We do a lot of work with associations to help them develop what we call social media triage (or escalation or response) charts. These are one-page flowcharts, which are easy to share with any staff who use social media, and they are meant to help front-line staff decide what is ok for them to respond to themselves, what might require escalation for someone else internally to respond to, and what might be better for someone in the community (a member) to respond to. Here’s one example*. (Right-click and open in a new tab or window for a full-size image).
There are several key points encapsulated in a flowchart like this.
1) Learning to participate in the social web – not just listening and monitoring, but responding as well – involves understanding that a level of freedom must be given to any staff member using social media.
There are definitely many, many kinds of positive comments and posts where a simple “thanks for the comment!”, or agreement, or encouragement, or acknowledgment is better than deafening silence from the organization. In this example, “adding value” is the key question – and sometimes showing you’re listening and present adds value.
2) Social media triage goes hand in hand with a crisis communications plan, but doesn’t replace it.
With regards to negative comments or posts, this kind of flowchart can help your staff figure out if it’s ok for them to deal with the issue themselves or whether something needs to be escalated internally to those with particular expertise. This is not about allowing anybody to deal with anything.
3) It’s ok to wait to see if your community steps in.
Putting a negative comment through the flowchart steps also helps people to take a step back and wait just a little while – sometimes, if you’re nurturing your open community and they care about the organization, the community will step in and correct things without you needing to do anything.
4) You can establish a timeframe for response.
Depending on your particular organization and community activity, you might have a culture of speedier or slower response times (though you should have infrastructure in place to monitor 24/7 either way, because social media doesn’t stop at 5 pm or on the weekends). The flowchart can set expectations for staff about parameters for responding (in the case of this example, within 24 hours if something doesn’t require an urgent response.)
Policies are most useful (beyond setting clear expectations for online behavior from staff who may be unsure as to how much leeway they have) when you can apply them to back up decisions to remove negative comments – or commenters – in your own social spaces. When everyone in a group or community is clear on what the policies are, because they are posted in the group information section, included in your welcome messages and posted periodically, then when someone steps out of bounds the policies will back up whatever decision you made for dealing with the situation.
John Haydon, in this post, has five more excellent reasons…
Five reasons why a decision flow-chart makes sense
Scalability â€“ Staff can be brought into the social media workflow quicker with simple directions.
Consistency – A simple response policy means that you’ll more likely respond as one voice, instead of many disjointed voices.
Alignment – You can ensure that tactical responses on social media aligns with your over-arching business goals.
Speed – The quicker foot-soldiers understand protocol, the quicker comments get responded to.
Smarts – Granting the ability for staff to make decision on how to respond means that legal council can spend time on genuine legal issues.
Here are a couple more triage examples you’re probably familiar with at this point…