Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How do you test your social media reflexes?

You may have a routine down for curating content, sharing others' material and posting your own on social media, and be settling into a rhythm that makes it manageable and effective for you and your organization.  In effect, you've got your social-media muscles warmed up and moving smoothly. But how will your reflexes work when you need to go outside your plan--and respond quickly or to out-of-left-field criticism or erroneous information?  Can you go from a stroll to a sprint--and will your content suffer as a result?

Social media's no different than any other platform: Even on this road, you need to strategize for worst-case and unusual scenarios, and train your team to respond so they're not tripped up when the need to sprint occurs.  Here are some exercises to consider for training and preparing your team, and I welcome hearing how your organization is testing its social media reflexes, too:
  • Backchannel practice for speakers:  Anyone representing your company in public settings needs preparation for handling the backchannel, audience members using social networks to post during a presentation, whether inside the room or beyond it.  Practice may include handling Twitter breaks and using a Twitter monitor; addressing comments in real-time; followup responses; and preparing materials and delivery to make sure the backchannel doesn't bite back.
  • Rumor mill drill:  Because rumors can come in a rush or develop over time, you'll need both a fast response plan and a longer-term strategy for ongoing myths and rumors that persist.  If you can have FAQs like this one already in place and ready to be shared with widgets and social-network sharing tools, you'll be one step ahead in this race.
  • Breaking news you don't choose tests:  The best way to stay on top of news you don't choose is to have regular sessions to think through your responses to hypothetical situations and scenarios.  This task often falls to the wayside. I recommend a quarterly session--more frequent depending on your organization's levels of visibility and controversy--focused on anticipating questions and answering them, taking social media into account.  Don't get caught without rethinking your approach to breaking news in its evolving form on social media; here are six guides and case studies to keep in mind.
  • Flame games:  It's important for all your team members to learn how to recognize flaming and to talk through--before it happens--how you want to handle responses.  Do you want to engage the critics? Make one correct the record reply, then back off? Ignore the trolls and resist the urge to take the bait?   Then make sure you've taken the time to anticipate where flame attacks might come from, and what you might need to address.
It's not necessarily all bad news for which you need to prepare.  Directors also should be looking for ways to motivate team members to see and act on positive opportunities to engage, surprise or delight your readers, including situations that are just humorous or otherwise enjoyable.  Your reflexes shouldn't just be attuned to defensive, fight-or-fight situations.

I can devise a focused training for your team to help them think through and get ready for scenarios specific to your business and strategy; some clients are including these sessions as part of a communications staff retreat.  Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to start customizing a training for your team.

Check out don't get caught on Facebook, where I'm floating ideas and discussing them before they appear on the blog.  It's shaping up as a great networking community for communicators.

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