Take the Pressure Off Social Responses

More terrible data pushing the terrible notion that brands engaging in marketing efforts via social media should feel the need to respond to each and every comment directed at them. This time it comes via a survey of U.S. adults, gauging what they feel is an appropriate response rate. Unsurprisingly, most people feel such responses should come in less than a day, if not within a couple hours.

That’s fine, but it’s also nonsense.

As with most such surveys and reports, it appears to start out from a faulty premise. Namely, that every person mentioning a brand online *wants* to hear back with a response. That’s simply not the case.

Simply consider this: Most of the advice you might have read about how a 100% response rate within 24 hours of an individual’s comment comes from one of two sources. Either it’s from a company selling a social media monitoring and customer engagement software solution or someone selling their consulting service. Both have a vested interest in guilting a company into feeling they’re not doing enough.

In reality, the best guidance is the same that’s applied when you come across one of those “here are the best times/days to publish on social media” pieces. Namely, do what works best for your own company/industry and for your own audience.

Here’s a quick, admittedly abbreviated, checklist to work down as you’re deciding how (or if) to scale up your social content team to more fully respond to consumer comments and posts:

1: What’s the tone? Are people saying anything constructive? In 98 percent of cases, people who are just dragging a brand for the lulz don’t want – or deserve – a response. Nothing you say will change their thinking or attitude. They just want to burn you. On the other hand, someone who seems to be coming at you, even if they’re saying something negative, from a place of good faith is worth your time.

2: Who are they? There’s so much intentional terribleness on social media it’s often hard to find the signal in the noise. The rise of bots and disinformation farms has only made problems worse and it’s not clear companies are adequately staffed or informed to deal with them, outsourcing much of that work and worry to the same CMS vendors mentioned above. It’s only worth engaging with those who are verifiably real people.

3: What are the next three parts of the conversation? Strategic thinking is an essential, if often undervalued, aspect of corporate communications. It’s necessary when developing engagement/response strategies and tactics, though. Before diving into a conversation, and assuming it’s even a conversation the person on the other end wants to have, consider for a moment what the next three steps of that conversation are going to be. What does it seem the person wants out of the back-and-forth and are you ready to deliver it? More importantly, are you ready to be the one who hangs up the figurative phone if things take a turn.

That last one is essential. As ready as brand managers need to be to engage in a conversation, they also need to be ready to end it. Someone always has to be the one to walk away, and in many cases that will be the person who’s operating on behalf of the brand account. So is everyone on the team empowered to make that call?

If, as the lead on a brand social content program, you’re comfortable holding yourself and your team to a 100 percent comment response standard, go for it. For most, though, it’s going to be an unreasonable goal that, even if it were achievable, isn’t going to do much more than incremental good for the brand image in the eye of the public. And when you inevitably fall short of it you will have set a poor precedent for the program, not to mention set yourself up to answer uncomfortable questions from stakeholders.

Don’t buy the hype and don’t give in to the pressure established by those looking to sell their wares and services.

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