The great thing about social media is that it is social. You can connect and engage with friends, fans, acquaintances, and others around a myriad of topics or for no reason at all. The worst thing about social media is that it is social. Right or wrong, you can’t control the conversation, what people say, what they post, who they share with. Like a merry-go-round, it can seem like you are dealing with the same issues, day in, day out.
A number of people I have spoken ask the same question a hundred different ways – How do we control the conversation? My answer is you can’t, you can’t even manage it. The best you can do is to influence and perhaps direct it. This assumes that you are out there engaging in the first place. Some of teh problems and potential solutions include:
Overly colorful commenting: We have all seen them – comments where often the only non-four letter word in them are “I” and “And.” These are comments and posts from customers and others that use foul language, are derogatory, and are meant to insult or hurt someone. These types of comments can derail the real conversation and push out the people you really want to engage with.
Solution: Publish a channel specific engagement policy on each channel that covers areas like the use of foul language, derogatory remarks, comments lacking relevance to the conversation, etc. As part of that policy clearly explain what is allowed and what is not allowed, along with what action you will take on non-allowed activities.
Lack of relevancy: These are comments that have absolutely nothing to do with the conversation. Some times these can be totally harmless. But there are other times where these comments, as innocuous as they may seem, have the desired affect to take the conversation totally off track.
Solution: As a part of your channel specific engagement policy explain that comments that are not seen as directly relevant to the subject may be removed at your discretion. Also employ moderation on channels that allow it. For example, with Facebook use the Moderation Blocklist and the Profanity Blocklist, and on YouTube and blogs enable comment moderation.
Issue or crisis?: When you get a comment that could be a problem, you need to decide for your organization what constitutes an issue and what is a crisis. Generally, crises involve strong negative emotions that others can easily relate to, that promote viral behavior, and often outweigh common sense that have the potential to go viral quickly in unpredictable ways. Whereas issues are lesser then a crisis, but still needs to be addressed. For example, these could be as simple as negative comments, negative customer issues, or negative press.
Solution: First, clearly define what the characteristics of crisis are for your organization – what really can impact you. Then determine what lower level characteristics define an issue as compared to a non-issue. Then turn these into a checklist or a process map such as Triage Map that can be used to determine what is a crisis and what is an issue, and how to begin an appropriate response pattern.
Repetitive questions: Often you will get the same questions or comments posted a hundred different ways from a variety of customers and others. It isn’t that they are doing this on purpose, but often haven’t bothered to look and see if the question has already been answered or the comment already made.
Solution: When it comes to comments on social media for most organizations, you can apply the 80/20 rule and bucket approximately 80% of the comments and/or questions into just a few buckets. Then you can build a set of “canned” responses for those comments or questions that can be tailored ever so slightly for each response. These should be based upon facts and offer direct action if necessary to the commenter. In some cases you can also employ external validation.
There are other issues that you will face in working to manage and influence the conversation in social about your company. But if you can put systems and processes in place to deal with the areas identified above, this should cover most of them.