Ask Me: Managing Online Response Time Expectations

Ask Me: Managing Online Response Time Expectations

Ask Me! Communication Conversations with Claire is a new recurring blog series with Claire Bouchard, a seasoned local government communications professional located in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Send your local government communications questions to Claire via email and she’ll answer in a future blog post.


Have you ever had this happen? You post a City event on Facebook on a Friday afternoon, and when you return to work Monday, there is a time sensitive question about something else from a citizen in the comment area. Great…

As someone who cares about quality work, I’m sure it is frustrating to know that this person may assume that “operators are standing by” and monitoring your feed like a teenager tethered to their smart phone.

First of all, know you are not alone. This happens all the time in the public and private sector. It is part of our digital world and communications – messages get left, and no one responds. To lessen the chance that you or the citizen will feel bad about this void of engagement in the future, how about trying these tips for online engagement expectation setting?

4 Tips to Response Time Management

  1. Policies, policies, policies.

I may have mentioned this one before – but it’s super important to have social media policies and procedures so everyone in your organization, and online followers, know what to expect.

  1. Now, post them!

Yes, your policies are likely great insomnia sufferer’s fodder, but they provide the baseline of engagement and should be easy to find on your platforms and website.

  1. Create a mini social media team.

One person with one log-in doesn’t help anyone either; it’s time you have a small, trusted posse of posters to spread the responsibilities.

  1. State your response time “code of conduct”.

If staff is only monitoring your Facebook page Monday through Fridays, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and limited hours within that, let your followers know. Something nice and simple can really put people at ease. Let them know that staff monitors comments and questions and will respond within two hours during the work day, or within one business day if the question or comment is left after hours. If this sounds like too much monitoring for your team, adjust accordingly.

Note: local governments are increasingly stretching their standard “work hours” for social media monitoring due to escalating engagement. Where is your organization on the response spectrum?

The point is to keep expectations healthy and reasonable. If you can’t respond due to staff shortages, or you don’t know how to respond and have to check with a colleague for the right information, it’s okay to wait a reasonable time to respond. If it’s going to take more than a day – leave a short reply that you are working on an answer and will be back as soon as possible.

Hang in there, folks! Engaging your community takes time, commitment, and some expectation setting to ensure common ground.


Watch for future communications blogs, where we tackle your questions and concerns. Submit feedback or questions on topics you want us to cover. Email Claire with your questions!