Determining your brand’s hours of social media operations is one of the most difficult questions answer. Social purists will be quick to say 24/7 operations are required because user digital hours are very different than store hours. But it is very easy for someone that does not have the budget and profit/loss responsibility to state idealistic requirements.
Lets start with the obvious … One size does not fit all. The appropriate hours for social media operations vary from brand to brand, company to company. There is no blanket answer. It depends on the product/service offered, overall brand positioning, and target audience behaviors.
Before we attempt to come up with the right answer for your company, please consider a handful of relevant issues:
1) There are really four reasons why you potentially want social media activities beyond “typical” hours of operation: a) to engage in customer service issues and problem resolution, b) to expedite responses to postings on your brand social channels, c) to actively listen for brand mentions in the entire social universe to manage brand reputation, and d) for continuous real time content distribution to address your worldwide audience.
2) Social marketing and customer service are not synonymous. There is definite overlap and social media platforms may be be used in customer service. Therefore, you need to determine if extended hours of “social media operations” is a responsibility of the customer service team or the social marketing team. Start by defining requirements of the “use” of social media.
3) How important is it to respond immediately to comments on your brand social platforms as it relates to your brand position and reputation? Could a 12-hour delay in responding actually diminish your brand’s reputation such that it affects audience brand consideration, preference, and/or loyalty.
4) Recognizing that bad news is shared and travels fast, how important is it to have a disaster PR business plan in place? A disaster business plan that actively neutralizes negative social postings.
5) Does your brand need to proliferate compelling content throughout the 24-hour day, or are one or two compelling daily posts valued by your audience?
If you start by looking at your brand position and audience behavior and expectations, you will begin to zero in on your specific social operational hours required. I do not think 24/7 operations are required, but I do think there needs to be continuous social business plans that address 24 hour operations. Let me explain.
First off, I am saying that there need not be a “social manager” position working 24 hours in the day. The customer service team should have access to social monitoring tools and be trained how to respond on social channels. Maybe it is a customer service organization that requires 24/7 operations. This really depends on the size and portion of the audience that uses the brand product or service, or makes purchase decisions throughout a 24-hour day.
Second, social media publishing tools allow posts to be scheduled throughout the day. Social managers can queue up a number of posts during their working hours to be posted throughout the day. The speed of response required is more important in determining social operation hours than actual brand postings.
And last but not least, consider social business continuity plans. When I talk about social business continuity plans, I am suggesting that organizations work through a number of “what if” scenarios to determine how to activate social operations and responses. Activation of social operations is not the same as having social staff working all the time. It is kind of like the life of a journalist … A journalist does not work 24/7. For news media companies, there is always someone monitoring “events.” If a grand event emerges in the middle of the night, the journalist is on call to cover the event immediately. The ramifications as it relates to business social operations is that brands need to monitor and listen 24/7. This could be accomplished via an outsourced party. Brands need to pre-plan “what if social scenarios” and have appropriate people on call and workflows to take action immediately.
When you pull this all together, I am suggesting that social monitoring needs to be a 24/7 activity. Actual social managers need not be working 24/7, but a group of social responsible managers need to be on call 24/7. And this is not limited to the person with the social manager title.
I’d like to highlight one other point. Under no circumstances can social operations be limited to Monday through Friday operations. In most industries, target audience activity is not limited to weekday activity.
In summary, understand who you are, what you stand for, and your audience behavior. That will drive the right answer to the working hours of your social operations. Also, make sure you put in place an action plan for social events that happen throughout the entire day. You need to make sure you can react at any point as situations warrant. This requires having monitoring capabilities and workflows defined; not social media managers working 168 hours in the week.
Make It Happen,