To respond in social media – a beginner’s guide

How to respond in social media - matrix modelSome time ago, I started to think about how you could make an easy, usable model to help companies understand how, when, and what to respond in social media. I did, and now I’ve been asked to translate it into english by one of my clients. Since I have, I thought I might as well share it with the rest of you.
Early on, I found this amazingly simple and elegant matrix originally developed by the U.S. Air Force. Even though I love it, it’s a bit defensive. My contribution is remake, a more proactive way of looking at how we can deal with comments and buzz concerning our brand or product.
To make this worth while I have a few assumptions:
  1. we want people to talk about us. More, not less and more often.
  2. we have a good product and/or ideas worth talking about.
If not, well you should stop right now.
Although this text is primarily about responding, you can always take charge of the conversation more or less. I believe in more.
So, this is an updated version of the matrix and I’ll try to develop somethings here about the different steps before and after.

1. Monitoring – What’s said about us in social media?

  • The first step is to listen, to monitor, and to gather information.
There is an almost infinite number of sources that are constantly changing. Luckily, you are guaranteed not to anywhere.
  • Use (or similar free service) and create a Social Media Dashboard
    In Netvibes you can gather sources, such as RSS feeds and searches, in a simple way. The results can then be divided into tabs, making it a nice easy overview. And it’s free to.
  • Collect from Google searches for blogs and web, Twingly and Icerocket for blogs and twitter, and use Yahoo! to monitor your ”inlinks”.
    Inlinks are other blogs or sites linking to you, which is an important part of how your online ”solar system” is perceived by search engines. Somewhat simplified, you could say that – the more inbound links the better.
  • If you succeed, i.e. get a lot of buzz, it may be a good idea to start paying for a more powerful service.
    One big problem is to determine the relevance of an individual blogger, and the value/impact it has on my product or brand. You need to do this in order to prioritise. Some of the more advanced services try to address this by giving a score to the different sources.

2. Answers – What should I say and when?

  • Basically; answer and comment on everything said about you, your brand or your product.
    This is of course a rule with many exceptions
It is probably not worth it engaging in a debate with people who are just looking to provoke. However, you must always make sure to communicate facts. In other words pretty much like in any other social context.
  • As in all forms of human communication, there are no exact answers to what’s right and what’s wrong…
  • but, being genuine, honest and polite will get you pretty far…
  • and try to keep it short and not too formal… 
It is a conversation between people we’re talking about. Behind every alias and each post there is a real human being. That’s important to remember, not least because every person is a potential ambassador for your product or brand.
  • To truly engage with, listen to, and respond to your customers is always a good thing.
I am still waiting for an example to show a brand that dares to talk openly and honestly with their customers and fail to take advantage from it. I don’t think we ever will. Who would not be happy to get their questions answered? Who would not want to be seen? We are dealing with people who actually took the time to talk about you. It is only right that you take the time to respond.
  • Need more arguments? It’s good for SEO as well. More buzz = better Google rank (I admit, that’s really simplified but still…) 
Social media is good for the search results. It is for the simple reason that anything will become more relevant if there are lots of people talking about it.

3. Policy & Strategy

  • Trust the set of rules and values you already have.
    If you have a healthy culture, good employees you trust this is not a problem. They know where they stand, they will not share proprietary information, they won’t trash-talk the company online, in the kitchen at a party or anywhere else.
  • Train your staff; not in ”social media” but in the mechanics behind it.
    That is, if you have a healthy and sound corporate culture, see that employees are given the opportunity to spread all the good that is to say.
  • Still, if you feel the need for another strategy or policy consider that a good social media policy:
    • enables all of your staff to take part in the conversation
    • trusts all of your staff to be proud of your product or brand and willing to say something good about it
  • Shutting your staff off from the social media networks is counterproductive at best and really damaging at worst. Not least from an HR-perspective.
    Who would want to work for a company that is afraid to be talked about? And if you are a company that works with knowledge, it is absolutely critical that your employees can use their networks to evolve.

4. Measuring

  • Let’s just get this out of the way. Oh yes, it’s important!
  • If you have the dashboard in place, use that for measuring as well.
    Measure things like acknowledgments (positive-negative), number of links, reviews, etc.
  • Start easy and gradually refine
    It’s better to start measuring something than to try to find the perfect model straight away
  • Decide on value and currency!
    What is a tweet about your brand worth in $? If you want to be able to justify what you do, make sure you can account for results. If  you can do it in dollars and cents, you’re home free.
That’s it for now. Please feel free to download the presentation from slideshare containing the matrix.
Good luck!

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