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How to Craft a Successful Social Media Response Strategy

Corinne Balicki

Communications Strategist, Forum One

Social media provides organizations with the ability to tell their story, connect with audiences, and expand their influence. No matter what social media platform your organization uses, interactions with your audience are at its core. Successful social media response strategies not only promote your goals, but feel authentic and welcoming to those you’re trying to reach.

Social media platforms are more than just a broadcasting tool, they provide the unique value of being built for virtual interactions. Responding to mentions, comments, and questions on social media is the most important aspect of your social media strategy. For some organizations, getting a plan in place, particularly in times of high stress, may be difficult to accomplish. The ROI of a social media plan far exceeds the time put into it. Gaining traction and engagement from your audience will require your organization to be ready to respond in a timely manner. Your audience can quickly lose interest or leave the “interaction” with a negative view of your organization if they feel that you’ve simply ignored their input.

Here’s how to create a successful, sustainable social media response strategy that meets your organization and audiences’ needs.

Develop social media guidelines

It’s essential to get everyone who will be involved in your social media strategy on the same page. This not only applies to response guidelines but also brand identity guidelines. Staff should be well-versed on your brand identity and understand how to apply the organization’s voice to social. Consistency in messaging and voice will help your organization build a positive reputation on social media.

You also need to establish clear guidelines on what posts to like, repost, or reply to. These rules may take time to pin down, as it can be difficult to apply blanket guidelines to all social media interactions. Trial and error, and real-time experience, will help you apply your guidelines. When there is uniformity and consistency in your responses, regardless of the individual providing them, your organization’s voice will shine through and strengthen brand awareness.

Establish communication between departments

Regardless of the structure of your organization, an established line of communication between offices or departments for social media inquiries is essential. Agree on a process as soon as possible so that when a question comes in, there is already a plan in place to get it answered quickly. Your social media team may not have the subject matter expertise to answer all questions about your organization’s focus, so having designated points of contact means a comprehensive, relevant answer is an email or chat window away. This will help keep your response time short and create accountability within your organization. Including subject matter expertise in your reply also builds the credibility and dependability of your organization.

Find the perfect social media management system

There are a multitude of management systems available to help streamline your social media strategy. From tracking engagement to sorting mentions by topic, social media management tools have a variety of features. Take your social media clout and goals into account when choosing a system. Are you handling multiple interactions a day? What will your focus be?

Another way to find the best system for your organization is to look at your weaknesses or blind spots in your current approach. What is your biggest pain point? If it’s not having the bandwidth to post every day, you may need a system that allows you to schedule ahead of time. If it’s struggling to connect with others in your industry, then you may need a system that pulls the most popular posts and profiles for your industry. Assessing your organization’s needs before choosing a management system will help you narrow down the search and ensure you find the right fit.

Create templated replies

Crafting unique responses to comments and mentions can be an arduous task. For some organizations, it makes sense to create a standard set of go-to replies that can be easily pulled for use. This model works especially well in organizations with heavy oversight from senior leadership or other team leaders. If approval is required before sending replies, templated replies are a good solution to reply quickly and on brand. These replies can be presented and approved before they are needed, so bureaucracy and approval processes won’t slow down the social media team’s ability to respond.

When creating these responses, ensure they are on brand and don’t appear robotic. You can stick to them word for word, or they can function as a general framework depending on how your approval process works. You want your followers to feel connected to your organization, and if your templated replies are too cold and robotic, you may miss this opportunity. Consider leaving space in your templated replies for personalization. Instead of saying, “Thank you for reaching out, please consider accessing our other resources on yourwebsite.com,” your reply could say, “Thank you for reaching out to us about our work in [topic/issue x]! We’re extremely passionate about this issue and have an additional resource you may find useful: [link to resource].”

Plan for reacting to negative comments

Unlike businesses, organizations and nonprofits generally don’t have to deal with a large bulk of negative comments or unhappy customers. That being said, it does (and will!) happen, so you should develop a response strategy and create relevant templated replies. Will you ask the user to direct or private message your accounts to take the conversation forward? Will you choose to dismiss/ignore the negative comments? If a legitimate concern is raised, who will you escalate the issue to in your organization? Along with staying true to your brand voice, the tone of a reply should be guided by the poster’s voice and problem level. If you use templated replies, always double-check that the response tone matches the concern, and adjust as needed.

Monitor both tagged and untagged mentions

Whether you run your social accounts manually or use a management system, always check both tagged and untagged mentions of your organization. Some management systems make this easy by pulling up a feed of every post where you’re mentioned, but you can also do this manually. Keeping an eye on all mentions helps you to find more opportunities to connect with your audience and reach new people. This will also help you practice your social listening by seeing what your audience is discussing, what they connect your organization to, and how they address your competitors. Staying up-to-date with the discussion surrounding your organization is a great way to help inform your social media content strategy.

Though everyone’s social response strategy is unique to their work and mission, we’ve found these guidelines work for a wide variety of organizations. Adapting them to fit your organizational or business model, goals, and brand identity will help you implement a long-term strategy that works.

Written By

Corinne Balicki

Communications Strategist, Forum One

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