Tagged: marketing

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!

Getting Started with Video

Last time, we talked about the prevalence of video in social media. In this blog, we want to give you some simple tips for getting started making your own social media videos.

Start With the Obvioussmartphone-camera-prevent-living-in-the-moment-8-13-2012

Obviously, your first and most basic need is a camera. You don’t need to break the bank with the most expensive camera on the market. Just keep in mind that cameras with more options will cost more. You can spend anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousands.

However, don’t forget you may already have an acceptable camera already – your smartphone! Anything from an iPhone 4 or later will work, as will almost any smartphone with a camera. Just look at what can be done with a smartphone and some great accessories!

The number of megapixels and the camera’s sensor determines picture quality. Generally speaking, more megapixels, the better the picture quality. Back in 1999, the average digital camera had less than 2 megapixels. Today, you can find cameras with 16 megapixels and more. However, the number of megapixels means nothing if the manufacturer has achieved it by cramming those 16 megapixels onto a small sensor.

Instead of going into a detailed technical discussion about pixels, you can easily determine if your smartphone camera is adequate by shooting a quick video with a couple of smartphone cameras you have available to you. Shoot the same scene and watch them back on a computer to see which looks best.

A smartphone is an easy way to get started; however, if you decide to get serious about videos, you will want to purchase a video camera.

Other Camera Options

For the budget-conscious, the GoPro is perhaps one of the most versatile cameras on the market. GoPro cameras starts at about $200. One drawback is you need to have plenty of light. Outside images will be great, but inside scenes will almost certainly require artificial lighting. Another drawback is you cannot connect a microphone to the camera.

Canon 5DAnother camera option is a “pro-sumer” camera. Most are HD capable. These also have zoom functionality – something you will not get with a smartphone or a GoPro camera. Prices start at around $150 and go to as high as a thousand dollars depending on the options.

If you are serious, about video, you should consider a DSLR camera. Most DSLR cameras are still-photography cameras that also shoot great HD video. There are two especially nice features about DSLR cameras. One is the ability to change lenses, which gives you more flexibility when shooting your video. The second is that the cameras have better sensors, which are helpful when shooting in low light situations.

DSLR cameras are a bit more complex to operate because of multiple settings, and they are a bit more expensive. You’ll find them priced starting around one thousand dollars and range up to three thousand dollars or more.

Steady As You GoGitzo-GT3530LSV-6x-Carbon-Fiber-Tripod-Legs

The next thing you will need is a tripod for your camera. A tripod is vital for a steady picture. No matter how steady you think you are, any scene from a hand-held camera for more than a few seconds is going to shake or move and cause the center of focus to move about on the screen. This is very annoying to watch and a major reason why many quit watching a video before its conclusion. Sure, some stabilization can be achieved in post production, but it’s not always a sure fix.

You can find all types of tripods for just about every camera on the market. From a smartphone to the most expensive DSLR cameras, there are several types of tripods available at a range of prices.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Finally, if you plan to record someone speaking while on camera, you must have a good microphone.   The built-in camera microphone does not work well for this. The built-in microphone will pick up every sound in the room. From the heating/cooling fan to someone walking in the room to sounds outside, a camera microphone picks up everything. Generally, these extraneous sounds are as loud as or louder than the person speaking on camera!

shotgun micIn these situations, you must use a good microphone that plugs directly into your camera. There are hand-held microphones and also lavaliere microphones that attach to clothing. With adaptors, most will fit a smartphone or a DSLR camera. Quality wired microphones can cost around $100 or less.

If you plan to have someone speaking in most every video, you may want to us a wireless microphone. You can find wireless microphones priced from a hundred dollars to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on the company.

Now you are ready to shoot video and get the most out of the picture and sound quality.

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.

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.”

It’s Not Just the Number Sign Anymore

You have probably noticed the pound sign (#) followed by a word or short phrase on TV, in print and online.  Thanks to Twitter, the lowly “pound” or “number” symbol (#) has a new role. Regular social media users call the “#” symbol a “hashtag” (or “hash tag”).  The hashtag allows you to easily search for posts using the same keywords preceded with the # symbol in what seems like the chaotic world of Twitter.

