In professional football, the players must know the playbook before they take the field. Written, studied, and practiced well before a game takes place, this guide provides information on how to handle certain defenses and options for the offense when they recognize a scheme. Similarly, organizations must have a social media playbook to help address situations that range from the most routine customer request to a full-blown PR crisis, whether stemming from a natural disaster or a self-inflicted social media blunder.
Many social teams may bristle at the notion of a social media playbook, fearing that it will constrain their creativity and ability to assist customers. However, this fear is unwarranted. A good playbook doesn’t tell your team “how to do social.” Instead—with input from both your team and the communications department—it should clearly state the overarching goals and tone for online engagement, and it can be as restrictive or as permissive as needed.
I’ve been fortunate to help a number of brands create social media playbooks. While the content of these playbooks varies according to the particular needs of each company and industry, every business needs to address these basic points:
- Guiding support conversations
- Supporting marketing efforts
- Preparing employees for effective participation in social
- Communicating during a crisis
A comprehensive social media playbook should leave nothing to chance when it comes to sharing content or interacting with customers. It should provide adequate guardrails and serve as a how-to guide for your team. Should a crisis land on your company’s doorstep, the playbook also provides the map to get you to the desired outcome with as little confusion as possible, rather than a choose-your-own-adventure game fraught with peril. Let’s dive into each of the three topics a little more.
Your Playbook Should Guide Support Conversations
Not all customer issues are created equal. This fact is key for your social support team to understand—it is vitally important to have a defined process for triaging online complaints. What follow are just a handful of the considerations.
How do you prioritize support complaints?
It can be a simple first-in-first-out procedure (which can work if your social support queue is short), or you could give preference for support to certain types of products or issues.
What constitutes an influencer?
Obviously it would be all hands on deck if Kim Kardashian posted a complaint about your brand on social—her influence on millions of followers could create tons of problems for your brand. But what makes an influencer depends on your business and industry, from attributes like follower count, employer, industry reputation, and whether they are an existing customer or prospect.
Do you handle customer complaints privately or in the open?
Determining the rules of social media engagement will ensure that your team delivers a consistent experience when troubleshooting issues. Hint: you want to move all customer complaints to a private channel as quickly as possible while also establishing a public reputation for being helpful and responsive.
What’s your process in the event of a true company crisis?
Everyone within your social team and the larger communications department must understand the escalation path and protocol for a crisis. For example, if your CEO were accused of something unsavory and it was picked up by the press, or your company is targeted by social media activists. With social media, time is of the essence, and your team needs to know how to react. Preparing pre-approved scenario-based statements can arm your team with the ability to provide a timely response while your crisis team works the issue behind the scenes. During a crisis, the last thing you want to do is to be perceived to be ignoring your audience, and having a social media crisis playbook is a necessary first step to effectively managing a stressful crisis situation.
Your Playbook Should Support Marketing Efforts
As most people are aware, social media is used for far more than customer support and organic posts. It has become one of the prime go-to digital channels for paid marketing efforts. Guidelines for social marketing efforts are a must-have for today’s social media playbooks.
What’s the syntax for your UTM tracking parameters?
Social media is an inbound channel, just like email or paid display advertising. For that reason, you need to have a defined syntax for UTM tracking parameters that you append to the links you share on social. After all, social marketing managers (not to mention community and support managers) want their team to get the proper attribution in the customer funnel.
What voice do you adopt for social marketing efforts?
You must define whether you are going to have a consistent voice on social with your overall brand or if you’re allowed to be a little more playful. Actually understanding what your voice is on social will help you remain authentic. If you don’t define your voice, you open yourself up to being a chameleon of sorts where others inside the company can exploit the lack of consistency.
What’s the cadence for organic posting?
You need to determine how often you are comfortable posting to organic channels and create a plan around that. Some businesses prefer a few posts a week, while others are okay with three posts an hour. Define what objectives you want to accomplish along with the intake process for organic posts from other departments.
Your Playbook Should Prepare Employees for Interaction in Social
With billions of people on Facebook alone, social media is the water cooler of our time. Employees at your company share their thoughts, photos, and videos at the drop of a hat without much thought. Consequently, it’s important to lay out your company’s expectations for employees in the social media playbook in a way that encourages people to participate carefully and productively, to the degree that your organization decides is appropriate.
How much should employees participate?
Determining how much an employee can say about your company on social is the first step. Some businesses advise never saying anything about one’s work life, while others encourage employees to put anything—even company critiques—on social.
One rule should be ironclad: no employee at a publicly traded company should provide any commentary about the financial performance of their company or provide anything that could be considered a forward-looking statement. Doing so puts the employee and the company at risk for an insider trading investigation.
How can employees effectively use social media to help them meet their specific objectives?
There are various social media tactics that are useful to employees in conducting business. Activities like engaging with customers in sales or support-related conversations as part of a social listening program. Providing guidance on how and when to engage or escalate are important elements to include in the social media playbook.
Are there specific industry restrictions on social?
Employees in government, financial, health care, and other regulated industries have specific things that they cannot share on social due to industry regulations such as FINRA, HIPAA, etc. The National Labor Relations Board also has rules that protect employee speech and assembly. Be sure to understand the dos and don’ts that apply to your business and industry and provide appropriate guidance in the social media playbook.
I’m Here to Help with Your Social Media Playbook
My experience crafting social media playbooks for companies across industries uniquely positions me to help your company. I’ve seen firsthand how a properly written social media playbook empowers employees and encourages creativity. Whether as standalone rules of engagement or as part of a comprehensive social media governance framework, developing and deploying a well-written social media playbook will put you on the road to creating more engaging customer experiences, while simultaneously protecting the brand and ensuring that you’re using the medium in a way that is effective, compliant with industry regulations, and consistent with the brand’s image and voice.
I invite you to complete the free five-minute social media health check to evaluate your social media program and to learn more about the services that I offer, or complete the form below for a free consultation.