It’s time we face something about social media — it’s no longer a novelty or adjunct form of communication; social media is engrained into our daily lives and interactions. Whether you understand the business application of these tools or not, you have to admit the use of them is ubiquitous and that use is reshaping how we connect with each other on both individual and mass levels.
As businesses implementing social media strategies, we’re reaching past that point of overzealousness and blundering. Not everyone, mind you — the adoption curve is still steep – but those that jumped into the fray early on are finally finding their footing, and their customers are adjusting to that. This means consumers are becoming even savvier. We, as buyers, now have even higher expectations for being able to reach companies and get problems resolved, we are more scrutinizing and critical, and we have few if any qualms about publishing our criticisms on the Internet for the world to see. Because we know you’re listening.
So what does this mean for you, businesses?
It means that you can’t just appear to have it all together on the social web. You might’ve been able to do that a couple years ago, but that’s no longer the case. You can’t just appease us by saying, “Yep, we heard you!” Great, you heard us, now do something about it.
Rather than go on in this vein and put the fear even deeper in you, let’s look at some ways you can adjust the inner workings of your business to make sure that what you’re hearing on the social web is being sent to the right people within your company and that there’s a process in place to either act on that information, log it for future review, or respond back with proper reasoning as to why it’s not possible.
Creating Your Internal Spokes
We’ve found that for ourselves and many other brands the hub and spoke model of internal structuring for social media adoption is one of the most effective ways for listening, acting on, and processing social media-based information. The hub of your social media efforts not only acts as an internal resource for social media adoption, they act as liaisons between your community and the various departments that make up your business.
While focusing on creating a strong and efficient social media hub is important, you can’t ignore the importance of selecting a strong lineup of spokes (e.g., department liaisons who act as points of contact for your social media team) to connect that hub to the rest of your organization. That selection process is almost more crucial than creating your hub, because those spokes will be the ones overseeing the information absorption process.
Some traits to look for in potential spokes include:
- The ability to communicate clearly and concisely and simplify concepts
A strong understanding of social media and how people build relationships with each other and brands through these communication channels
- The ability to easily build relationships within your organization
The willingness and confidence to go to whoever necessary within your organization to get answers
- A record of following through with requests in a timely manner
- An understanding of the customer’s perspective
If you can’t find all of those traits right from the get-go, identifying people who are enthusiastic about social media communication and are able to convey the needs of customers is a good start.
Mapping Your Processes
The information and opinions about your brands and products that come through the social media pipeline can be tagged with multiple labels. Some of that data is customer service oriented, some is product related, some relates to sales opportunities, and some might be more business development focused.
The mass amount of valuable feedback and qualified inquiries a company can receive via the social web makes it imperative you devise a well-mapped system that allows your hub and spokes to sort, organize, route, respond to, and track all of that in a timely fashion.
When creating this system, you’ll need to consider:
- The types/focus of comments and questions you receive
- The comments and questions that aren’t necessarily directed at you but are relevant to you
- Your organization’s current processes for resolving issues and receiving feedback through more traditional means of communication
- Setting external expectations with customers about your problem resolution timelines
- Setting internal expectations with departments about your problem resolution timelines
- Clearly identifying the people within your organization who are responsible for getting customer service issues resolved and feedback processed
- How you want to respond to different types of social media posts and brand-related topics
- In which social networks you want to be most responsive
- Which current information absorption processes can be streamlined to create a more efficient workflow
- How you want to track and log what comes through social media and how it’s handled internally
When you’ve considered these factors and more, go through the physical exercise of creating mapped social media processes. Developing a visual decision map can be extremely helpful in taking away any guessing as to who is responsible for what and speeding up the information absorption workflow.
There’s so much more to the picture, but these are starting points for you to think over. As mentioned above, consumer expectations are changing and you must adapt and amend your social media programs and processes to accommodate that change.
What else would you add to these lists or to the bigger picture? How do companies need to adapt their internal structure, communication, and workflows to accommodate the influx of social media-based feedback and questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!