The first hashtag symbol appeared in August 2007 as a way to define groups on Twitter.  Now, the # symbol is an integral part of social media life.  With an average of 140 million Tweets every day, it is easy to see why there needed to be a way of sorting through all the messages.   Hashtags allow searching of all public Tweets by anyone.  For example, users looking for the car repairs can search for #AutoRepair to find all Tweets and updates about car repairs.

Hashtag 2Hashtags get even better – you can use more than one within a single Tweet!   If searching for posts about the automotive repairs, users can enter #AutoRepair #California to narrow their search.  Two hashtags in the same post are acceptable, especially when one of the tags includes a location.

You can create any hashtag as long as you follow Twitter’s rules. Before creating a new hashtag, do a little research to see if a keyword is already in use.  Just search for the term.  If nothing shows up, it is probably safe to use.  If you create a new hashtag, be sure to let everyone know the term so they will use it in their posts.

Hashtags should be as brief as possible since the hashtag counts toward the 140-character limit for any Twitter post.  Use two or at most three short words for your hashtag.  You can capitalize the first letter of each word to make it easier to read.  You cannot use spaces in hashtags.

Twitter considers it “spamming” if there are numerous posts using a hashtags that are unrelated to the hashtag topic or group.  This could result in permanent suspension of the offending account, so always be relevant.

So why use hashtags?  Hashtags bring in more people and help increase website sales!  In less than ten years, the hashtag has become an indispensable tool for increasing user engagement and spreading information about products and businesses as well as industry news and trends.

A good way to launch a new hashtag is to share it on Facebook as well or tweet it.  If relevant, choose a unique photo or a catchy line to help encourage clicking on the hashtag.

Hashtag 1

Remember, content is what drives traffic to your website. Provide information about the content through blogs, videos, and links.  Be sure to include a link to your website after sharing short information on the hashtag. It will drive more people to get further information about the topic at your website.

You can further the coverage of your hashtag by inviting other industry experts to participate and answer queries. Encourage others to share and exchange their own data on the hashtag.

Finally, always provide links to your website.  The website link should be to a page with further information about the hashtag topic.  Remember, social media users expect good quality content.

Yes, social media has reinvented the lowly number sign – or pound sign.  Now, instead of taking up space on your phone, that icon that looks like a tic-tac-toe board can be driving customers to your business!

Get engaged on social media

In order to keep a business thriving through social media, all platforms should be used for more than posting content for the consumers to view. Social media should be used for a conversation.

A company’s trustworthiness and brand loyalty depend on the interactions it has with customers in person, yes, but online as well.

You can’t treat customers like a mass audience. Rather you should treat each customer as an individual and as if you have an established relationship with that individual. Be excited to provide customers with surprise gifts at times and solving their problems in social-media-clipartways they would never dream of.

For example, if a customer has a problem with a product every now and then, it’d be easy and sufficient to talk them through the problem and tell them what they can do next time they buy that product, but a solution that would leave a long-lasting impact would be perhaps offering the customer a replacement part or providing an extra service at no charge if you have the means to do that. It’s understood that this can’t be done with every customer. If so, the company would make no money, but every now and then, a nice surprise like this is what causes customers to tell their friends and family about the wonderful experience, thus driving more consumers to the product and the

Of course a company should answer questions in a timely manner as they are asked across social media platforms, but it should also respond to statements. Social media isn’t just a question and answer service for customers, it’s a conversation and we shouldn’t be afraid to start the conversation. Many comments on social media get overlooked because they say something along the lines of, “Outstanding service!” or “They spilled coffee on the driver’s seat!” Don’t be afraid to comment back and tell them you appreciate the comment, try to get the situation resolved if needed or even ask a follow-up question to get the ball rolling.

Make sure your account stays active. As business picks up, it’s easy to let your social media fall due to being too busy or even thinking you may not need it any more since your business is thriving. Regardless of the reason, social media should never be abandoned.

Phone clipart

Customers look online all the time to determine what product or business to use, and when they see an abandoned page, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. They will think the business no longer cares about the customer or that it may not even exist any longer.

Give back to the customer. As stated earlier, giveaways to customers can always help with referrals. This can be in the form of a contest business.

or even just a surprise gift to valued customers or consistent contributors. They will appreciate it, tell their friends about it and keep contributing with their online content and, most importantly, their money.

Social media is crucial for companies to thrive, but it is sometimes difficult to balance when business is booming. It’s important to keep the social media pages going and to keep interacting with customers to maintain a positive image and to keep business flowing.

 

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.