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How to Respond to Social Media when your Offices are Closed

19 Aug

Closed-SignLast week I wrote about the reputational repercussions of auto generated replies on social media. (To sum up, try to avoid them.) Since then, I’ve had some inquiring minds come back and say:

“But what about when our offices are closed? We use auto generated messages to reply to the comments we get during our office’s “off hours”.”

Good question. Simple answer.

How to respond to social media when your offices are closed

There is no such thing as “off hours” with social media. In fact, most organizations who have faced an online crisis of some sort will say that it originated during those evening, weekend or vacation hours when the appropriate people were not around to respond quickly. That said, there needs to be at least one member of your team who is responsible for monitoring, and yes replying, to social mentions, inquiries and red flags, 24.7.365 – and this means during your office’s “off hours” as well.

Remember: The sooner you respond to an online threat, the sooner you regain control and the less reputational damage your organization suffers.

That said, setting auto generated messages to reply to inquiries, comments, @mentions and others while no one is paying attention to your feed or platforms is extremely risky. The only thing I can imagine you saying in these auto generated replies that meets every possible comment or post scenario is something like those phone recordings we often hear when we call a company that is closed for the evening or weekend: “Our offices are currently closed. Thank you for your message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.” And this is simply not an option. Do this and it will become clear that your organization simply doesn’t “get” social media. Why? Because social media doesn’t close! It’s actually better to wait for someone to be in the office to respond then to send out some generic message to respond for you.

So, all in all, get rid of those auto generated replies and designate a member of your team who will be responsible for monitoring your brand’s online presence and social mentions 24.7.365. Make sure that this individual understands how to detect the red flags of a possible crisis or issue, and has the appropriate training and contact information to notify your crisis team if the situation needs to be escalated during your office’s “off hours”.

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3 Responses to “How to Respond to Social Media when your Offices are Closed”

  1. John Kraft September 5, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Good points. And of course I didn't think you meant someone manually staring at the phone or computer screen 24/7 either. :-)

    Still, having been somewhat in the position as that designated person, with its "always on" responsibility, it can become a burden to never fully unplug from the beeps those alerting tools may give, even though they don't always indicate a crisis.

    In any case, we definitely agree on the team effort aspect, and the need for smaller organizations – or those "flying blind" – to realize what they may be missing and to get started. Thanks for the reply! -J

  2. John Kraft September 5, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Good post, as usual, Melissa. In your last paragraph you say, “designate a member of your team who will be responsible for monitoring your brand’s online presence and social mentions 24.7.365. Make sure that this individual understands how to detect the red flags of a possible crisis…”

    That is quite a load for one individual, and will likely lead to burnout. Maybe you meant make sure *someone* is always watching, but I thought it worth clarifying that for long-term effectiveness, this should be a rotated duty, such as is often done for on-call news-media responses. In addition, it will give your team broader experience and lower the risk that you are left high and dry when that overworked SM coordinator suddenly takes a job elsewhere.

    With small companies or those trying to do social on the cheap, I realize there may not be extra staff, but that is a crisis risk in itself and something we’re working to avoid.

    • Melissa Agnes September 5, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Hi John,

      At the start of the post I say that “there needs to be at least one member of your team who is responsible for monitoring…” By monitoring social media I don’t mean manually! There are a number of tools that exist that will alert the monitor to any mentions, chatter, red flags, etc. From there the monitor should be trained to respond appropriately and/or escalate the issue to the correct member of the crisis team to take further action. Though, you’re right. Social media monitoring for large organizations is a team effort.

      It’s all relative to the size of the organization and their social risk and needs. For the savvy companies who are already equipped, this blog post does not apply to them (since they’re already practicing what I’m preaching), but for those that have yet to start, starting with designating one individual is a good start! From there they should improve and grow their resources with time.

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