What is Your Social Media Response Time?
26 November 2013 at 9:15 am
Success using social media can depend on how quickly an organisation responds to the people who are trying to interact with it. In today’s Hot Topic, PhD researcher Karen Sutherland offers some reasons to push for social media timeliness and freedom at a Not for Profit organisation.
There have been some interesting examples of social media best practice doing the rounds lately. A recent example was this one, a Twitter conversation involving Tesco Mobile and some of their followers with a range of other organisations such as Yorkshire Tea, Jaffa Cakes and Cadbury joining the discussion.
It was fun, spontaneous and showed that the brands involved (or the people representing them) have playful personalities rather than sticking with a vanilla corporate voice. However, they did this while continuing to communicate their brands’ key messages.
Another great article is by David Moth that highlighted five examples of excellent charity Twitter feeds.
The most important characteristics common to the examples cited in these articles are timeliness and freedom.
If my PhD research coupled with my experience working in the Not for Profit sector has shown me anything, it’s that time and freedom are often in short supply.
Here are some reasons to push for social media timeliness and freedom at a Not for Profit organisation.
Success using social media can depend on how quickly you respond to the people who are trying to interact with you.
Responding in a timely manner shows your followers that your organisation is present, listening and that they value the people trying to engage with them.
Being unresponsive on social media is like going to a party, sitting next to someone and asking them a question and being ignored.
Responding too late is like that same person walking up to you at the end of the party, (or even days later) with your answer. It just doesn’t make sense. The moment to connect has passed.
Of course it’s difficult to answer instantaneously. Who has the time and the resources to lie in wait for a question or a mention of your organisation on social media, so that you can pounce the second after receiving it?
It’s a great idea to use monitoring websites such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck so that you can be alerted when someone mentions your organisation. If you don’t have the time or resources to respond quickly, it’s also a good idea to manage the expectations of your followers.
Thanks to technology we live in a 24/7 society, and as the speed of social media increases, its users’ expectations increase just as quickly. If you can only respond between certain times, please make this clear to your followers. My research has found that organisations have very different ideas of "timeliness".
Most of the organisations in my study respond during business hours only. Some respond within three hours, for others it is 12 hours, others within 48 and others only when they can.
My research has also suggested that those organisations that have the resources to devote to social media have seen a noticeable increase in followers and engagement as a result.
However, what direct influence this has had on donations, volunteerism and/or support rates is still to be determined. That is another blog post. In short, manage expectations and respond as soon as you can.
Some of the best exchanges involving organisations on social media occur because the people representing them have the freedom to use their initiative and respond how they see fit.
This can be very scary for an organisation that is used to running any communication through a multi-layered approval process.
There needs to be a balance. Obviously you wouldn’t allow someone with limited experience in public relations and social media full reign on your social media profiles, but holding back an experienced practitioner with social media skills due to an unnecessary approval process will slow your organisation down.
Many of the organisations in my study place varying degrees of trust in those responsible for social media to respond to posts appropriately. However, at times there can be disagreement from different areas within the organisations about their decisions.
You can’t please everyone all of the time. And, in terms of crises and issues playing out on social media, it is always wise to seek advice from senior management to cover your back, but this also needs to be turned around very quickly.
My study has found that this is an area for improvement in many organisations.
I am interested to hear what your organisation’s social media response times are and your thoughts on the issue. Are you free to converse with your organisation’s followers or are there approval processes in place that must be followed before you can post?
About the author: Melbourne Researcher Karen Sutherland has completed 18 months into a doctoral thesis at Monash University where she is exploring how Not for Profit organisations are using social media compared with what their donors, supporters and volunteers actually want.
The research is expected be completed early in 2015. Karen Sutherland can be contacted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org