Getting a ranting online review is bad enough. But ignoring it could be even worse, panelists said Monday.

During a panel session at the MFE Conference in Las Vegas, a team of five experts addressed strategies of how to tackle the dark side of social media.mfehash

Taking the time to respond and address online reviews is important in protecting a company’s reputation, Lynette Hegeman said.

Hegeman, vice president of marketing at Berkshire Property Advisors, says online forums where residents can review a property offer owners and operators a unique opportunity to collect feedback.

“I look at any review you get as a gift,” Hegeman said. “It’s a gift because you’re going to find out what’s good and what’s bad at your property.”

She encourages her staff to respond to each review proactively whether it is good or bad. When a bad comment is posted to a site, she recommends responding online and trying to contact that person offline by e-mail, phone or in person.

“Don’t pretend that a crisis is not happening,” Hegeman said. “Don’t make an empty gesture. Don’t refuse to backtrack. Develop channels of communication.”

Targeted Social Media
Targeting which social media outlets to focus on was effective for the team at Bozzuto Group, according to Jamie Gorski, senior vice president of corporate marketing.

“We decided to be strategic about who we are working with because we just can’t do it all,” she said.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that most people who post scathing reviews simply want feedback.

“If they’re going to the point of posting, they really just want to be heard,” Hegeman said.

Gorski believes training is instrumental in responding to online requests in a timely manner. Training materials were developed for their targeted websites so team members are equipped with the tools to handle online reviews.

“With training we decided to be strategic about who we are working with because we just can’t do it all,” she said.

Hegeman suggests coming up with pre-written responses to an array of different online reviews so team members can reply online without being defensive or emotional.

“If you have pre-written responses that are done objectively and are to the point, then you can hand them over (to your staff to use),” she said. “The person can tweak them a little bit for that situation and it’ll be a very objective, well written response.”

Gorski believes having a flexible social media strategy is the way to go since technology is always changing.

“If you notice, on this, we aren’t working with everybody,” she said. “That might change---partly because we can’t keep up and partly because we aren’t getting as much traffic from those sites. But that might change.”

While Bozzuto is currently focusing on Google, Yelp and, other companies may choose other websites to focus on and that’s OK, panelists said. Since social media is still an emerging trend, some people haven’t figured out what is most effective for their companies.

“There is no right way for doing social media,” Hegeman said.