You don't dialog in two sentences, do you?

Why then do community managers often stress about ongoing conversations?

More often than not, complaints on a social channel get our heartbeats racing. That can happen for quite a few reasons, to name a few:

  • We don't know what the person's talking about;
  • We know what the person's talking about, but don't know how exactly we can help;
  • We don't know how to answer without having the person talking back with more complaints.

From a historical point of view, we once believed in a one-way communication model, and then evolved to a two-way communication model. I'd say we now work in an infinite-way communication model. Because it's not as linear as person A complaining and you responding and problem solved. What happens for instance if person B joins the conversation to complain about that thing too? Or another thing? What if they all of a sudden get into a fight over something else and never stop throwing some jabs at your brand in the process?

The answer is as hard as it is obvious: you have to keep at it. To follow that case until it is truly resolved. Yes, that means if the person is complaining at 11pm, you should be there to see how you can help and deliver an update (even if you just say "we're still looking into it, hang in there"). Yes, that means you will have to reply more than once. And yes, that means people will talk back who knows how many times. If it were easy, it wouldn't be called a crisis.

You don't solve a friend's problem by delivering that one perfect answer and calling the conversation off. You ask questions, get to know what bothers them, dialog with an altruistic view of the problem and build the solution as a team. Communities are no different.