If you find yourself spending hours each day sifting through dozens of social media posts and wondering which ones to respond to, then a "congratulations" may be in order.
Assuming a majority of these posts are compliments, questions, or just random comments, that means you're doing a good job. Your followers are engaged and communicative. It's a "good problem to have." If, however, a majority of these posts are negative or speak to poor customer service, well, that's a clearly a problem of a very bad kind.
Either way, your immediate challenge remains unchanged: how to intelligently and efficiently respond to these social media posts? And believe it or not, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. With that in mind we'd like to present social engagement guidelines to provide some structure around this important process.
Social Engagement as “A Process”
For small companies or those with a tiny amount of follower posts, responding to comments can be an arbitrary, ad hoc affair. They can take posts on a case-by-case basis and quickly move on. But even if you're dealing with only a handful of posts a week, we nonetheless suggest you apply a framework that can guide your response. In other words, social engagement should be a process, and as your brand grows and is the subject of even more posts and comments, this framework will become all the more important since it can be difficult to respond to everyone.
The Three Types of Posts - And Guidelines for Response
As we all know, not all posts are the same. Generally speaking, you'll experience three types of posts: Questions, Compliments, and Complaints. And as we're about to explain, each type should be handled differently:
Type of Post #1: Questions
The most basic and hopefully most common type of post you'll encounter. Simply ask yourself: "Is this question clearly understood?"
- If the answer is "Yes," answer the question 100% of the time.
- If the answer is "No," ask for clarification. Assuming the question is clarified, answer it 100% of the time.
Type of Post #2: Compliments
These are fun. In many cases you'll want to respond, thanking the customer for their kind words. If -- "good problem" alert! -- you're absolutely inundated with compliments, don't respond to every single one, as that may come across as a bit too over-eager and slightly weird.
Type of Post #3: Complaints
As you can imagine, complaints are tricky. There's a lot of gray area here. So first ask yourself, "Is this complaint accurate and/or fair?"
- If the answer is "Yes," reply and remediate the issue. Be as professional and courteous as possible. Never let a fair or accurate complaint remain on a social media site unaddressed.
- If the complaint is inaccurate or unfair it can be classified as either as a) an honest misunderstanding or b) a full-blown insult. In the case of the former, use your judgment. Ask for clarification but set boundaries. Don't have a drawn-out discussion in public; if anything, ask to take the discussion off-line. If it's an insult, however, there is no value in engaging the individual. Delete it.
Five Social Engagement Rules of Thumb
As you rely on these guidelines to inform your social engagement efforts, also keep the following five rules of thumb in mind:
- "Operationalize" the above process. Take a pen and a piece of paper and draw up a simple process map based on the aforementioned three comments (the industry term for it is "answering scheme") and keep it handy for quick reference. Soon it will become second nature.
- You won't (and shouldn't) respond to everyone. Let those awesome compliments stand on their own and delete baseless insults.
- Never, never, ever antagonize a commenter. Escalation never works and only "feeds the fire."
- Be honest, transparent, and grateful. Followers are fair and forgiving people; make sure they know there's a real, live human behind your computer.
- Be proactive and seek out posts. Comments on your brand will naturally be front-and-center on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. However, followers may comment about your company without you knowing about it. For example, people can Tweet about your company without using your @mention handle. Seek those out by searching your company name on Twitter or, if you really want to broaden your search, considering investing in a social media management tool.