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From the author of To Enable Comments or Not - That is the Question

Responding to Online Comments

If you do decide to respond to online comments or other social conversations, there are few things to keep in mind.

First, speed is of the essence. There's no point responding to comments made a month or two ago; you need to jump in while the conversation is fresh. This shows that you take the conversation seriously enough to respond quickly. Responding slowly tells people you don’t care – which is not the image you want to project.

You should also take the effort to respond personally. You don’t want your responses to sound as if they were written by some PR hack. Yes, whoever you choose to respond to online comments should probably should toe the company line, but that person also has to genuinely respond to comments on a personal basis. Admit to mistakes, if there are any. Offer help or advice if any is to be given. Be sympathetic. Apologize. (You'd be surprised how far a genuine "I'm sorry for your problems" will go.)

As to who should respond, that’s a company-specific thing. Some companies assign someone from the general marketing department, others someone from public relations, others someone from customer service. However you do it, you need to choose carefully; the person who responds to online comments is the public voice of your company. It should be someone with a sympathy for the customer, a knowledge of your company’s culture and values, and a good ear for communicating publicly. They have to respond personally while toing the company line – in the company’s voice.

Personally, I like assigning this task to someone in marketing, primarily because of the communications angle; marketing staff should be able to respond in the company voice to just about any situation that comes up. That said, your company might decide differently.

Finally, you should log all the comments you find online and all the responses you make for immediate action and future reference. For example, if you're getting a lot of comments about a particular product feature not working, you may have an actual problem on your hands that you need to address. If a lot of people are confused about a particular process, then you may need to rethink that process – or at least your instructions for it. The social conversations you discover provide valuable feedback and information that you should put to use in your day-to-day operations.

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