artificial lighting. As we talk about lighting, we are not talking about the normal overhead office or shop lights.

Don’t Be Blue

If you only use the lights in your office or shop, you will find florescent lights tend to cast a blue hue over everything and regular incandescent lights tends to make everything have an orange tinge.  This means you probably need a video lighting kit. Ideally, you should use lights specifically designed for video, or still, photography. However, there are ways around using a lighting kit, but more on this in a moment.

Indoor Lighting3-point_lighting-CHcrop

No matter what lighting you use, you should know about the three-point lighting concept. This is the basis for the lighting of most all indoor videos.

The main light source, or strongest light, is your key light. The key light is near the camera and slightly to one side. The second source of light is a fill light. Place this light on the other side of the subject to soften most of the shadows. This light is generally the same power as the key light. The final light in 3-point lighting is the back light. This light helps separate your talent from the background on video.

Shooting Out Doors

If you are shooting outdoors, your key light will most likely be the sun. Shoot during the morning or early afternoon with the sun behind the camera and to one side. This avoids having your subject look directly into the sun. You don’t really need a backlight when shooting outdoors. However, you should use a reflector for your fill light. You can find a 40-inch professional-type reflector online for $50 or less. A good alternative to a reflector is a large piece of white poster board. The type you find at most office supply stores. Use a reflector to bounce the light from the sun onto the darker side of your talent.

If you do not have access to a lighting kit, here are some tips to take advantage of the available light. Since most videos shoots occur during the day, there are times you can take advantage of the sun even if you are indoors. You can use the sunlight from a window or doorway if the windows or doors in your building allow you to take advantage of the sun. If so, plan your shoot near a window or door to take advantage of the sunlight.

You might also be able to take advantage of the sun by positioning your subject in the shop near an open bay door.

It is important to remember to position the window or door behind the camera. Never shoot toward the window or door as the camera will adjust for the brighter outside light and your subject will appear as a shadow.

Lighting Alternatives

If you cannot take advantage of the sun and do not have a light kit, try using some of the lights that you might already have in the shop. Work lights put out a lot of light. Just be careful in how you use them. Work lights tend to concentrate light in the center with much less light toward the edges of the lighting pattern.

If you use these types of lights, you will want to avoid lighting ‘hot spots’ in your scene. The camera will always adjust to the brightest portion of the scene. This will make some areas dark in the scene. Work lights with a reflector behind the bulb tend to produce move even light.

Work lights are great to help fill in areas you want to show in the background.

Speaking of the background, if want to show something important in the background of your scene, be sure there is enough light on that background. This will make it that area appear clearly on camera.

If you think your shop or office has good lighting, shoot a test video. Set up your camera and gear in the locations you are thinking of shooting your video. Have someone be in front of the camera if you plan using a spokesperson. Watch your test video on a computer or TV. It may surprise you how dark the setting looks on camera, compared to how it looks to your eyes.

Instagram and Shopping: A Definite Correlation

According to new research, people on Instagram love to shop. This is very different from Facebook, where its users mainly use the platform to keep in touch with family and friends.

Iconosquare did a study this year, showing that of 16,000 users, 70 percent of them reported they have looked for a specific brand on the Instagram.

Of all the people following a brand, the recent study shows that 62 percent of them follow because of loyalty and love of the brand while 41 percent follow to capitalize on contests, promotions and giveaways.

Instagram-jpgAs a brand, liking your customers’ post is important. It gives them a sense of pride and a feeling of respect. The research showed that 65 percent of people on Instagram feel “flattered” when the brand likes one of their posts.

Because Instagram generates more engagement (3.31 percent of users engage compared to Twitter’s 0.07 percent according to Socialbakers reports), it is the perfect platform for generating sales while gaining more customers.

The Instagram user-base is much younger than that of Facebook and Twitter. Because the younger generation tends to be more social media savvy, this means it is used more and that causes the higher interactions with posts. For your brand, that can also mean you have those customers for quite a long time.

To further help your sales with Instagram, follow many hashtags that are being used surrounding your brand. Whether the posts are positive or negative, it can show you what you need to be doing and what you should keep doing to keep customers happy and increase revenue. It can also help you realize what promotions or giveaways you may want to consider.Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 9.16.54 AM

For example, if customers continue to show the need for your company calendar, but questions keep popping up on where to get them, you may want to do a calendar giveaway. This can be a good way of getting customers to share different content with your product while using a specific hashtag to get their calendar.

People on Instagram love to shop, it’s that easy. Be sure to give them content that will entertain them, but make them want to buy as well.

