In light of the massive shift in how the world communicates as a result of COVID-19, social media has become a major foundation for connecting your community and is a vital piece of inbound marketing — especially today, when your school or district’s families may not be able to join you in person.
Aside from posting regularly and following other general best practices, there is one often-neglected component of social media strategy that is key to success: managing comments and messages. What do you do when an upset parent posts their disagreements with your approach to remote or hybrid curriculum in the comments section on your recent Facebook post? And what about comments on pages that you don’t manage; how can you help steer the conversation elsewhere?
These are questions we’ve been hearing a lot recently, particularly now when there’s so much uncertainty about the new school year. You want your social media channels to build community, not break it down. So, let’s strategize what you can do to get a handle on comments — and we’re talking the good, the bad, and the indifferent!
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Why do social media comments matter?
In today’s world, your families expect immediacy and instant gratification.
In fact, 83% of people expect companies (including schools and districts like yours) to respond to social media comments within 24 hours or less. And this includes all types of comments — questions, positive comments, and negative remarks.
Responding to comments has multiple benefits:
- It builds trust and transparency for both prospective and current families. Prospective families will see your social media comments, which may help drive their decisions about where to send their child to school. If you consistently respond, it shows them that you care and are diligent about acknowledging your community — which is also essential for building morale for your current community.
- It opens up two-way conversations. Current families will feel reassured that you are listening to them, so they will feel comfortable asking questions. And while you may worry about the “can of worms” this opens, it’s good to hear the praises and concerns of your community, as it helps you adapt your own content and messaging.
- It helps with organic reach. Your social media channels will recognize that you are active in your accounts and with your followers, which will help increase the chances of your content being seen in users’ feeds.
Do we have to respond to positive comments?
You may be thinking, “Well, they’re happy. Why would I need to respond to a “congratulations” or a “great job” comment?
This brings us back to social media etiquette 101. It’s called social media after all, so conversations should never feel one-sided — especially on a platform like Facebook, where your parents spend a lot of their time.
Responding to positive comments can only help you, both in general perception and in organic reach. Now more than ever, it’s important to provide two-way communication virtually, and social media is a great place to do just that.
How should we respond to negative comments? Can we delete them?
This is one of the most common questions we receive when it comes to social media management — especially now with flurries of comments and messaging expressing dissatisfaction in a school or district’s approach. If it hasn’t happened to you already, it inevitably will. Here’s what you can do:
Step 1: Identify the Problem
First, read the comment thoroughly, see if the commenter truly is a member of your school or district’s community, and — if it is a sensitive issue — fact-check amongst your faculty and staff that it is truthful. Getting your bearings before responding will help make the process go more smoothly.
Second, do not automatically delete these comments. If the user notices that you delete their comment, it can cause even further backlash.
An exception to this rule is if the comment contains inappropriate content and comes in violation of your social media policy. If this is the case, report the user and delete the comment. If you want to take it a step further, privately message this user to notify them of why their comment was removed.
Step 2: Set Up Templates to Respond
To help make your job easier, establish a set of templates that you or your team can reference when responding to negative comments.
For example, if someone is commenting on a negative experience their child had at school, this could be a templated answer that you paste and personalize:
“Hi [First Name], We’re so sorry to learn about [information about experience]. Here at [School Name], we strive to provide the best-possible experience for all students. [Head of School, Superintendent, or other faculty name] will be in contact with you shortly to hear more about this and to help find a solution.”
Step 3: Always Respond
Responding to negative comments is key to building trust and transparency within your community, even if it's uncomfortable. The best you can do when responding to negative comments is be as personable — while unspecific — as possible. You can choose to address the problem publicly, take it offline entirely, or a combination of both. This will:
A. Show everyone else that you responded and that you care;
B. Let the concerned party know that you are willing to help rectify the situation; and
C. Take the conversation offline so that it doesn’t affect your social media account further.
How can schools and districts manage the workload?
Responding to comments and messages is certainly a daunting task — and it was long before COVID-19! So first, take a deep breath and remember: families expect a response in 24 hours, not 24 seconds.
Here are a few tips for managing this workload:
- Set boundaries and expectations for yourself and your team that don’t result in you spending four hours a day responding to comments.
- Dedicate about thirty-minutes each day to responding to comments, questions, and messages across all channels.
- Get help from other team members if thirty-minutes a day is not enough. Just because you’re the social media manager, doesn’t mean you’re expected to be the point-person or expert for every question or comment.
- Create an FAQ page on your website, and continually update it with the questions you most often get on social media, and link to it when someone asks a question.
- Share a recorded Q&A session with members of your community to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions. You can pin it to the top of your social media channels, too.
One important thing to note: Whether it's during a crisis or a critical back-to-school period, social media interaction should be immediate and as needed, rather than handled at a designated time to meet the needs of your community.
What about comments not on your school’s pages?
We’re seeing this happen more and more as community and parent Facebook Groups are popping up in almost every city, state, and region. For some schools and districts, these Facebook Groups are crawling with questions and comments regarding schools, teachers, faculty members, and coaches — and when they’re negative, it’s easy to want to step in. But, Facebook Groups aren’t the place for a school or district’s communications manager to step in for reputation clean-up — it’s the job of your community. (Authenticity will go much further here, trust us!)
So, rather than adding to your workload, build an ambassador network of community members who will speak on your behalf. Most schools and districts have a parents’ association or PTA, so start there. You can also enlist teachers, students, and other community advocates to help here as well.
If the individual making negative comments in the group is also making negative comments on your page, you can address the issues offline.
Social media is intended to be social — so be sure to engage with all comments, positive and negative as it builds trust, transparency, morale, and even your page’s organic reach.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.
In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite.