During times of uncertainty, social media is the first place that people go to share opinions, look for answers or follow the news. Social platforms can quickly turn from a place to launch your next campaign or provide delightful customer moments, to a channel where critical communication and conversation is driving global impact.

With the world’s attention focused on the emergence of the coronavirus, marketers are grappling with the role of their brands in this quickly changing landscape. The challenge for every organization on social right now is determining what messaging is most relevant to our audiences and delivering it quickly, with empathy and understanding.

To help your team respond as effectively as possible, we’re sharing a collection of Sprout features that can help you navigate everything from pausing your outbound messages to providing faster information and customer care. If you have any questions or would like any additional education on using these features, please contact us—we are here to help.

Essential tools available on all Sprout plans

In this section, we will cover three tools we believe are critical to a team or individual’s workflow during times of uncertainty, all of which are available on all Sprout plans:

Use Pause All to stop scheduled content

A common consideration for social media managers during times of uncertainty is whether to continue publishing regularly scheduled content. At minimum, it’s important to review content you’ve previously scheduled to make sure it still feels relevant given the situation your community is facing right now. 

Some brands, Sprout included, have opted to pause all regularly scheduled social content for the moment. If this approach feels right for your brand, Pause All (found under Publishing Settings) ensures that you can stop all outgoing messages with one click. When this setting is on, Scheduled Messages will be sent to Drafts and Sprout Queues will be paused. Replying to messages and Composing a Publish Now message will be unaffected.

Pause All in Sprout Social

Use collaborative tools in the Smart Inbox to manage messages effectively

Whether you’re a team of one managing a spike in message volume, or a group of team members newly working from home this week, Sprout’s Smart Inbox will make it easier to manage and take action on your brand’s inbound messages.

In particular, Message Completion helps teams of all sizes hide messages that require no further action, allowing you to focus on responding to your customers and community more efficiently.

When working with a team, Tasks enables you to route messages to the person best suited to respond. Individual messages can be assigned to team members as Tasks and designed as a General Task, Sales Lead or Support Issue. When assigning a Task, you can add an internal comment and also mark a Task as high priority if needed. Users on the Professional and Advanced plans may connect Support Issues with helpdesk tickets from this view, as well.

Last but not least, Collision Detection allows teams to avoid having more than one team member working on a response at a given time. If another team member is actively typing a response to a message, you’ll see this in real-time on the surface of the message itself when looking at the Inbox. Additionally, a full audit trail of who has replied to, tasked or completed a message is also visible once those actions have been taken.

Sprout Social Smart Inbox - Showing Collision Detection Feature

Use Sprout’s mobile apps to work on-the-go

No matter what device you’re working from, you want to be able to respond to your community and make critical content adjustments. Sprout’s mobile apps, available on iOS and Android, have near parity to our web app for all publishing and engagement tools and workflows. 

Additional tools available on the Professional and/or Advanced Plans

Beyond the essentials we listed above, Sprout provides additional features on the Professional and Advanced Plans, or as add-ons, that can be extremely helpful to organizations managing social through a crisis. In this section, we will cover:

Use Approval workflows and the Asset Library for messaging governance

Using Approval workflows in Sprout helps your team collaborate on outgoing content in order to mitigate the risk of off-brand or tone deaf messaging. Approval workflows can encourage team members to vary and customize copy, while retaining review before messages are published. For agencies, they can help you provide clients with peace of mind that they will have final approval on content your team creates on their behalf.

Sprout Social's Message Approval Workflow

Another way for your team to ensure quality, specifically in your responses, is to establish a message protocol and save approved responses to the Asset Library

A message protocol is a best practice any organization can borrow from the agency world—a document that outlines possible comments and questions you anticipate and provides various responses. These can be approved by clients and/or legal, then saved to Sprout’s Asset Library as individual assets to make sure everyone is working with right wording and tone.

Establishing a message protocol and using the Asset Library to save approved responses can help your team avoid canned, repetitive responses while providing helpful verbiage as a starting point.

Use Spike Alerts and Inbox Views to focus on the most important messages

Spike Alerts and Inbox Views provide tools and workflows for advanced inbox management and brand health monitoring so you can stay focused on the most important messages.

Begin by creating an Inbox View with the specific type of messages you’d like to see. For example, this might include only profiles on a specific platform (e.g. Facebook only or Twitter only), all messages that include a certain Tag or any other combination using options from the filters you have in your Smart Inbox.

