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How to decide whether to respond to social media mentions

A few days ago I outlined a five-stage model for social media engagement. Assuming that effective monitoring is in place to flag up mentions, the first stage requires a company or brand to evaluate whether engagement is actually required.

The types of mentions that you would probably want to respond to – because the person is either an existing or potential brand advocate or brand adversary – include:

  • Mentions of your company at presentations or events
  • Compliments directed towards your company, products, services or employees
  • Recommendations and referrals to your products and services
  • Customer service issues or enquiries
  • Sales leads or product/service enquiries
  • Company, product or service issues that you are aware of and have an explanation/response for.

Equally it is important to be clear on what not to respond to, as doing so could either be intrusive, inappropriate or inflammatory. Such instances include:

  • Generic mentions, perhaps alongside competitors, without any kind of commentary
  • Comments that are deliberately antagonistic in nature
  • Mentions that simply link to your own blog posts or announcements, unless they are low volume and an individual response is warranted
  • Discussions between two or more individuals that mention your company but where your responding would be seen as intrusive.

When it comes to deciding whether to respond, there are two golden rules:

  1. Does it appear that the person wants the company to respond?
  2. Do we have anything useful to respond with?

This simple visual model summarises the options:

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 08.51.21

If it’s clear that person is not anticipating a response and you have nothing useful to reply with, then a response is probably unnecessary. That’s not to say you have nothing to learn from it, however. Conversely, if the person is clearly expecting a response and you have something useful to respond with, then you should absolutely respond. However if a response is anticipated but you have nothing of value to add, or if a response is not expected but you feel you can contribute, you need to proceed with caution. In the first scenario, all you can probably do is acknowledge the comment; in the second, you need to tread the fine line between delight and dismay.