How to Activate UGC & Handle Angry Customers: Interviews with Maria McKenzie and Katrine Thielke.

We talk with Lonely Planet's Social Media Comms Manager Maria McKenzie about the value of user generated content. Then we hear from Social Media Strategist Katrine Thielke about the best way to deal with angry people on social.
Maxwell Gollin
October 31, 2018 - 8 min. read

One of the most challenging parts of working with social media is engaging with your audience in just the right way. You need to stay on brand, keep a consistent tone, respond to the right mentions at the right time, and constantly be there for your followers.

On good days, you still need to be on the ball to find the best way to highlight enthusiastic fans and share user generated content. On bad days, you may feel like the world is against you and there’s an angry mob of commenters outside your door.

social customer care for angry customers and user generated content examples

Luckily for us, we got to interview two brilliant strategists on how they deal with both sides of that social media management coin. 

First, we spoke with Lonely Planet’s Global Social Media Comms Manager, Maria McKenzie, about how social media has changed the way we travel and how their brand uses UGC in their social strategy.

Then, we heard from Social Media Strategist, Katrine Emme Thielke, about what on earth SMMs can do to effectively deal with angry customers on social. 

Both of these interviews are chock-full of insights, and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed doing them. We’re pumped to hear even more from Maria and Katrine on November 14 when they speak about these sticky subjects at Spark, an unmissable one-day social media conference in Copenhagen.

Now let’s get into it—how can social media marketers activate user generated content AND avoid social media garbage fires at the same time?

Maria McKenzie, Global Social Media Communications Manager at Lonely Planet: “Power to the People: Finding, Activating and Using UGC in Your Social Media Strategy”

interview maria mckenzie lonely planet social media communications manager

Q: Maria, as the Global Social Media Communications Manager for Lonely Planet, you must know better than anyone that technology is changing the way we travel. So based on your industry knowledge (or personal experience), how would you say social media changed the way that people travel? 

Maria: There’s a social media touchpoint at every point of the travel cycle, which has completely changed the way we plan, book and even view travel. Travel has become part of a lifestyle rather than something we do once a year. From being inspired to visit a destination by an Instagram Story to buying a guidebook through a shoppable post or being alerted of flight sales via Facebook, travel is more accessible than ever.

While this has made traveling easier in many respects, it also impacts destinations—often positively—but in ways travelers should be aware of. Beautiful Instagram pictures of previously untrodden spots can, for example, bring hoards of travelers to unexpecting destinations. On the flipside, social media has also been a great platform for us to reinforce and promote ways of traveling responsibly as ultimately Lonely Planet believes that travel is a force for good.

Q: And when you are traveling, it is almost required that you post a photo on Instagram (or share a few dozen Instagram Stories) from your trip. How are you and your team using hashtags or social listening to ensure that Lonely Planet is a part of that conversation?

Maria: We’re a very lucky social media team at Lonely Planet, as we are one of the only guidebook publishers to source our written content by extensive on-the-ground research. We know because we go! And that means we’re inundated with photos, videos and social media content from our contributors that we can use on our accounts.

It’s great to work with such enthusiastic writers and staffers and so when it comes to the social team going on our own adventures, we can afford to have a #digitaldetox—although we have been known to broadcast live from the road!

We have a number of branded hashtags which all of our authors, photographers and staffers are encouraged to use while on the road which we monitor for possible RTs and social promotion. We also have additional community-led hashtags, such as #mylpguide or #lonelyplanet that we ask our fans to use to tell us about their own adventures via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Q: At Spark, you’ll be hosting a panel on finding and activating user generated content for your social strategy. Social media professionals talk about UGC a lot, but in your opinion, where does the value of user generated content lie? Is it something all social media marketers should be seeking out?

Maria: As the digital world becomes more and more saturated with video, articles and influencer posts from brands, people are looking to their friends and families for recommendations and influence. This is where UGC will play a huge role.

Are you more likely to buy something if you see an ad on Facebook, or if your best friend posts a photo of the product with an inspiring caption? In my opinion, brands should be seeking out long-term UGC campaigns as that will hold the most value overall.

“As the digital world becomes more and more saturated with video, articles and influencer posts from brands, people are looking to their friends and families for recommendations and influence. This is where UGC will play a huge role.”

Maria McKenzie, Lonely Planet

Q: Out of all the UGC campaigns (or images) you’ve run with Lonely Planet, which is your favorite and why?

