Selling Social Media to Company Executives

I had a query from a potential customer recently about selling Social Media to Company Executives.

They wanted to know how to persuade their bosses about the value of Social Media to their online website promotion, especially in comparison to using standard methods like Google Adwords.

It didn’t help that one of the lynchpins was brandishing an article from an accountancy magazine about how the effects of Social Media were totally over-rated when it came to professional firms. However, this chap was looking at the subject at its most superficial level.

As was mentioned in the article, the cornerstone of any business is to do a great job for the client so that they go on to recommend you to other people and Social Media – particularly Linked In – is a great way of posting recommendations that might actually be seen by the people who matter. However, as the writer says, the problem is that you have no way of knowing how much of this is ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ and, since it is very difficult to actually research people’s credentials or get a feel for their personality online, it’s not totally reliable.

My own experience of Twitter has been that it is just a bunch of people thrusting ‘content’ at me with shortlinks but not much real engagement or interaction going on – despite my attempts to foster such relationships. These people collect followers like kids often hoard trading cards. They don’t value them personally, they just want a big wad in a collection.

The problem is that all these networks can get taken over by people who know how to work the system – either they or their paid helpers set about ‘grooming’ potential clients by giving value and building trust. And you need to work out whether you’re actually talking to the organ grinder or just his monkey.

This means that to make social media work for business, you have to expend some time and effort on it – things don’t just happen overnight. It’s all about growing relationships and networking – just like in the old days. Only now it can be done from the comfort of your study/lounge rather than having to hang around cocktail receptions quaffing lukewarm wine and picking through non-descript canapes.

Originally posted 2011-04-16 11:13:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Tags:

How to Maintain Traditional Customer Service in the Social Media Age

Duke Chung co-founded Parature in 2000, with a vision to provide superior customer support software accessible via the Internet. Today, Parature’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product suite supports millions of end users worldwide.

You’ve been monitoring your Facebook wall and Twitter pages, responding to customer inquiries. But what are the next steps you should take to stay abreast of the latest trends in social service?

The emergence of social media communities requires you to track a new set of customer service metrics. Fortunately, you’ll have a better understanding of who your customers are and their service expectations. In some cases, it might even mean the end of traditional service level agreements (SLAs).


Service Level Agreements — How Will They Change?


SLAs are becoming more complex to manage because of the public, viral nature of social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Some consumers decide to “cut the line,” gravitating to these channels because they think they will get the fastest response.

So, are SLAs still relevant? Is it acceptable to let customers “cut the line?” Should you always prioritize Twitter service requests over requests placed through traditional service channels? What should be the response time on each channel — be it web, email, phone or social media?

The fact is that SLAs still have a purpose, but because of the very public nature of social media channels, companies need to know where their customers are and understand expected response time on each of those channels. It’s a delicate balance: Companies must understand that some channels require faster more personal responses, but traditional service channels still demand attention.

We have a few recommendations on how to handle impact of social channels on service requests and traditional SLAs.

  • Know inside and out who your customers are, what channels they gravitate to when it comes to customer service, and the expectation for response time on those channels. For example, if the majority of your customers frequent Facebook and Twitter for customer support, invest more in personal, timely responses from both your customer service and marketing teams. When a consumer asks a question on Facebook, he does not want to receive an automated response, fast as it may be. Consumers expect both personal and fast replies on Facebook. If you find that many of your customers seek help on your social media channels, host knowledge bases on those networks. It is a good way for consumers to find answers to commonly asked questions, and it frees up the time your customer service team would otherwise spend personally answering the same questions over and over again.
  • Evaluate how urgent the inquiry really is, and see if you’re able to answer quickly and personally with some initial suggestions to solve his or her problem. If the answer requires further involvement, that’s ok. Tell the consumer his inquiry has been received and that it is being further evaluated by the customer service team. This will not only show that you’re responsive, but it will also give you more time to escalate the issue and route it to the correct representative in a more reasonable timeframe. Customers will understand that every service question cannot be answered instantly.
  • Social media service instantly reflects on your brand and directly impacts your company’s marketing efforts. If you are slow to provide an initial response, or you don’t provide any response at all, it can cast your brand in a poor light. Your social media responses are public and will be read and shared with other consumers. The fact is that social media has really blurred the lines between marketing and customer service. Just make sure the two teams work together to tackle social service.
  • Don’t ignore traditional channels because you’ve become focused on social media. Remember that social media has simply provided a new channel for engaging with your customers; it has not replaced the other channels. And just because a customer is reaching out to you on Twitter does not mean you need to drop everything and respond instantly; you must evaluate and discern the level of urgency first. The balance is important: You can’t simply move all of your great service exclusively to social media channels at the expense of traditional channels.

Better Metrics Management


In social service 2.0, it’s important to track several metrics and adjust your strategy as volume and complexity grow. Response time, time to resolve, tickets opened per day and tickets resolved per day are all part of traditional customer service metrics, but social media can render them more complex.