Go Get Google Plus

In a recent post, we talked about Google+ being the second most popular social media site in the United States. In fact, Google+, with its 343 million active users is the third most popular site in the world. It ranks right behind Q-Zone, a Chinese social networking site.

Many people neglect the use of Google+, but it is crucial for your business. If you don’t already have a Google+ page for your business, create one today. In today’s blog, we have three more tips to help expand your business influence and opportunities.

  1. Join and Create CommunitiesGooglePlus1

You will find many communities on Google+ similar to those you will find on Facebook and LinkedIn. If there’s not one that suits your business, you can start a new one! Create it using your personal profile or your business page.

Your community can be public or private. A private community requires permission to join. As the moderator, you must approve requests from any that wish to join a private community

Like any social network group, Google+ communities have their share of spam. However, Google+ has an excellent spam management system. The Google+ system grabs most spam and keeps it for moderator approval instead of allowing it to go public and someone notifying you to remove it. At Google+, moderators can also get rid of users who frequently spam others.

You can find ways around most spam in your community by keeping the community private and only allowing people of your choosing to join. A private community will take longer to build, but it does help reduce, if not eliminate, spam.

  1. Get Local!

Google+ has taken charge over Google Places. Customers can leave review write-ups on your local Google+ places page even if you are not active there. That makes Google+ important to businesses because search results show up in reviews alongside other important details and photographs on a Google+ Local Places page.

If you have ever searched for a business at Google, you have probably noticed some businesses have a map and business information along with the option to write a review. These are Google+ businesses! Once you have a Google+ page, when someone searches for your business, this information appears along with the option to review your business.

  1. Host a Google+ Hangout

Yohangoutsur business may not be prepared to invest in webinar or online meeting software. Google+ hangouts are a fantastic and free platform around the expensive meeting software. With Google+, you are limited to a maximum of 10 participants active in the video hangout. However, you can stream video to however many viewers you want using YouTube, making it similar to a webinar.

You can hold Google+ hangouts for all sorts of things, like interviews, question and answer sessions, discussions, webinars (with screen-sharing), private conversations and really about anything else you could imagine. Hold a hangout about car safety; show off new equipment and employees.   Other subjects might be about repairing aluminum or how to identify a quality repair shop.

In addition, you can record the hangout and post to your YouTube channel – a great way to increase your video content.

Go to the Google+ hangouts page (https://plus.google.com/hangouts) and see live hangouts happening in real time. You may find some that you can jump into to see how the hangout works and better know your audience. Then you will be well on your way to creating your own hangout party.

Check out our other Google+ tips, here on Engage Target Media.

Social media IS for you

Small business and social media are made for each other.  However, we still find questions like, “Why should my small business use social media?” and, “What’s the value in social media for my small business?”

The simple answer to both questions: RESULTS!

Survey after survey continues to prove social media is a true benefit.  Businesses – small, medium and large – are flocking to social media.  According to LinkedIn, 90% of small and medium businesses currently use or are planning to use social media.  Ninety-four percent of those small and medium businesses use social media for marketing their business.  Are you one of them?

If you are trying to figure out if there is any value in social media for your business, keep reading.  This post is for you!  We have collected three benefits from a variety of sources that show small businesses can prosper with using social media.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.57.19 PM Social Media Drives New Business

Chicago-based Crowdspring – an online marketplace for crowd-sourced creative services – found 50% of small business owners reporting social media helped them gain new customers.  Most through Facebook and LinkedIn.  LinkedIn further reports 82% of small businesses surveyed say social media is effective for lead generation.

Better Customer Relationships

Spredfast, a Texas-based social marketing company reports social media is the top driver (at 52%) of customer relations building and brand engagement.

Credibility

The Michigan market research firm Morpace found in their survey that 68% of the respondents reported the recommendations of a Facebook friend made users more likely to buy a specific product or visit a specific retail store.

social-channels

Are you using newspapers or TV or radio commercials to promote your business?  In this day of expensive print and broadcast advertising, that’s like fishing with a giant net in hopes of catching a few new customers.  With social media, you can hook individual customers with advertising that specifically targets the exact audience for your product or service.

If you are looking to drive new business, develop better customer relations and increase your credibility, now is the time to get social! Yes, it takes a while to build your customer base with social media; but done properly, and like any good asset, it is worth the investment.  It is also more cost-effective!  What are you waiting for?

Respond to Positivity

In a previous post, we discussed negative comments and reviews posted to the internet about your business.  This time, we want to talk about responding to positive comments.

In our previous discussion about negative comments, we talked about common sense reasons about how and why you must respond.  So you may think it is not necessary to respond to positive comments and reviews online.  You may think of doing nothing, just let others see the glowing review.

