Imagine this scenario: you’re a social media manager for a thriving software-as-a-service company. Your day starts normally, but by the time you get to work, you’ve heard the bad news: the network is down. None of your customers can access your servers, and nobody knows when everything will be back online. On top of all that, you’ve arrived just in time to watch your social media mentions and inbox go into full nuclear meltdown mode in real-time.
You’ve deftly handled some minor social media panics before, but what are you going to do with this one?
Ideally, you’re not going to be scrambling to make it up as you go along. Putting out inconsistent messaging and accidentally providing incorrect information to an unhappy customer with fifty thousand followers is a bad look. The better way to deal with a crisis on social media is to plan ahead – and use premade templates to help you construct consistent, authoritative, and tonally appropriate responses to everything from a passing shout-out to your worst nightmare gone viral.
Social media templates can be your best friend in a crisis and a helpful, time-saving tool on better days. In this post, we’ll go over why and how to use social media response templates. We’ve also provided a free download that includes templates for various scenarios, including disaster response, to get you started.
What is a Social Media Response Template?
Even on a good day, social media is chaotic. The best part about it — the fact that it can instantly connect you with millions of people all over the world — is also the thing that makes it such a beast to deal with. This is especially true when something bad is going down, and your company is in the middle of it.
If you’re on social media, but you aren’t engaging with the people who take the time to communicate with you, you’re missing out on the good parts of social media. Engagement is the part that builds stronger connections and leads to positive change. However, realistically speaking, you don’t always have time to craft a personalized response to every comment. That’s especially true during a crisis when saying the wrong thing can make matters exponentially worse.
A social media response template is a framework that provides directions and pre-written copy for responding to various comments, inquiries, and situations. It allows you to respond effectively and quickly to your customers and followers no matter the circumstances.
Download Your Free Social Media Response Template
Let’s say somebody effusively compliments your product on Twitter. That’s not a crisis, but it can still be helpful to follow a template when responding. A “complimentary comment” response template might tell you to screenshot the tweet for posterity, click the “like” button, and respond by thanking the customer.
Here’s another example: a disgruntled ex-employee posts a scathing letter about everything they didn’t like about your company on Facebook. Nobody saw this coming. You don’t have a template for this unexpected disaster. Still, you can create one, thereby ensuring that everybody is on the same page with clear guidelines for how to respond when your executives and representatives address the matter.
What should a Social Media Response Template include?
There are many ways to structure a response template, but you can’t go wrong with a simple yet comprehensive approach. A typical social media response template should include the following:
- A classification system for various comment types and how urgently they need to be addressed
- A description of the general content and thrust of each comment type
- Examples of each comment type
- Directions for what actions need to be taken as part of the response
- Sample copy that can be used to reply to the comment
Social Media Disaster Response
Complaints, trolling, and minor controversies can afflict any business on social media. While these things can be stressful, that doesn’t make them disasters. For an event to rise to a disaster level, it should fall outside the bounds of what constitutes “normal” internet drama for your business. A good “rule of thumb” is that the incident should have the potential to impact your company financially or in some other materially significant way.
Because disasters aren’t normal, they tend to need their own bespoke templates, not the ones you use for everyday negative comments. A disaster response template should include some additional information:
- The start and (projected) end date of the disaster
- A Call to Action for anyone concerned about the disaster’s impact
- URLs for your Call to Action
- Hashtags and keywords to help your team find conversations about the disaster
- All other critical information that your team needs to know about the disaster and how you intend to respond to it
Download Your Free Social Media Response Template
Why Your Marketing Team Should Use a Social Media Response Template
For businesses, social media interactions tend to come with some expectations attached. People reach out over these platforms because they want a response. When you don’t provide one, the message your audience gets is that you can’t be bothered to engage with your customers — or worse, that you’re ignoring legitimate complaints or problems.
With response templates, you can respond at scale even when facing a higher-than-normal volume of incoming comments. Templates allow you to respond more quickly while ensuring that you’re providing any additional actions or follow-up steps that might be necessary. They also help to maintain consistency with your brand voice and in the way you treat customer issues.
During a disaster, the stakes are even higher. If you’re slow to respond, providing incorrect information, or giving different answers to different people, you can end up worsening and prolonging the crisis. Templates keep you focused and on message, especially when you have multiple team members and employee advocates fielding questions.
How to Use the Template
Our Social Media Response Template includes two sections: one for dealing with positive, neutral, and negative comments or inquiries that don’t meet the “disaster” criteria; and another for crafting a template to use when unexpected disasters occur.
It’s essential to have an overall plan for dealing with social media disasters. The template can’t decide for you whether to apologize or defend yourself, how much information to disclose about technical issues, or otherwise determine your best course of action. It can only help you consistently and efficiently communicate the messaging you’ve decided to go with. Once you’ve got a plan, you can use the template to execute it.
To use the main response template:
- Fill out each row with information about every type of social media comment you receive
- Assign an Urgency Level from 1 to 3 to each comment type
- Provide directions for what actions need to be taken in response
- Fill in the copy for the message you will post in response
To use the disaster response template:
- Enter the date and description of the disaster
- Provide a Call to Action for people impacted by the disaster
- Include links, hashtags, and other critical information
- Fill in the copy for the message you will send in response to disaster inquiries
More detailed instructions are included with the download.
As beneficial as social media response templates can be, you don’t wait to rely on them for every single interaction. Customers are good at recognizing canned responses, so it’s important to provide a personal message when you can, especially when they’re coming to you with legitimate complaints. You can still use templates to provide a general outline for a more individualized response in these cases.
When disaster strikes and the queries are coming in fast and furious, a good template can be a lifesaver. By using social listening tools to monitor your platforms for conversations about your brand and products, you can get an early warning when trouble might be brewing. Then, you can start filling out a disaster response template that can help you weather the storm. Remember, the business you save with a social media response template will be your own!