Devise a system that allows you to track the number and complexity of support requests coming through social media vs. phone or email. Keep track of response times across sites like Twitter and Facebook. As time increases, develop a strategy to push complex requests to another channel, such as email, where customer service representatives (CSRs) can quickly match up new inquiries with cases that have already been opened. As the volume (tickets opened per day) mounts, create canned content, in the form of responses or linkable knowledge base articles, for the most frequently asked questions.

You should also monitor these additional metrics that specifically involve social media channels.

  • The “net-new” group of customers. These are the people for whom you’ve provided a support channel over social channels. It’s likely that this new group of social users is different than the customers who have been contacting you via email or phone.
  • The number of times other customers — not the company — respond to support requests and inquiries. For example, a visitor to your Facebook page asks technical questions about a particular product release, and he or she is quickly answered by one of your Facebook fans. The frequency of this sort of event indicates the value of your social support, and shows how many brand advocates you have.

Marketing and Customer Service Both Report to Social Media Training


If a B2B company has established an online community to address technical problems, customer service probably owns the social media effort. But B2C companies are heavily invested in tracking customer attitude and effect on brand issues. In these companies, marketing will have to collaborate with support teams about inquiries via social media channels.

Make sure that each team knows the protocol for dealing with social media. Hot button issues will arise — via Twitter in particular — and sometimes you’ll have to respond as quickly as possible. In such cases, it’s appropriate for marketing to step in and indicate that they’re responding in turn.

In anticipation of these issues, have a triage and a crisis response plan in place. As discussed, a negative comment on Twitter doesn’t automatically constitute a crisis that requires interrupting a service rep. Discern the nature and depth of the complaint and respond appropriately. As a safeguard, monitor who in the company is responding to inquiries to ensure collaboration between marketing and customer service.


Bottom Line: Adapt and Evolve


Consumer facing companies will have to learn the rules of the road for social service 2.0 if they want to survive. SLAs with long windows of response time simply don’t work on today’s public social platforms.

Know your audience, understand the tight response expectations on social media channels, and keep in mind the very public nature of these platforms that will directly impact your brand. Use tools like knowledge bases to save time and costs, and make sure your marketing and customer service teams are tightly connected and openly communicating with one another.

While you can’t totally control whether consumers “cut the line” by racing to social networks, you can control how quickly and personally you respond on those channels. Stay on top of important metrics to make sure you are responding to each customer, regardless of the channel he is using, in a timely, thoughtful manner that will reflect positively on your brand.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, fotosipsak, studiocasper

Facebook Timeline for Brands: The Complete Guide

Now that Facebook Timeline has finally rolled out for brands, companies have endless opportunities to refresh their social media strategy. Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it? Let’s break it down.

As of Wednesday, brands can opt in on the new features. If you’re not familiar them, be sure to review them here before you dive into this project.

Some of the prominent changes include a new layout with cover photo, highlighting features and the ability to edit and update without navigating to a separate page. Timeline will automatically go live for all brand pages Mar. 30.

SEE ALSO: Timeline For Brands: How to Prepare for Your Company’s New Facebook Page

As predicted, these new features will be a huge opportunity for brands that want to tell a more engaging and authentic story. Even the President has jumped on board with Timeline.

Some feel that this could be a potential downfall for companies that do not excel at providing engaging content or brands with various operations compared to those who concisely define themselves under one umbrella.

Regardless, it gives all companies the opportunity to get creative with cover photos, and their overall presence on social media, as we’ve already begun to see with early adopters.


Comment


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_redbull.jpeg

Not only has Red Bull taken advantage of Timeline, it has also created a scavenger hunt with prizes to get fans interacting with the company’s history.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_nytimes.jpg

The New York Times‘ Timeline, which features its rather large staff as a cover photo, has highlighted moments from more than 160 years in history.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_att.jpg

ATT’s cover photo brings together an “ever-changing mosaic” of its fans’ photos.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_Manchester%2520United.jpeg

The professional soccer team has also taken advantage of Timeline’s biographical features, already filling its page with content from 1908.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_dove.jpg

The company’s fresh-faced models are featured as the cover photo for Dove’s brand Page.

“Real women have been our inspiration from the very beginning. Today your photos, stories and memorable moments make up our new timeline,” writes the company.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_madonna.jpeg

Madonna has switched over to Timeline, and is using her brightly colored album cover as her Facebook cover photo.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_coke.jpeg

Coca-Cola’s Timeline dates all the way back to its founding date, May 8, 1886.

“The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today,” writes the company.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_harley.jpg

The motorcycle company’s history, dating back to 1903, is all filled out on its Timeline.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_nike.jpg

Nike is also an early adopter to Timeline. Its Page info dates back to 1972, when it was founded.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_katespade.jpg

Kate Spade mixed designs with its cover photo and profile picture, and has filled out to its founding date in 1993.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_toyota.jpeg

The car company’s Timeline dates back to when it was founded, Oct. 31, 1957.

