Caught in the Web  

Haters gonna hate

How do business owners control the sentiment about their companies on the web?

The web is a fickle place; and social media channels can breed some unsavoury characters with biiiiiig opinions. Behind each keyboard sits a bionic human - 6’5” tall, broad-chested, fearless. Right? Because, in real life, who the heck else has the gall to be that publicly rude without having the stature to back it up?

While there are random acts of positivity that can rub off on your business in an encouraging way online, it’s not the typical tale we hear from our clients. More often, we are being asked for input on how to deal with the nasty, heated, mean-spirited and (at times) outright untrue comments being spewed online by consumers and visitors (that have become very brave from the comfort of their living rooms I might add). 

It boils down to three simple options when deciding how to deal with grotty comments. Ignore, Reply or Remove. Each comes with its own risk. Think of it like a flow chart. Your screen lights up, you’ve received a notification on your corporate account letting you know that out there in the "webesphere", a less than favorable comment has been made about your business. How do you decide which path to take to mitigate the situation?

The first step is to assess the nature of the comment. Is it an aimless rant, a disgruntled customer, an ex-employee? Is their value in the comment? Is it justified? If the comment holds some truth and seems to have stemmed from a legitimate source, removing it is most likely not the best option. You’re down to ignore or reply. Deleting is risky and makes you appear on the run. Delete with caution, and only if you are certain you are dealing with a bold faced lie.  

The next step is to get the facts. Ask your team if they have feedback on the situation, and do a quick web search to see if other users have the same negative sentiment. If it seems to be isolated, it may be best to take the complaint off-line and address it one-on-one with the user. A noble approach to get the contact information from the complainant is to simply reply with a, “Hey, we’re sorry to hear you’ve had a negative experience with Company XYZ. Our customer service line is 555.123.4567, please give us a call to talk it over.” This can be a canned response that you can copy and paste at any time to stomp a quick fire – this is the equivalent of an “ignore”. Be casual and light, and it will pay off.

If the negative feedback appears to be a pattern online, it’s time to pull up your socks and make a public reply. I know, I know, it sounds like a horrible task to take on. But you know what, it really helps! It makes your company human. We all make mistakes – admit to yours and grab the chance for redemption by letting all of your / their followers know what you’ve done to rectify the situation in this exact incident, and on the whole. More often than not, this small act of groveling can retain your customer and turn them into a lifer. Worth a shot, hey?


Not everyone learns the way you do

When you build a website, do you consider who you are communicating with? Most people build websites with structure and content that fits their own needs, instead of their prospect's. It’s so difficult to separate yourself from all the experience and knowledge you have of your own products and services. How do you get inside of the heads of your target market to view your business with the same perspective they have?

The first thing you need to do is to figure out who you are marketing to:

  • Do you know their personality type?
  • Have you sat down and talked with them?
  • Do you know their interests?
  • How do they like to learn?
  • Do you know how they make decisions?
  • Are they super analytical and like tons of facts?
  • Do they make quick decisions based on straight to the point information?
  • Is it all about the relationship, experience and collaboration?

Bonding and rapport is where a sale is made and if you are presenting your information for a learning style and personality type that is completely different than that of your target market then you’ve completely abandoned them. The connection is lost. For example, someone in a leadership position like a president or CEO is typically a big picture thinker, who has little time for detail and scans content quickly for bullet points, headlines and bold text that relates to their needs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone in IT who works on computers all day thinks micro and once they find what they are looking for they will want tons of specifications and details.

In most cases, you will likely have to consider multiple personality types and learning styles for the same website. Presenting content that meets all the different styles sounds complicated, but is not difficult if you break it down. There are essentially 4 types of personalities:

  • Methodical, detailed and fact driven.
  • Spontaneous and emotional.
  • Competitive, quick and decisive.
  • Emotional, slow and deliberate.

Who are you marketing to and how can you start delivering content to meet their needs?

Is your website a wasted opportunity?


Statistics show that you have 8 seconds or less to capture a visitor to your website. If you can’t connect and direct them to the next action they should take in that time period, you have lost them.

Most businesses lose sight of the true objective of what their website is for. No matter how you look at it, your website’s purpose is to sell something: your products and services. That doesn’t necessarily mean visitors have to be able to buy your products directly through an e-commerce system to be considered a sales site. There are many other types of transactions that can be considered a successful sales conversion, such as:

  • A contact form that gets filled out and turns into a lead to be handed to a salesperson.
  • A registration sign-up for a seminar or webinar.
  • A link to a distributor that sells the product locally.
  • A live chat session with a prospect.

The problem is that selling stuff is often times the last thing that is conveyed in the website.

Homepages are cluttered with tons of information, links and buttons almost never related to the objective.

Almost every site is the same, and looks something like this:

  • Lengthy paragraphs of text about the company and their mission to improve the world.
  • A smattering of product and services being offered.
  • A news section filled with links to old press releases of every good deed conducted.
  • It may even include a few certification logos hung like badges of honor.

I’m not saying these elements aren’t necessary within the site, but little to no thought is put into how they strategically serve the objective.

Think of the sites you visit most, the ones you use on regular basis. Maybe it’s your favourite news site? How about Facebook? Google has become so commonplace that most people don’t even consider it a website anymore. How do these sites become so popular? They do one thing, but they do it world class. In the case of Google, they created the best search in the world and continue to do so.

Most people complicate their websites. A common error is trying to be many things to everyone. Back in the day when search engines were plenty, they lost their market share to Google when they started competing on features outside of the search engine itself. Things got watered down when they started showcasing stock tickers, news and events, weather feeds, and every other bell and whistle you can think of on their homepages.

Google kept it simple: a gigantic search box smack dab in the middle of the page with a big button that says SEARCH. Google offers so much more than Search now, but they still choose not to distract the user from their true need to perform a search and keep the rest of their offering neatly put away.

Start thinking about what would be smack dab in the middle of your page if you had no choice but to reduce your website down to one thing and one thing only. That will be your purpose for being online.

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About the Author

Matt Gomez is a Business Developer with Acro Media (www.acromediainc.com), a web design and online marketing company based in Kelowna, BC.

Matt helps businesses who want to leverage the web and see returns from their online investments.

He enjoys watching soccer, reading Wilbur Smith novels and eating candy. He does not enjoy cat videos … not in the slightest.

You can contact Matt by e-mail at [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.