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Tara West

Social Media Community Management Best Practices

3rd Sep 2012 Social Media | No Comments


Social MediaAs much as online communities have become part of everyday life, people still don’t behave in them the same way as they would in everyday life. Being online means they often say things that they would never dream of saying in the ‘real world’.


It’s like road rage; no one would ever dare to get so close behind someone else walking in front of them on the pavement and then making gestures at them until they eventually move over to let them pass. It’s like the car becomes a barrier that empowers people to be rude and aggressive and for some reason, being online does the same thing!

This post is going to discuss some best practice ways of dealing with social media community management in situations where people aren’t behaving quite as you’d like.

Address any negative comment you receive and don’t try to delete them or ignore them.

Be empathetic when you reply to negative feedback. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They have parted with their money and they probably feel like they don’t mean much to your brand at that time. Your job is to make them feel valued and provide any reassurance that they may need. Having said that, don’t send out the usual spiel of ‘Thank you for your feedback you are a valued customer blah blah blah’ as this will not make any difference to the customer; in fact, if anything, it is likely to make them more annoyed that the brand thinks they can fob them off with a standard auto response.

ASOS have a separate Twitter account for dealing with customer service enquiries and they are a shining example of how to reply with a personal tone and make the customer feel valued:ASOS Twitter Community Management Best Practices

They also use a good tactic of trying to move the discussion offline or to a private discussion (by asking the customer to direct message them on Twitter). It’s not easy to discuss an issue in 140 characters so this is a smart move. It also ensures no further attention is publicly drawn to the issue.

Of course some negative feedback isn’t always regarding a service of product and it may be that some people dislike your brand and want to share that fact with everyone. There’s not much you can do to help these people. Try responding once and if you don’t get any remotely positive feedback in response, or if there is nothing you can do to help, just say something along the lines of ‘We’re sorry you still feel this way. We’ve done as much as we think we can to help. If there is anything else you think we can be doing please let us know’. I call this the Kill-Them-With-Kindness approach.

Don’t get defensive in situations where someone is being publicly negative about your brand. Try to remain calm and neutral whilst still holding a personal tone, and state facts to answer questions if appropriate.

Time is of the essence. The longer you leave it before replying, the more out of hand it may get. Think of it as that awkward silence in real life that you would get if you simply didn’t talk back to them in a conversation. Of course the problem with online communities is that the conversation may grow without you even responding with others adding comments or re-tweeting.

Odeon have recently been involved in a not-so-shiny example of when things go wrong and no one responds in a timely matter. A disgruntled customer wrote a rather long letter to them which received over 156,370 likes and 13,329 comments. None of which were a response from Odeon (at the time of writing this, they still hadn’t responded):

Odeon Social Media Community Management on Facebook

Ironically, Odeon had issued a document previous to this unfortunate incident about their special media processes which states “ODEON has devised a comprehensive crisis response map. Messages that could escalate into a PR crisis (or anything the customer service team doesn’t feel comfortable answering) are assigned to the Brand and Social Media department to ensure inflammatory posts are handled carefully.”

This brings us on to my next point. Community management isn’t a nine-to-five job. Odeon were caught out on a bank holiday. Clearly their Brand and Social Media department don’t work bank holidays. Entrust someone from your team to monitor the account during weekends so it can be checked at least once a day.

Ryanair are another example where they didn’t respond at all, however this is no shock considering they don’t have any kind of community management system in place: Ryanair Community Management Best Practices

The approach they took is not one I would recommend, as Their spokesman Stephen McNamara said “Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion, It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”

O2 are a great example of how to use community management to handle a crisis well. They are lucky to have the kind of brand where they are able to have some fun in times of crisis. This is not suitable for all brands so use this tactic with caution (some editing required):

This approach earned them the respect of their customers in a sink or swim situation and they made it to the shore whilst still managing to pick up some client praise along the way:

O2 needs a hug social media community management in a crisis

If you have an audience of thousands, and you are being faced with criticism from large number of them (even more so than in the Odeon instance), you may be better off managing the situation by not responding on a personal level, and instead posting some content which addresses the issue. For example if the Odeon backlash continued with large number of new posts from individuals (not just comments) they could create and post some content about the issue and explain where the money from people’s tickets goes (eg film production, funding new films etc).

Register all your social profiles in order to protect your brand. If you do experience a crisis this will ensure no angry consumers can register your official brand profile and post negatively on your behalf. There are literally thousands of social profiles out there available, so it may be worth investing in a professional service to register these on your behalf to give you full peace of mind.

You should then make a concise decision as to which social platforms you are going to allocate your time to. No one can be active on all of them successfully unless you have truly unlimited resources, so choose the ones where your audience are most likely to interact such as Twitter and Facebook. I’d also recommend using Google Plus actively as this is a growing platform and consumers may become more active on there in the future.  If your brand is very visual for example a fashion retailer or design company, you should also consider actively using Pinterest.

Make sure that all your other social profiles are clearly registered with your details; however you may wish to turn off options for users to send you messages or contact you via these profiles if you aren’t going to be actively checking them to respond to them. In your profile you could say ‘follow us on Twitter for the latest updates’ and link to your Twitter profile for example. Also make sure these profiles contain your phone number and standard contact details.

Social media in itself can actually become a crisis if you don’t manage it properly, so make sure you respect the rules of each social platform and also remember that you are there to help these communities and serve them, rather than just use them for your brands benefit.

To summarise all these points:

  • Don’t ignore or delete negative discussions online
  • Make the user feel valued
  • Use a personal tone in conversations with users
  • Don’t send out generic auto responses at any time (especially in Crisis situations)
  • Try to take the discussion offline and encourage them to contact you directly e.g. a Twitter Direct message or email
  • Don’t feed the trolls
  • Don’t take it personally or get too defensive
  • Time is of the essence when responding
  • Community management is not a 9-5 task if you want to avoid crisis
  • Use the characteristics of your brand to determine how you respond to discussions (eg O2)
  • If your audience is too big to respond to individually trey creating content to address the issue
  • Register all your social profiles for brand protection
  • Select which social platforms you are going to communicate on and ensure the others have messages / posts turned off and contain your standard email address
  • Follow the rules of each social network
  • Remember you are there to serve the audience

Have you had an experience where you have had to deal with a challenging situation for a brand via social media? Please feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.

Image Source

Social media concept in thumb up symbol via BigStock

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Tara West About the author

Tara West

Tara West is an experienced SEO and PPC specialist at Koozai, with particular expertise within AdWords PPC and Remarketing. She has worked on a wide variety of verticals, from plumbing and travel to fashion and beauty.

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