February saw another successful social media discussion forum at VerseOne's Digital Strategy seminar in Manchester. Many of the NHS delegates who attended are keen to build further on the ideas raised in NHS Bradford & Airedale's presentation. Accordingly, with our social media workshops fast approaching in March, we thought we'd speak to our social media experts to pick their brains on an area of concern that is frequently raised by NHS Trusts at our events: dealing with complaints.
If you'd like to receive more public-sector-specific advice from our social media experts, you can meet them at one of VerseOne's upcoming social media marketing workshops. Details of the sessions are at the bottom of the page.
As social media channels are real-time communications tools, every second counts. The longer a negative comment goes unanswered, frustrations will grow—or, worse still, negative momentum could build quickly, with others within the social community turning against your Trust.
When it comes to NHS communications, it is often difficult to send a satisfactory response quickly. Before putting any communication out, there are often procedures to follow requiring approvals and sign-offs (this will often mean the involvement of senior management, which can slow things further).
Despite this, it is crucial to let the aggrieved person know that you have heard them. If a full response is not immediately possible, providing acknowledgment of the issue is. Make clear that the matter is being looked into and that it has your organisation's full attention.
Ideally, you should formalise your capability to put out an "interim response" via a protocol that has senior management buy-in so that you can always react quickly.
Although it is important to react quickly to any negativity towards your Trust or organisation, nothing is more frustrating to an aggrieved person than receiving a stock pre-prepared response.
Although there may be a temptation to put out such a generic "interim response", it is important that the patient or member of the public feels that their issue is being taken seriously.
Any response must display sensitivity, empathy and, above all, communicate in a friendly and conversational tone. It is easy for the gloves to come off when a complaint is made against a faceless organisation online as many people percieve the internet as an anonymous forum.
However, social media can provide your organisation with a face and by responding with a human touch you will help take the sting out of most people's frustrations.
Where appropriate, try also to provide a point of contact for discussion to continue offline, as this is a great way to diffuse the potential of an online storm of negativity.
Seeing is believing
It is important to realise that these negative conversations will be happening online whether you are part of them or not. However, a great response can convert an aggreived or upset patient into an advocate for your Trust or the NHS as a whole.
You cannot respond to what you don't see. One of the keys to managing your online reputation is to have an effective monitoring program, so that you are aware of what's being said about you and where it is being said.
Tools such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite will allow you to pick up any mentions of your organisation on Facebook or Twitter—or you can use Google Alerts, an effective way to track mentions of your organisation across blogs and the wider webspace.
The great thing about social media is that you can listen without being seen, so even setting up dormant accounts for a period will allow you to spot wider trends and react strategically before actively engaging through social channels.
Introduction to Social Media
This session will explain how to setup and start using the main social media channels, how to determine which channels are right for your organisation. The session will also provide best practice information on utilising each channel to its full potential, as well as taking a look at some case studies with some good and bad examples of social media use in the uk public sector.
Manchester, 27th March
London, 24th April
Advanced Social Media
This session will delve deeper by looking at how each attendee is currently running and maintaining their own social media channels, followed by recommendations and paths of action to optimise current social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and by blogging all in the public sector context—and how best to fit these activities within a wider online communications strategy.
Manchester, 28th March
London, 25th April
Complete this form to receive more information and an outline for the courses