Small businesses should not miss out on the potential customer service opportunities that social media websites like Facebook and Twitter provide.
Twitter is especially instantaneous when it comes to people complaining about a company, with tweets mentioning a brand's name seen by the business in question – and all of an individual's followers – straight away.
In an article for the Telegraph, the newspaper's deputy personal finance editor Rosie Murray-West said companies can turn social media to their advantage, especially if they put an individual in charge of monitoring feedback and complaints on sites such as Twitter.
"Some companies employ people to monitor their Twitter feeds and reply directly. Because [consumers] can generate maximum bad publicity by putting [their] complaint in such a social space, it is expedient for [firms] to deal with [the] problem as quickly as possible," she explained.
Tweets can be directed straight to a firm by consumers if they precede the brand's name with @, so a user's followers will clearly be able to see the company at the centre of a complaint, and check whether it responded.
Can small businesses social media just be ignored?
Small businesses that ignore the power of social media do so at their peril. Not paying attention to what is being said by consumers on social media could lead to serious reputational – and financial – damage for small firms.
Twitter is also free and easy to use and so it should not be too difficult for an employee to deal with online complaints, as well as carry out their usual duties.
A previous OpinionMatters study for Fasthosts Internet revealed that a third of UK customers have left negative comments on a business's website. However, around 84 per cent of people would give a firm another chance if the complaint was responded to.
With social media websites putting small firms on a level playing field, those that go the extra mile to communicate with their customers could prove to be more successful in the long run.
Further advice about small business social media can be found here:
Small business social media strategy 'crucial'
Small business social media 'not yet fully embraced'