Maria: That’s tough! There are so many people out there who have looked to Lonely Planet for travel advice over the last 45 years that every day we’re sent photos, videos and amazing content from around the world.

I think the campaign we’ve run that has given us the most creative UGC content is our ongoing ‘LP in the Wild’ where we ask fans to snap a photo of them with their guides on location and send it to us to share on Facebook. It started very organically and has since grown into a number of inspiring Facebook albums (thousands of photos!) with some amazingly creative shots.

maria mckenzie lonely planet user generated content strategy

Lonely Planet’s LP in the Wild campaign encourages people to share pics with their travel guides in some pretty…unique locations.

Q: You’ve just released your list of the best places to visit in 2019, and I was ecstatic to see that Copenhagen was at the top of the list! Can you tell me what you are excited to see or do in Copenhagen when you come visit for Spark?

Maria: I’ve visited Copenhagen once before but I’m really excited to return and take a deeper dive into the foodie scene! Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to pop over to Refshaleøen for the amazing street food that’s being served up there (and get snaps for our @lonelyplanetfood Instagram handle!) 

Katrine Emme Thielke, Social Media Strategist: “How to Handle Angry Users—New Methods From the Field of Conflict Resolution”

interview katrine emme thielke social media consultant denmark

Q: Katrine, as an expert on digital communications and marketing, you consult with a wide variety of brands and organizations. How do you apply what you learned as Director of Digital and Social at Advice and Head of Markets at TwentyThree to the organizations you advise today?

Katrine: Almost all organizations feel that their problems are one of a kind. I’ve learned that this is not so—problems, like history, tend to repeat themselves. The good part is that there’s almost always some solution that can be applied.

Meaning, there’s always hope, no matter how dire the issue is. Brand reputation can be salvaged, angry customers can become ambassadors. The hard part is to face the realities of the organizations’ problems.

Q: What would you say is the most common mistake you see digital marketers make when planning out their strategies?

Katrine: Honestly, it’s the evergreen hope that paid advertising can save the day. Too many campaign strategies are based on organizations paying to stuff their prospective customers’ feeds with bad content.

Sometimes we hope that if only we find the right mix, making the weight between sponsored content and ads just so, then our mediocre content will take flight. I think we should spend more time editing content and less time planning distribution. It’s an old song, I know, but still relevant.

social customer care strategy tips for angry customers

Shelling out the big bucks for social ads won’t help much if you don’t start with great content.

Q: At Spark, you’ll be speaking about both customer care and how to handle angry users. A lot of social media managers and digital marketers are unsure of how to deal with angry comments and messages. What’s one piece of advice you have for dealing with people who are upset with your organization (or just upset with the world)?

Katrine: Take the angry customers seriously. Research shows us that customers complain because they want to make the world a better place!

Of course, they want to achieve something for themselves too (a refund, an apology, or something), but all customers have that one thing in common: they complain because they basically want to prevent the thing that happened to them from happening to someone else. They are taking the time to tell you to do better because they wish for you to do better. They may not use kind words to do so, but the intent behind it is altruistic.

“All customers have that one thing in common: they complain because they basically want to prevent the thing that happened to them from happening to someone else. They are taking the time to tell you to do better because they wish for you to do better. They may not use kind words to do so, but the intent behind it is altruistic.”

Katrine Emme Thielke, Social Media Strategist

Q: Why should organizations devote resources to customer care and what benefits does developing a customer care strategy offer?

katrine thielke interview social customer care example spotify

Great customer care like this can help build trust and brand loyalty.

Katrine: Customer care is the day-to-day conversation with the customers. What could be more important? Too many organizations focus on the big crises, the so-called shitstorms, because these peaks visibly affect reputation.

I’d argue that the daily discontent that is not handled online has an impact on reputation too. Every voice ignored is a little dent in your brand. And, as we all know, customer care is marketing. It’s a very visible moment of truth, how you treat your customers. This means that a customer care strategy should be an integrated part of every business strategy if one wishes to retain customers.

Q: Lastly, what is one aspect of customer care that most organizations are not paying enough attention to?

Katrine: Most organizations are very busy providing answers and showing off their amazing powers of customer care 😊 They are very professional. Sometimes they forget the power of asking questions and listening to the answers from their customers. Instead of dishing out explanations for everything, it can be very powerful simply to receive the stories of the customers.

Thanks, Maria and Katrine. You’ve both given us a lot to think about—and a lot to look forward to when you each speak at Spark on November 14! If you’re interested to see Maria, Katrina, and over 25 over experts in digital marketing and social media live, click below for more info👇