Social Media Guidelines: 9 steps to success
For many customers today, social networks are the preferred channel to get in touch with companies. The question of whether a company should offer customer service on Twitter, Facebook and the various other networks in addition to traditional channels such as telephone and e-mail, is no longer a question. However, there are not always clear social media guidelines that specify how customer service employees should communicate on social networks.
Social media guidelines ensure that corporate values are communicated in the right way on social networks. They provide the framework for how customer service employees should behave towards customers online and which tone of voice is appropriate. In addition to the rules of conduct, the guidelines also include strategic questions regarding goals, KPIs and use of the individual platforms. We recommend the following 9 steps to develop social media guidelines for your company.
1. Define goals and KPI’s in your social media guidelines
Marcel Vergonet, Client Consultant at OBI4wan knows from experience:
“Many companies have more or less slipped into social media in recent years. New channels have gradually been opened, often initially for marketing purposes, but long-term goals and KPI’s for customer service, as well as clear guidelines on how to deal with questions and complaints are lacking. This creates not only uncertainty among customer service staff but it can also damage a company’s reputation and create dissatisfied customers.”
Therefore, it is important to determine the goals for webcare and how these goals can be measured. Goals can range from response time to collecting ideas and inspiration for products and campaigns to channel control and reputation management.
2. Define the platforms
We recommend to start with an analysis of the social networks and platforms your company is active on and which goals are pursued there. Have certain social networks changed significantly over time and offer new opportunities for you? Some platforms have grown significantly in users and some are not as popular anymore as they used to be. Our tip: Be where your customers are, but also consider the size and potential of each platform.
3. Reactions to questions, complaints and compliments on Social Media
What kind of messages should and shouldn’t customer service employees respond to on social media? Where are the boundaries and how are priorities set? According to a Dutch study, 67% of webshops respond to a complaint within 2 hours, but only 26% of the webshops respond to a compliment within 2 hours. 51% of shops do not even respond to a compliment at all. Marcel Vergonet, Client Consultant at OBI4wan, finds these results astonishing:
“There is a lot of unused potential here. I am convinced that companies that give compliments just as much priority as complaints can create more positivity in the long run and achieve better results”.
For a good overview and structure, Marcel recommends to classify all questions, complaints and compliments into three categories (positive, neutral, critical) and to specify for each category exactly how they should be answered.
4. Define the workflow
When using a webcare tool for your social media management, it is important that all employees work in the same way. A workflow ensures that all steps are followed correctly and all tasks are completed without forgetting something important. Like this, tagging messages with a topic, assigning a sentiment to messages and categorizing them will soon become a routine. The workflow also clarifies how large and how small cases/incidents should be handled, when a message should be forwarded to another department, and when a case can be marked as completed.
5. Determine sentiment
It is part of the workflow to assign a sentiment to messages that indicates the emotion associated with them. By assigning a sentiment you classify a message as positive, neutral or negative. Look at the content and the use of words: if it is a compliment and positive words such as good, helpful, satisfied and fast are used, the sentiment is clearly positive.
Sometimes it is more difficult to assign a sentiment to a message. For instance, when there are two opposing sentiments in the same message or irony is used, guidelines are needed to define what. The best way to practice the correct assignment of the sentiment is to use real-life examples and discuss them with the entire webcare team.
6. Set up step-by-step-plan
The plan uses a matrix to describe the process to be followed when dealing with issues where the webcare team cannot provide a direct response or is not authorised to do so without first notifying and seeking advice from the appropriate department or person within the organisation.
7. Take stakeholders into account
Stakeholders should be considered in all responses and answers to questions, complaints and compliments. Never put the blame for mistakes on a stakeholder. This is unprofessional and can damage your relationship with the stakeholder – remember that on social media everything is public and can be read by anyone.
8. Tone of Voice
The tone of voice describes the way in which customer service employees respond to inquiries. In addition to a certain flexibility and creativity, it is absolutely necessary to maintain a uniform tone of voice across all employees. You can take the core values of your company as a basis and determine which words and phrases are in line with the values. The tone of voice should be adapted to positive, neutral and negative situations. While a humorous, relaxed answer can create a good mood in a positive situation, humour is most likely appropriate in a negative situation. Marcel Vergonet recommends that the tone of voice should not be developed by marketing or the communications department alone:
Vodafone entscheiden sich in diesem Beispiel bei der Beantwortung einen Kompliments für einen lockeren und enthusiastischen Tone of Voice.
Marcel Vergonet empfiehlt, dass der Tone of Voice nicht vom Marketing oder der Kommunikationsabteilung allein erarbeitet werden sollte:
“Involve customer service staff in the development of the tone of voice. This is how you create personal responsibility and internal support.”
9. Social Media Guidelines for employees as brand ambassadors
It is not only the customer service, marketing and communication employees that communicate about your company on social media. Enthusiastic employees from all departments enjoy sharing news and impressions from their work. This is very much appreciated and encouraged by companies, but also here, certain rules should be observed. Employees need to be informed exactly about the do’s and don’ts.
Social Media Guidelines – a living document
Social platforms and customer expectations are constantly changing. What has been successful a year ago to help customers may no longer work today. Also after a rebranding, the social media guidelines should be revised. In this way, companies can ensure that their employees always speak in the right tone of voice and that corporate values are communicated correctly. Marcel emphasizes:
“Social media guidelines should be a living document that is constantly adapted. I recommend to have calibration sessions on a regular basis in which examples are discussed and checked if the guidelines have been followed or should maybe be adapted.”
Would you like to review your Social Media Guidelines or get advice on how to start with a professional social media management tool? Get in touch with us!