Last week at The Viral Garden, I posted an interview I did with Kodak’s Director of Interactive Marketing and Convergence Media, Tom Hoehn. Tom was nice enough to give me an exclusive look at Kodak’s ‘Ripcurl’ social media engagement system, which he co-created with Kodak’s Chief Blogger, Jenny Cisney. The system is designed to quickly and easily explain the different ways in which social media (and other forms of marketing) function, be it as tools to create content, engage in 2-way dialogue, or as a channel to distribute content. The system also shows everyone the tone to use when engaging with customers via social media, and what the expected outcomes are.
Similarly, The Air Force has created a wonderful ‘blog comment flowchart’ that clearly explains how every blog comment should be handled, based on the intent of the person, their tone, and gives a clear course of action to take. You can view the flowchart here.
Having a clear set of social media policies and guidelines isn’t just a good idea, for larger companies and organizations, it’s a necessity. If your company is considering crafting guidelines to help your employees understand how to reply to customer feedback via social media, here are some areas to focus on:
1 – Intent. What is your purpose for replying to a blog comment or answering a tweet on Twitter? What are you trying to accomplish?
2 – Tone. How you respond to people online is just as important as what you say. Make sure that your employees understand this, and are given guidelines for what acceptable. In general, be respectful and courteous, and you’ll almost always get the same in return.
3 – Who should reply. If you encounter a customer-service issue on a social site, is it best for you to respond immediately, or forward the information to someone in the customer-service department? Employees should know which areas and departments within their company are qualified to address feedback from customers on social sites.
4 – Transparency. If you do reply or address someone online, make sure you clearly identify yourself as an employee for your company, and that you are speaking on your company’s behalf. This is not an option.
5 – Be careful in sharing private and confidential information, or speaking on behalf of another employee. Always double-check before doing this. Being transparent doesn’t mean you have to share everything.
6 – Adding value, not a commercial. Be very careful to address comments and points raised, but to not offer unnecessary promotion. If you can provide more information about your company that’s related to the topic being discussed, that’s normally fine, but don’t promote areas that have no interest to others.
7- Being humble, being human, being open. If you screwed up, apologize. If you enter into an online conversation, invite readers to leave more comments and feedback for you on that site, and also let them know how they can get in touch with you directly, via email or even your phone number.
8 – Never respond when you are angry. Sooner or later, you will encounter feedback online that you think is dead wrong, and that makes you mad as hell. If you respond when you are in that frame of mind, you are potentially doing damage to your company’s online reputation. Remember that you are a company representative and are speaking on your company’s behalf.
These are some quick pointers to get you started on crafting guidelines for how your employees should respond to customers online, especially via social media. For reference, Intel and IBM also have excellent social media guidelines that you can learn from. What areas did I miss? If your company has set guidelines for how employees respond via social media and on social sites, what areas did you focus on? Or if you don’t want to comment here, feel free to email me.