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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Should You Respond to Comments on Your Social Media Sites?

I found the greatest thing today!

Ever wonder whether you should respond to a user comment on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or blog? When is it appropriate to say something, and how should you say it? Every organization that has social sites has surely wondered about this. Well, there's a great answer on the Social Media Influence site.

"... nobody wants a customer gripe to go unnoticed and turn into a viral PR nightmare," the SMI site explains. So, "We adapted this decision tree from the U.S. Air Force’s brilliant web posting response assessment protocol developed for its communications staff on how to prioritize and respond to potentially damaging online posts."

Link over to the site and click on the graphic to enlarge and study it. The logic is sound.

When librarians talk about social media, especially Facebook, the problem of how to interact with fans always comes up. There's a wide range of challenges. Here are 5 common ones, from the most restrictive to the least:

1. I've often heard public and school librarians complain that administrators or board members won't even let them have Facebook pages because they're afraid that "The public might want to interact with us." OMG--your patrons might want to communicate with you!! Isn't that a pretty basic focus of public service? I think it's silly to avoid Facebook because you don't want to open yourself up to conversation. I've never yet heard an argument on this topic that convinces me otherwise.

2. Some folks say they're allowed to have a site, but not allowed to take comments. Here's a story: There's a township organization where I live that made a Facebook site, and after every post they put up this same comment:
"The membership of the [name] Page are reminded that comments will be removed from this page. Feedback should be directed through email to facebook@[namae].org. Those who choose to post on this page will be blocked by the administrator from this Facebook page."
How ridiculous is that?!? It makes this organization look very unfriendly and very un-social-savvy. If you just want to send out info but not take feedback, then you should have a blog or send email blasts; Facebook is not for you.

3. Some libraries have social sites, but posting is restricted somehow: Either only one person is allowed to post, or they're restricted to posting about one or two topics (so they can't make the most of the medium), or posts are made by someone who doesn't "get it." I say, if you want to do social media right, you need to put it in the hands of employees who understand the best way to use it for publicity, for outreach, for studying customers, and for building your reputation. 

4. Various libraries have started accounts before they created usage policies. That makes problems more likely, and arguments over how to handle them can cripple social interactions. If you do some research on social media policies and adopt a common-sense approach, you can overcome this challenge.

5. Finally, even libraries that have good sites and that do engage fans by asking questions, still seem to struggle with the question of how to respond to unfavorable posts. When someone writes about a bad experience they had, do you reply publicly? Do you make excuses? How honest should you be? Should you remove the unkind comment and hope nobody saw it? Even the savviest social-ites can be unsure of these answers, or can be held back by bad policies.

Now, you can take this infographic to the folks who just don't understand and tell them that it was created by the U.S. military (which has never been accused of being "too friendly" or "too open") and by a company that specializes in social media. This decision tree can be the cornerstone of your policies. Maybe it'll help you convince administrators that you can and should engage in open conversations with users.  

Why reinvent the wheel -- or the policy, or the flowchart -- when something already exists that's been well-thought-out, tested, and approved by experts? I hope you'll share this post widely so everyone can benefit from it. Libraries of all types need to quickly move beyond "Should we be social?" and "How can we trust others?" and learn how to be out there, where the people are, interacting in the way that people have come to expect. 

Have you faced unkind comments? How did you deal with them? Do you think this decision tree would've help you? Let's talk about it!


KWiddows said...

This is really interesting - I'm surprised to be honest that this conversation is still a hot topic. I thought libraries had started to understand by now. We have FB and twitter and we encourage enquiries and comments through both and we treat the responses the same way we treat email - the accounts are monitored throughout the working day and comments responded to as soon as possible.
I don't understand why libraries are still finding this difficult.

~Kathy Dempsey said...

You're right, Katharine -- in a way, it shouldn't be difficult at all. Although I mention 5 scenarios where I've heard about challenges, many libraries are using social media just fine, thank you.

However, there are some that are held back by frightened administrators, lack of policies, or just plain old lack of time & staff.

I found this decision tree quite useful for those difficult instances where someone leaves a negative comment. On social media, in print or broadcast media, or face-to-face, crisis communications is always a sticky situation. That's what this decision tree was designed for, and I felt it offered useful guidance that might keep some librarians from arguing about how to respond and from re-inventing the wheel if they didn't have a policy for crisis communication yet.

Thanks for reading The M Word!!