If you or your brand are on Twitter or Facebook to promote your offerings, that’s great news! But, please be prepared to handle criticism because, the truth is, we can’t all please everyone. And, with social media, our displeased customers have a pretty loud voice!

I have personally experienced both sides of this coin. In the past I’ve tweeted to and posted on a Facebook wall about my gripe to no avail. When I thought, “why aren’t they listening to me?” I only became more irritated with a company’s already (in my mind at least) poor customer service.

On the other side of the coin, I have tweeted out of frustration to one company in particular that got it right. My tweet was answered almost immediately with a corporate reply and a direct message. The direct message asked for my phone number and when I answered, it was followed up by a phone call from the corporate office’s public relations department. Within 15 minutes, the local franchise manager also tweeted publicly and direct messaged me. Three days later, I received a $5 gift card in the mail. That, my friends, is not only customer service and engagement at its best, it is also the very specific reason why I continue to patronize this specific establishment to this day.

The original corporate tweet back probably would have kept me interested but they went above and beyond. Additionally, the local franchise took action because of my polite but obviously disgruntled tweet and continues, to this day (a year later), to utilize policies that were put into place in response to my call for action to assure a higher level of customer satisfaction. I’m impressed!

I certainly don’t feel like every negative tweet or Facebook wall post deserves a response. I would recommend that you immediately ignore and remove, if possible, any complaints that use foul language or are threatening (report those!). But, if a customer is taking their time to politely voice their issues, you have a responsibility to respond. Why? Because you put your brand out there for TWO-WAY conversations! Not just your side. This also means that a simple thank you once in a while to happy constituents is a good idea.

Engage, don’t just bark, boast and brag.