Sprout Social Inbox Views

From there, you’ll be able to configure Spike Detection. In this step, you can choose which team members will be notified when Sprout detects a spike as well as choose how frequently Sprout will notify you and your team members based on Alert Sensitivity.

Set up Spike Alerts in Sprout Social

Use Inbox Rules and Chatbots to eliminate noise and manage message volume

Many of our customers are experiencing an outsized increase in inbound message volume—something that’s extremely common during times of crisis or uncertainty. Inbox Rules and Chatbots can help you eliminate noise and manage this type of increase effectively, while reserving your team’s time and attention for messages that require a human touch.

In the Smart Inbox, you can set up Inbox Rules to tag and/or complete all incoming messages based on specific keywords, phrases or message types. Based on the rules you establish, you can then set up Automated Alerts to receive notifications via email or mobile push notifications for messages you identify as important.

Create an Inbox Rule in Sprout Social to set up Spike Alerts

Another way to manage a high volume of inbound private messages is to create a Chatbot that can take on—or at least begin—conversations about common issues. Right now, this could be a helpful way to immediately route customers reaching out in Twitter DMs or Messenger to your cancellation or rescheduling policies, or perhaps to direct them to your organization’s newsroom or updates website.

Chatbots aren’t a substitute for human connection, but they do provide automation tools to help streamline and expedite more common and transactional inquiries. This, in turn, frees up your team to spend time on more nuanced and complex customer issues. In Sprout, you can start with one of our Bot Templates for things like Customer Care or Content Discovery, or you can build your own from scratch.

Sprout Social Chatbot interaction and rules

Use advanced social listening tools to inform your next business decision

Last but certainly not least, the first thing many of our customers do in a crisis is turn to social listening. Advanced social listening tools are an excellent complement to the monitoring and engagement features in Sprout. They can provide you with a comprehensive view of the broader conversation around keywords, hashtags, brands, industries and multimedia content to analyze sentiment and uncover trends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr and the Web.

Listening can help you monitor ongoing trends in brand health and major events, both to understand the conversation taking place and to provide actionable intelligence to inform your decision-making. For current Sprout listening customers, we do not recommend setting up new Listening Topics in Sprout specific to “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”; rather, Sprout gives you the tools to quickly understand how this emerging Topic is impacting the conversations you are already tracking.

Use the Message Search Filters feature in the right rail of your Topic dashboard to drill down into the conversation and understand how “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” is being talked about in the context of your brand or the adjacent topics that matter to your brand. Then, you can use that listening data to influence optimizations or edits to your scheduled content. This will ensure what you’re saying is timely, relevant and in line with what your audience expects right now.

For current Advanced Listening customers, we’ve made this analysis even easier by releasing our very first Featured Topic which streamlines and standardizes access to COVID-19 data. Within the Featured Topic you can easily filter and analyze conversation trends to better understand the impact to your brand or industry and determine how to best contribute to the conversation.

Use Premium Analytics to assess your overall strategy and determine next steps

While operating during times of uncertainty, it is important to remain current and adaptable. The content or strategies that may have worked well in the past weeks, days or even hours are not guaranteed to produce the same results. Premium Analytics can help you uncover the best data points to effectively evaluate your current strategy and source key opportunities for improvement or strategic direction changes.

Within the Post Performance Report, you can leverage Post Text Search to quickly locate and report on messages related to a specific topic. For example, you can search for all of your published posts featuring the term, “support.” Based on the performance of each individual post or the entire collective, you can decide if the related posts should be republished, curated for a weekly roundup or highlights feature or even revised and used for different platforms via Compose.

To better categorize or distinguish themes across published posts, you can also apply tags in bulk from the Post Performance Report. Tagging outbound messages makes it easier to perform content analysis more quickly, which is especially critical during timely circumstances.

We are here to help

Most crisis playbooks focus on what happens when your brand is in crisis—whether it’s centered around your reputation, operations, leadership or employees. One of the most challenging things we are all facing right now is that there’s no established playbook for the role of brands when it’s the world in crisis.

We always want our customers to get the maximum value out of Sprout, and the above tools are ways our product can help your team respond at scale during a very difficult time. Our team is also here to help—please reach out to us via your Sprout representative or our support team if you’d like to learn more about using these features to implement your team’s response plan.

Most of all, remember to take care of yourself. As social marketers, extending empathy and connecting with people is part of our DNA—but it’s important to know when to take a quick break, log off for the night or practice self-care, especially during a difficult situation. We’re in this together. And if you’re hungering for some peer connection during this time, join us on Facebook in the Social Marketers’ Exchange group to swap best practices with others on the front lines as well.