Strategic Responses for Certification Agencies on Social Media

Organizations often hesitate to become active on social media because, in addition to creating content, they also have to manage feedback from their audience. It can feel overwhelming enough to consider sharing content, but add the unpredictable consideration of public comments and even the calmest leadership team may call the whole process off. And yet, we all know social media is a valuable opportunity to connect with your audience. How can you make it work? 

Social Media Strategy

Before you begin worrying about how your audience is going to respond to your messaging, you have to identify what your messaging actually is. Start by asking yourself the following questions: 

  1. Who is your audience? What do they value and what do they need?
  2. How do you want to position yourself in your market? What do you want people to think of when they hear your brand name?
  3. What content do you have available to share with your audience (blog posts, upcoming courses, etc.)?
  4. What additional content would interest your audience (industry articles, research, etc.)? 

Even people who feel confident they know their market may struggle to answer these questions, but the answers are critical to the success of every other aspect of your social media plan. Before considering how you’ll manage responses, you have to determine who you’re talking to and what you want to talk to them about. Once you’ve established that, you’re ready to begin monitoring conversations online and gathering the information you need to create an engagement plan. 

Monitoring Conversations

A systematic approach to responding to/engaging with social media comments requires the following four steps: listen, assess, engage, and update team members as needed. For individuals and teams feeling overwhelmed at the idea of not knowing what people will say, it can be very helpful to realize every comment will fall into one of three categories: compliment, complaint, or other. Graphic 1.1, from the National Institute for Social Media textbook, “Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists,” illustrates the three steps for each of these categories.

Listen. When you “listen” on social media, you gather comments from your audience – text comments on social media sites, video Social Media In-Article Chart.pngresponses, and product reviews are all ways your current and future customers can tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and what ideas they have to improve your offering. If you’re completing a competitor analysis, you can also collect this same data from your competitors’ sites, or you can focus on the feedback your customers have specifically for you.  

Assess. Next you’ll determine the category each comment falls into (compliment, complaint, or other) Once you’ve decided that, you’ll be able to determine the best response for the situation. Each category has a general set of guidelines that apply in most scenarios.

Engage. Based on the content of the message, you can choose how you’d like to engage with your audience. In rare instances, you may choose to only acknowledge a comment (e.g., pressing “like”), but it’s typically best to reply with an individualized response for every individual who has taken the time to connect with you.

Compliments. Don’t be fooled – you aren’t off the hook for these comments. Action is still required! When someone takes the time to leave a comment, you should respond with a unique response. If a post generates so many comments it’s unrealistic for you to respond to them all, the community will see that and it’s generally acceptable to acknowledge each comment by liking it without leaving a written response.

Complaints. People will complain on your social media accounts. They may even complain about something unrelated to your post or out of your control. The most common ways to respond to complaints are:

Acknowledge their concern and move them off the platform. Most often and with all valid concerns, you want to acknowledge their concern and then invite them to share details offline. This accomplishes three things. First, it lets them know you’re interested in resolving their concern. Second, it lets your community know you listen to your customers. Third, it moves the conversation about their concerns from a public forum to an offline medium.

Don’t respond – but only if they have discredited themselves. Generally speaking, ignoring an upset customer is a bad idea. But if someone posts an off-topic or unclear rant on your page that doesn’t technically violate your social media policy, your best option may be to simply not respond. It’s likely anyone who reads it will discredit the content because it’s presented poorly.

Delete their comment – but only if it violates your social media policy. Provide guidelines to your community for what kinds of behavior are  acceptable on your social media channels. You may specify that anything from self-promotion to slander isn’t allowed; the parameters are up to you and should be set based on what you believe is a potential issue for your community. With these clear guidelines in place, you can remove posts that violate them. 

Other. This may seem like a lazy catch-all category, but it really is the best way to group the inevitable questions, suggestions, and ideas that come from your audience. In most cases, you can review your previous engagements and the types of messages your competitors receive to get an idea for what you can expect. There may be some challenges you want to prepare for, as well. You may, for example, have someone make a controversial comment that isn’t really a complaint. Or your audience may have a habit of asking questions that could seem like complaints. As these patterns emerge, you and your team can create a guide for how to respond.

Update Team Members as Needed. The last step in your response plan is critical – and yet it’s often overlooked. As you’re responding to what people like, don’t like, have questions about, and want to see from your organization, you’re also gathering feedback critical to improving what your organization has to offer. That information is only helpful if it’s shared with the people who can make changes based on what your audience is requesting.


Managing an online presence does require time and careful planning, but it’s a possibility for every certification agency. Many of your current and potential students are already on social media, so it’s worth the effort to meet them where they are and provide information and support to strengthen your community.

Amy Steps.jpgDr. Amy Jauman, SMS,
is an author, international speaker, and university professor in her home state of Minnesota. She focuses on using social media, experiential learning techniques, and online resources to make information meaningful to adult learners in traditional and remote business and educational environments. In 2013, after completing her social media strategy certification, she became a Certified SMS Instructor and went on to become NISM’s Chief Learning Officer. In 2017, she authored the NISM textbook Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists: Master the Six Content Domains of the SMS Exam. Amy has a master’s degree in experiential education and a doctorate in organization development.



Related Learning: Live ICE Webinar

Connect with Certificants and the General Public Through Social Platforms

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 | 12-1 p.m. ET
Presented by Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS
Register today.

Interested in learning more about creating a social media presence? Join Amy for her live ICE webinar.

Amy will discuss how certifying agencies specifically can foster deeper connections through social media platforms. Learn the importance of creating a strategy that allows you to understand and reach your audience on their terms and timeline. Amy will also discuss practical tips like how to set up a Facebook group for maximum effectiveness, the value of hashtags, and how to curate valuable content with whatever amount of time you can dedicate to your digital presence.

In one hour, gain a list of ideas to apply immediately to your practice, as well as a list of important questions to ask when designing your social media strategy that’s right for your unique organization.


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