Written and compiled by Annie Kolatsis, Social Media Marketer.
There have been a lot of rumblings online lately around people loving and hating the way brands choose to respond to their fans on social media. Case in point: when Adidas waved goodbye to a person that posted homophobic comments on one of their latest instagram posts. In my opinion, any brand that uses emojis this effectively is a winner in my books.
But not all clients have the cojones to let their community manager have free reign when it comes to responses – especially when it involves sensitive topics like the above. If you’re one of the lucky ones that does get more freedom (look mom, no hands!), then with this great power comes great responsibility, particularly since we live in the age of screenshot-and-share. Whether you’re a newbie or a well-seasoned community manager, here’s a list of things that I like to come back to when the comments and mentions start rolling in.
If you’re working on a smaller brand or one that people aren’t too familiar with, avoid coming on too strong right off the bat. You don’t need to jump into conversations with guns blazing and witty comebacks at the ready. If your community doesn’t really know your brand, your words could be misconstrued or it could just look like you’re trying too hard.
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. The Kardashian Empire wasn’t built in a day and similarly, your brand voice and personality won’t be either. It takes time to find a way of responding that comes naturally to you and the brand. It also takes a while to become familiar with the community and suss out their sensitive spots, so don’t rush and you’ll find your groove.
Apologise when you can
I find that many brands don’t do this enough and that’s usually because the community manager’s hands are tied quite tightly by the client. Sure sometimes you don’t have a choice – if the big boss says no, it’s a no – but if you do have the opportunity to apologise sincerely to someone that was let down by the brand, then do. Most people will appreciate it, while others will use it as an opportunity to continue their rant, but at least it’s there and the brand will look more genuine for doing it.
Take risks (but make them smart)
Once you’re at the point when the brand is more stable, it’s great to push the boundaries of your responses. I’m not saying you should run rampant and splash political propaganda all over the brand’s timeline, but get behind topics that the brand believes in and propose potential avenues of conversation to the client. If they’re controversial and you get the go ahead, plan your move smartly. Nine times out of 10, there will be a negative backlash of some kind, but if you’re ready for it and clients back you, then it’s okay. After all, you can’t please everyone online.
No one likes to feel like they’re talking to a robot. I’m talking about those copy-paste responses that get really easy to replicate, especially when you’re dealing with similar queries over and over again. I know it can feel tedious, but these types of responses aren’t fun for anybody and if you’re going to be sitting in front of your screen, you may as well try to make it as engaging as possible. Mix up the replies, ask people questions and make your response unique to their situation. If you’re working on a fun, edgy brand (and have client approval), why not throw in some emojis and memes relevant to the situation? If you’re enjoying it, odds are the person on the other side of the screen is too.
If you don’t know how to answer a question, that’s fine. Clients don’t always equip us with everything we need to know. Also, we can’t be experts on everything (especially when working on five or more brands at a time). As soon as you’re unsure about something, just ask. That’s the great part about having a team – I know I can always turn to them for advice and throw around a few ideas in order to find the best way forward.
If you’re worried about your response time – because clients can be sticklers for it – respond to the query, tell the person that you’re doing some digging to find the best answer and that you’ll revert back soonest. They’ll appreciate hearing from you and you’ll also get extra brownie points for coming back to them again as opposed to leaving them for a few hours/days with no answer.
I remember when I first started doing community management: it scared the heck out of me. Luckily, I had (and still have) a really chilled client that wanted me to have fun with the brand and see where it went. Not every client is like that, but it was a great opportunity to experiment and find my feet as well as the brand’s. One thing’s for sure though: there’s never a dull day as a community manager.
Good luck my fellow unicorns, may your coffee cups always be full and your responses less than 140 characters.