This is part two in my Social Inbox Zero series. We get hundreds of messages a day from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.; not to mention the many email addresses to manage daily. Everyone looking for a one button/tool solution, stop now. Maybe one day we'll have a one button push marketing computer that weighs the pros, cons and responses and chooses the appropriate path and then posts the answer for you on various social networks. But today is not that day.
Set Up a Routine
Setting up a system for yourself varies according to how each YOU work best. In my case, I'm great at responding to email later in the day rather than first thing in the morning and then I check into social things several times a day. I like to tackle things on my to do list first. Many people need to work the reverse way. This is an individual preference and not single one will apply across the board.
A caveat. Avoid "tool jumping". Checking out new tools is fine, but invest time in them when the shiny meets a need. Not because it's deemed "tool of the moment". Honestly the tools don't matter as much as your responsiveness. No one gives a flying pig what you use to tweet/post, as long as you're responding to their concerns.
Luckily (or not), we have numerous choices of tools between Radian6 and other enterprise level monitoring systems to more small business tools such as Argyle, Batchbook, Tweetdeck and/or Hootsuite, etc. with special lists and columns including interfacing tools via API.
The first lesson? Investing your time wisely. Come to an agreement with your employer about how responsive you are expected to be in the social forums in your off hours. Talk to your family, make a commitment to removing yourself from the online world completely between the time you leave work and (their?) bedtime. I make it a habit to check in before bed. If you find this is stressful to you and not helping you sleep, you may want to avoid it.
No matter your routine, you will want to check for replies, direct messages on Twitter and/or comments on your Facebook page, etc on various social channels upon starting the workday.
These messages are a signal that commenters feel they have a relationship with your company enough to interact with your team. Hold those doors open for the customer and potential customers. If there are complaints or a screaming rabid pack of zombies, be polite.
An Example - Importance of Communications
One example that never fails to amaze me is Blizzard's World of Warcraft message board on Tuesdays when there is maintenance. Blizzard will set maintenance times typically the night before, most times between 5 am PT - 11 am PT. Sometimes they have to extend the downtime. It happens.
The "problem" arises when the deadline passes and Blizzard's community team doesn't have updates ready at that time for the players to keep them from yelling about the "injustice of it all". Their customers who are paying a monthly fee to play this game have a clear habit of asking that question.
When you know there's bound to be a conflict, anticipate issues as best you can, prepare the answers, or find the answers. If you don't know, then say "I don't know" and commit to finding the answer as soon as you can and then inform the customer.
If you find that a conflict arises and you aren't able to keep a cool head about, measure your words carefully, take a break from the keyboard for a few minutes, vent your emotions in a safe place. It works wonders when you find yourself losing your cool.
In the End, Act!
No matter your routine or how you choose to track your interactions online, taking action is a way to build community trust that you care about the issues/questions/comments that customers and evangelist alike take the time to share. It is possible to do this without letting social interaction overtake your life 24/7.
So dig in, share your experiences, let others know what works for you in the comments. If you have questions about something that isn't working for you and need suggestions, please let me know.
Photo by superfantastic on flickr.