Is there any better season to procrastinate than summer? When it’s too hot to weed and mow, and a pile of unsorted mail is cluttering up the kitchen counter, let’s find a nice, cool place to chew over social media. I’ll have a tall, virtual glass of iced lemonade with that, how about you?
Comments in your channels are like handwritten notes among the ads and bills in your mailbox. In an over-hyped, over-messaged, over-memed world, someone noticed you and cared enough to respond. So now that you have an audience, what should you do with positive or (gulp) negative comments?
Managing your channels is an essential skill for social media success. Skillful management can be tactical or strategic. Clever tactics are great in the short run, but smart strategies will prepare you to handle—and possibly avoid—controversies or other problems that come with the territory. With that in mind, let’s consider how to handle comments both tactically and strategically.
• Why are you using social media? If you just want to start a conversation, consider it done. But if you want to promote something specific—a brand, idea, product, or service—look for patterns in the comments. Then ask yourself whether your message and channels are reaching your intended audience.
• Who is commenting, and why does it matter? If you just want to filter out spambots, use a CAPTCHA utility to identify human visitors. But if you want to build relationships and align values, develop what linguists call “communicative competence”: the ability to use language appropriately for your online community. A values-based community supports its members—and you. That matters.
• What is the overall tenor of the comments? If you’re mainly concerned about verbal abuse, install a profanity filter, post a comment policy, and maintain it consistently. But if you want to grow a supportive community, engage people with courtesy. Thank them personally. Ask open-ended questions. Healthy debate is is a sign of engagement.
• Concerned about complaints? If people simply want to be heard, a kind word at the right time may be all they need. But if you want to earn their loyalty, help them solve a problem. Your professionalism will shine through, and your engaged community may come up with an even better solution.
• When controversies arise, don’t ignore them. Regret is not an admission of guilt. Let people know what they can realistically expect from you. Resolve private issues offline. To be proactive, include social media strategy within your organization’s crisis communications plan. You’ll be better prepared to turn problems into opportunities.
Think of comments as linguistic currency that builds social assets. Managed skillfully, comments ensure that messages, channels, and audiences are consistently aligned in support of your mission and objectives. An engaged, supportive, values-based community is an asset that money can’t buy.
So be authentic. Don’t settle for astroturfing. For real grassroots support, cultivate your comments and answer the mail. You’ll have an online home that welcomes visitors again and again.
Now back to work!—(LA)