New Tricks: Responding to readers – we’re here and we’re human

January 25th, 2010

At its essence, social media should be, well, social. Thanks to the progression of the Internet, what people want (even expect) these days is to be able to have a conversation with just about anyone at anytime. Whether we like it or not, this is how a lot of people now communicate. We are in the communications business, so it makes sense that we’d embrace it.

Responding to people encourages good dialogue (and good commenters) and is likely to make people more loyal to our product. I often get notes, through Twitter, Facebook or e-mail, from people who express gratitude that I’m listening and responding to their concerns and comments. People seem to think we’re a giant, uncaring media corporation. They’re pleasantly surprised when they get a real human response.

What you should do:

  • Respond to your reader comments. You don’t have to respond to every comment, but posting a response or two in a thread of comments, even if to just thank someone, is good practice.  Here’s an example from a marketing blog of someone doing just that:

Be sure to represent yourself as the author of the story or blog post, and be sure to not be sensitive or defensive.

  • For those on Twitter: respond to tweets. When people direct a message at you, either privately or publicly, be sure to give a response of some type. If you ignore them, they’ll be less likely to care what you have to say in the future.
  • Respond to comments left on your news organization’s Facebook fan page. It’s one thing to have the official response, coming with the official Facebook page’s avatar. It’s a step further to see a familiar columnist’s Facebook page responding to the question, giving some more authority to the answer. Jump in to help.
  • Respond to e-mails. E-mail is old-school social media, and if you’re a staff member, your e-mail is likely out there for the public to find. If you get a question from a reader, taking a few minutes to respond can go a long ways.

All of this sounds like it could be a major time suck, but a quick response or a short reply will often mean a lot to the reader who reached out to you.

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Entry Filed under: Facebook,New Tricks,Newsletter,social media,Twitter

  • Cavan Reagan Reichmann

    Good tips. Nothing breaks my heart like taking the time to interact with a brand I care about … and finding out they don't care enough to acknowledge it! I understand why this happens with companies that have dozens or hundreds of responses each day. But if it's local media, I want to hear something back, especially if I'm asking a question.

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  • Robert Quigley

    Completely agree, Cavan. Thanks for the comment. It bugs me when I hear from someone who says they tried to get someone at the newspaper to listen to them but could get no response. in this new world, we have to be responsive or we risk losing relevance fast.

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  • ddaisy

    Courtesy may be old school, but it still works. Thanks for the common sense post! Great advice.

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  • Michael Becker

    I'm going to share this post with my newsroom. These are points I've been trying to make clear for a while, but the staff is just a little too entrenched in the old, time-crunched, one-way system to hear them right now.

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