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How to create a framework to handle issues when working in social media

13 September 2019

No day in community or social media management is the same. When you’re faced with a crisis it can feel overwhelming and stressful, especially when you’re also dealing with a wide range of enquiries. Having some frameworks to hand will help you to work through the issues stage by stage and provide a helpful way to learn.

I run a large peer support community for a charity and have found it helpful to put frameworks in place to ensure that issues are dealt with consistently and that everyone knows the approach to take.

A framework gives you a supporting structure that you can use to build your approach to handling issues that come up when managing online spaces.

When building a framework, it’s helpful to include three key stages: research, respond and review. This will provide a good rhythm as you handle each issue.

Research

When you’re planning a campaign or post, it’s helpful to spend some time considering any issues that could come up and the type of responses that would be appropriate. This could include hot topic issues for your organisation or campaigns that are likely to be political or emotive. Drawing upon previous experience can help.

When you’re preparing to respond to an emotive message, spend some research time to look carefully at the message. Consider what the language shows about how the person is feeling, consider their circumstances, and determine if there’s a key question or need that they have.

Respond

When you respond, you’ll need to consider how to balance showing understanding, whilst also giving a response appropriate for your organisation.

You’ll need to balance offering support or information whilst also managing expectations on what you can realistically say. Drawing upon position statements and key messages can be helpful when handling issues, but this will need to avoid sounding too ‘corporate’.

Here’s an example of how I used a framework to craft a response to a person with dementia who was upset with a content request that we had posted on the forum.

If you’re handling an emotive message, using empathic communication techniques will help you to learn how to acknowledge the person’s feelings and give them options in a supportive way. If you have a Helpline, they can give you advice on how to apply these techniques.

Review

Take some time to review so that you can build on what went well, or adapt your approach for future issues.

Consider how the message was received and if there’s anything you or your organisation can learn. Are your position statements or key messages landing well with people and if not, what could you do to improve them? You may not be able to change your position, but you could change how you explain it.

When you receive an angry or abusive message, you may find it difficult to return to it. If an issue has hit you hard, you may find you keep thinking about it and that can become unhealthy. Spend some time with a colleague walking through what happened and if anything could have been done differently. It’s important to remember that a person’s anger or hurt may have very little to do with you or your organisation. Put in place some ‘go to’ people for support including a peer, manager and if possible, access to a counsellor.

Remember to spend time reviewing the positive messages too. Keep the ‘thank you’ or ‘wow’ messages by taking a screenshot or copying the link and saving them into a folder. If you’re in a team, regularly share them. This will help you to remember what matters most – the positive impact our organisations make.

This case study is part of CharityComms’ Wellbeing guide for comms professionals.