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How to get social media engagement right


Social media engagement rules or protocols provide guidance to employees regarding how to go about participating in online conversation on behalf of the company. They are usually intended to direct rather than restrict, and are often perceived as more positive in nature.

Radian6 (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) posed some questions of any organisation looking to develop social media engagement guidance:

  • Who are your organisation’s social media heroes today?
  • What kind of engagement is your organisation currently enabling?
  • How will your rules of engagement align with company culture and values?

They recommend that organisations:

  • Listen to what is being said across the social web and get a feel for the sentiment of existing conversation about your company before participating in social media dialogue;
  • Monitor the frontlines using listening tools, fielding frequently asked questions immediately and pushing those conversations needing a more detailed or experienced answer to the correct people with those skill sets in the organisation;
  • Develop a method to filter noise and spam from the relevant conversations using a workflow that meshes well with the organisation’s structure.

But the biggest challenge that most organisations face isn’t how to monitor social media, but what to do with the information they discover. That’s where the right engagement model comes in.

A five-stage model for engagement

If you subscribe to the view that social media engagement is about connecting with people to build relationships that are mutually beneficial and emotionally fulfilling, then you immediately realise that most companies aren’t actually geared up to work in this way. Here is a five-stage model that might help:

1. Evaluate

Is engagement actually required? A response might only be necessary if it comes from an existing or potential brand advocate or adversary, but things like deliberately antagonistic comments, ‘private’ discussions, generic mentions without any commentary, etc, may not warrant a response at all.

2. Acknowledge

With social media there is an expectation of immediacy. By the time the PR, customer service and legal people have all had their say, there is a danger that the discussion will have already moved on and the opportunity to build a connection with an advocate or build a bridge with an adversary will be lost.

3. Prioritise and Classify

If your brand receives a high volume of relevant mentions, it is likely that you will need to prioritise and/or classify them. That way you can ensure the right people deal with the highest priority items first as these are the most likely to escalate quickly before you get chance to evaluate or respond to them.

4. Escalate

The key to keeping major issues grounded and assessed objectively is to have an escalation procedure in place. By setting some simple criteria that must be met, you will be able to determine whether an issue requires escalation and, if so, who needs to be involved in resolving it.

5. Respond

Any response strategy should consist not only of what you want to say, but also who is going to say it and how, as responding online to a compliment is very different to responding to a criticism. Whatever you do, you must resist the marketer’s natural urge to control, target or infiltrate social media – the resulting fallout will provide perfect fodder for others, including competitors and the mainstream media.

Over the next few days, I’ll delve into each of these five stages in more detail.