Managing a Social Team to Handle Events in Real Time
The core of successful social networking is being able to adequately and quickly respond to events as they happen. Whether the event in question is a run-of-the-mill customer problem or the need respond to news or current events, your social team has to be on its toes to get the correct messaging out in a timely fashion.

If you’re too slow, your brand may appear to be behind the times — or, even worse, as though it doesn’t care about an issue that’s important to its customers.

The solution? Create an agile and responsive social team that’s always ready to jump on issues as they occur. Even though you might not have the budget to build a social team sized to monitor every social network every hour of the day, you can always take steps to help your existing team become more responsive. Let’s talk about just what you can do to manage social events.

Identifying What You Should Respond To

Sometimes you’ll know in advance about an event or an issue that will need a timely response — for example, when you know a partner will be issuing an announcement that will affect your customers. In cases like these, it’s fairly simple to build a response in advance, creating content that is likely to address customer concerns and making sure key members of the social team are on hand to address any issues that arise after the announcement is made.

Just as often, issues will pop up without you being aware of them. Take our previous example: what if you hadn’t known that your business partner was making a change that would affect your customer base? Your customer support and social channels might be flooded with questions that you’re unprepared to answer — and you’ll need to act quickly to get accurate information out to reassure your customers. Are you prepared to handle that sort of crisis?

Managing a Social Team to Handle Events in Real Time

The first step is identifying when issues need a response, which is where social monitoring tools come in handy. Be sure you’re tracking not only direct mentions of your brand across multiple networks but also keywords that are relevant to your business, as these may give you an early indication that something’s happening before it appears in your mentions.

Once it’s clear there’s an issue that needs your team’s attention, you’ll want to be sure you have a clear process for how to respond — a process that all of your team-members know backwards and forwards. Be sure you have clearly documented processes that everyone has easy access to.

This way, when a quick response is needed, no one’s spending time wondering or asking what to do next: they can focus on acting to get the right response out as quickly as possible. Make sure it’s always clear who’s in charge of what, what kind of approval process needs to be taken for social messaging, and who to come to with questions.

In the case above, it could even help diffuse concern if you quickly posted that you were looking into the matter and would get an answer for followers soon — which will make it clear your brand is present and part of the conversation, even if you don’t have answers immediately.

Collaboration and Communication Are Key

Knowing when and how to respond to an issue that comes up won’t help if your team doesn’t communicate with one another. If your team members aren’t on the same page, you might have multiple team members working on the same problem and sending mixed messages to customers, which wastes time and confuses customers. It’s only when everyone communicates clearly that you can really work together as a team rather than tripping over one another.

Managing a Social Team to Handle Events in Real Time

Again, tools like Sprout Social, which offers collaboration features like task assignments and activity updates, can really help keep your social team on top of things. However, whatever kind of communication system you adopt — whether it’s a project management system, a chat room, or even an email list — make sure everyone how and when to use it.

Too much communication, even though it might seem unnecessary or spammy, is almost always preferable to too little communication, which can lead to misunderstandings.

In addition to lines of communication amongst the team, you’ll want to track projects or issues in some way that lets you document their history. Whether you’re tracking the progress of images your art team is working on to share on social channels, a customer problem you’re trying to get answers on, or the status of an article you want to post to your website, whenever you’re working with multiple members of the team you should keep a record so everyone knows exactly what the project status is at any time.

Team Culture Plays an Important Role

Some business operate in a very 9 to 5 manner, where everyone clocks out at 5 PM and doesn’t show up again until the following morning. Social, unfortunately, doesn’t follow this kind of schedule and may well need attention beyond standard business hours. The ideal social team will understand that social never sleeps and be ready to jump on issues that need immediate attention no matter the hour.

Of course, this isn’t to say that your team members need to be glued to their desks 24 hours a day, but you do want to make sure someone’s keeping eyes on your social presence in case of trouble. This may mean having a specific person who works evening or weekend hours, someone on call to watch for problems on certain nights or weekends, or it may mean everyone being sure they have their phone handy to respond to emails or alerts if something comes up.

In addition to having your team be available to spot problems, you also need to ensure that they’re empowered to solve those problems. It doesn’t do any good if a member of the team spots an issue over a weekend but then emails everyone else and waits for a response before doing something.

Managing a Social Team to Handle Events in Real Time

If your team has the autonomy to fire off social responses — even if they’re simple “we’ll get an answer later” responses — this will help you jump in and respond to matters as quickly as possible. Be sure your team members are thoroughly trained up on your social standards and processes — another thing that can be helped with good communication and documentation — and then give them the freedom to act on their own authority (especially during off hours).

Just be sure you’re not aiming to be so quick with responses that you don’t follow through with the communication part of the equation, which will only lead to confusion and problems further down the line.