Consider this:  an unsolicited positive comment from a customer means someone took the initiative to speak publicly about your business.  This person is far more motivated to respond to a question from you.  It’s an opportunity to get additional feedback about your business.

Positive comment

Plus, in the spirit of politeness, you should respond to positive comments. Why?  It’s not just about being polite.  It’s all about opportunity.  Not responding to a positive comment is a missed opportunity.

Here are some tips for responding to positive customer reviews.

 

  • First, say “thank you.” 

Your parents taught you to say “please” and “thank you.” However, this is more than just good manners. Your “thank you” shows appreciation for not only the compliment, but also the customer who took the time to share a positive experience with your business.

Your response should include a portion of the customer’s comment.  Such as,

“Thank you so much!!  We are pleased you had a good experience with our service department.”

 

  • Next, reinforce the positive.

thumbsup

If the customer specifically mentions what they liked best about their experience with your company – recognize it. Then confirm it again. This allows you to build buzz not only about your business; it also gives you a chance to let others know about a specific product or service you offer, or one of your outstanding employees.

You might say,

“Thank you so much!!  We are pleased you had a good experience with our service department.  Our technician who performed your service, Brian, has not only been employee of the month twice this year, but has been recognized for his outstanding service by the [certification organization].”

 

  • Finally, ask what you can do better.

If you are serious about increasing your business’s potential, you are probably already looking for opportunities to improve. As mentioned earlier, when a customer offers unsolicited positive comments, they are very likely to help you improve.  Just ask!

You should ask the customer what they think you can do to improve their experience.  Not only is this a great way to keep the feedback going, but to affirm and improve a positive experience.

The full response might be:

“Thank you so much!!  We are pleased you had a good experience with our service department.  Our technician who performed your service, Brian, has not only been employee of the month twice this year, but has been recognized for his outstanding service by the [certification organization].  Please let us know if there is anything else we could have done to improve the experience you had at our shop.”

It does not take a lot of work to do this.  The rewards are great.  You can take unsolicited positive comments and turn them into not only a simple marketing survey to improve but demonstrate to others you really care about your business and your customers.

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  Don’t just bask in the glow of a good comment online, returning the compliment can lead to more positive comments about your business.

If Mark Twain were alive today, he might say, “I can turn a positive comment into ten new customers.”

Not everyone has something nice to say

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be suspicious of any business that has only positive online reviews. In fact, most people, like me, tend to believe all those positive comments are from employees and not actual customers. No matter how good you are at what you do, someone is going to have a bad experience.

In any business, it’s inevitable that someone is going to post a negative comment online for everyone to see. Try as you may, you can’t control the opinions of your customers. However, the way you respond will make a world of difference to current and future customers.

bad-review1So how do you respond to negative online reviews? Well, not the way one New York state hotel did. The hotel took a stand against negative online review by issuing a policy that fined guests $500 for any negative review posted online on any website.

The policy even included guests of wedding parties booked at the hotel and even those attending weddings at other venues in the area – not just at the hotel! Couples booking weddings were warned in advance they would be held accountable and fined should any member of the wedding posted a negative comment.

The policy read:
“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at {hotel}, there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of {hotel} placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event.”

The policy also stated that any fines levied would be refunded once negative reviews were removed.

Once customers started receiving fines, the news media spread the story. The hotel received a page full of one-star reviews on Yelp,

some from people who never stayed at the hotel. Shortly after, the hotel removed the policy and issued a statement on Facebook (later removed): “The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

Too late! The damage was done. It is impossible to calculate how much business the hotel lost because of this. So how should a business handle negative online comments?

Deleting the comment won’t work. Once something is posted online, it never really goes away. You just cannot sweep negative comments under the rug and hope no one notices.

Instead, respond immediately. A quick and public response lets everyone know you care about your customers and your brand. Even if you do not have enough information to answer the negative comment properly, respond immediately and publicly.

A public response — sometimes just a simple, “Thank you for your comment, please send contact information so we can discuss further

good-news-bad-newsto resolve the situation,” — demonstrates you care about your business and that you are trying to make it right. A public response also helps quell any potential backlash.

You must respond in a thoughtful manner. Always stand by your brand, but show you want to help the customer. And, before you post your reply, consider any negative ramifications that might be read into your comments. It doesn’t take much for a simple situation toturn into a PR nightmare.

Honesty and transparency are critical when faced with any online negativity. Responding quickly and positively to negative comments show you care. It also helps cynics like me to see that even though not everyone may love you, you do address your customer’s concerns.