Knowing the Rules for Real-Time Response

Three best practices for engaging in conversations via social media.

Sometimes a story can be so compelling that it moves beyond your supporters and gains traction with the general public through social media. In the best cases, this happens because your story is moving and it inspires action from people who may not normally know or support your organization. Sometimes, however, your story may also spark controversy; negative comments tend to spread more rapidly online. When either situation happens, it is important to plan how your organization will respond. Planning enables you to respond quickly.

If your story is attracting a great deal of positive attention, use that attention as an opportunity to amplify your organization’s impact in a positive way. For example, you could start by engaging with all of your new champions by responding to them, thanking them for sharing your content and engaging them in a conversation about topics they might be interested in, given the nature of the content of the story they have shared. Remember, this is your organization’s time to shine! Keep the conversation real and focused around the work that you do. On the other hand, if your story attracts negative attention from people who may aggressively disagree with your mission, it’s important that you have a plan in place. A great way to start is by drafting a moderation policy for your organization to be used by anyone who manages organization social media pages.

Moderation Policy

To begin drafting your moderation policy, a good first step is to gather your senior management team together and have a conversation about what the guidelines will be for moderating comments and when comments should be responded to.

Some executive teams are comfortable with a more organic presence on social media, while others will favor a more heavily moderated model. By having this discussion early, you make sure that everyone is on the same page and that expectations are clear if the reaction to your content is unfavorable.

It also isn’t a bad idea to post your moderation policy, so that users understand what will and will not be tolerated. Some organizations may choose to let the community moderate itself. Whichever method you decide to go with, make sure your community knows what to expect.

Three Best Practices for Responding via Social Media

1. Respond quickly: While it isn’t critical that you respond within seconds of receiving a comment, it’s important that you set aside periods of time throughout the day to monitor your platforms and engage with users.

2. Be personable: When responding to comments, try to not use generic responses. Customize your reply with information from their post. Mention them by name.

3. Beware the trolls: Internet trolls are people who purposefully start arguments or post outrageous opinions just to get a reaction from people. When you encounter a troll, it’s important to know how, or if, you should respond. If they make a valid point, it may be worth responding to. However, if the nature of the post is to stir the pot, a response may not be needed.

In the end, what really matters is having a plan in place for both positive and negative attention on social media and how to make the most of each.