“We encourage you to browse through our extensive Timeline to discover (or re-discover) some of the rich history of our products, people as well as messages from our loyal fans like you,” the company writes.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_coldplay.jpeg

Coldplay has filled its Timeline all the way back to the band’s first show in 1998. They’ve also included interesting facts about their early days as a band.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_facebook.jpeg

Naturally, Facebook has filled out its own Timeline as well.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_walmart.jpeg

Walmart has its Timeline filled out back to the day it opened its doors for the first time in 1962. There are images of old stores and information about the evolution of the company.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_macys.jpeg

Macy’s also filled out its history on Timeline, including pictures of the first “fancy dry goods store” in 1822.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_ford.jpeg

Ford’s Timeline dates back to 1903, when the first Model A sold for $850.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_people.jpg

People has placed some of Hollywood’s most familiar faces across its profile as a cover photo.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_today.jpg

The cast of the Today Show was among a select few photos chosen to roll out the social networking site’s new design.

The Timeline explores 60 years worth of history.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_sportscenter.jpg

ESPN’s SportsCenter used its colorful studio as a backdrop for the program’s Timeline.


http://joshaersocialmediasolutions.com/wp-content/plugins/rss-poster/cache/425e6_lexus.jpg

Lexus has included milestones throughout its Timeline, dating all the way back to its start in 1983. The cover photo is a hybrid concept.

View As One Page »

View As Slideshow »

Not only has Red Bull taken advantage of Timeline, it has also created a scavenger hunt with prizes to get fans interacting with the company’s history.


The New York Times‘ Timeline, which features its rather large staff as a cover photo, has highlighted moments from more than 160 years in history.


ATT’s cover photo brings together an “ever-changing mosaic” of its fans’ photos.


The professional soccer team has also taken advantage of Timeline’s biographical features, already filling its page with content from 1908.


The company’s fresh-faced models are featured as the cover photo for Dove’s brand Page.

“Real women have been our inspiration from the very beginning. Today your photos, stories and memorable moments make up our new timeline,” writes the company.


Madonna has switched over to Timeline, and is using her brightly colored album cover as her Facebook cover photo.


Coca-Cola’s Timeline dates all the way back to its founding date, May 8, 1886.

“The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today,” writes the company.


The motorcycle company’s history, dating back to 1903, is all filled out on its Timeline.


Nike is also an early adopter to Timeline. Its Page info dates back to 1972, when it was founded.


Kate Spade mixed designs with its cover photo and profile picture, and has filled out to its founding date in 1993.


The car company’s Timeline dates back to when it was founded, Oct. 31, 1957.

“We encourage you to browse through our extensive Timeline to discover (or re-discover) some of the rich history of our products, people as well as messages from our loyal fans like you,” the company writes.


Coldplay has filled its Timeline all the way back to the band’s first show in 1998. They’ve also included interesting facts about their early days as a band.


Naturally, Facebook has filled out its own Timeline as well.


Walmart has its Timeline filled out back to the day it opened its doors for the first time in 1962. There are images of old stores and information about the evolution of the company.


Macy’s also filled out its history on Timeline, including pictures of the first “fancy dry goods store” in 1822.


Ford’s Timeline dates back to 1903, when the first Model A sold for $850.


People has placed some of Hollywood’s most familiar faces across its profile as a cover photo.


The cast of the Today Show was among a select few photos chosen to roll out the social networking site’s new design.

The Timeline explores 60 years worth of history.


ESPN’s SportsCenter used its colorful studio as a backdrop for the program’s Timeline.


Lexus has included milestones throughout its Timeline, dating all the way back to its start in 1983. The cover photo is a hybrid concept.


With spring right around the corner, consider Timeline your chance to do a little housekeeping. The features require you to tidy up a bit, as well as do some research on your company’s history — but the results could be quite beneficial.

At Mashable, our community team updated our own brand page to Timeline on Wednesday, and took a walk down memory lane. It’s an easy way to look back on our milestones, and rediscover what we’ve learned from past Facebook posts throughout the years.

Will you be an early adopter of Facebook Timeline for brand pages, or wait for the inevitable switch on Mar. 30? Let us know in the comments.

10 Ways to Deal With Upset Customers Using Social Media

social media how toHow are you responding to upset customers?

No matter what you sell or what industry you’re in, you’re going to experience negative word of mouth.

You know, those customers who are expressing their complaints on social media.

It just happens.

Things break, problems come up and employees have bad days. But it’s how you handle it that separates you from everyone else.

Remember: Negative word of mouth is an opportunity.

A great response strategy can convert angry and upset customers into loyal, raving fans. The rule of thumb is that while unhappy customers talk to 5 people, formerly unhappy customers you win back talk to 10.

So get out there and embrace the negativity. Start responding. Here are 10 steps you can take to stop the negative, earn new fans and generate a ton of respect.

#1: You Can’t Respond to Conversations You Don’t See

Great response starts with great listening.

  • Set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry keywords.
  • Keep a close eye on your Facebook page.
  • Listen on Twitter.
  • Depending on the type of business you have, read reviews on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat.
  • Make a list of any forums or communities where your customers congregate and regularly check in on them.

Whether you’re paying attention or not, the conversations are happening. But a great listening program makes it easier for you to catch negative buzz and spot issues before they build momentum and become much harder to turn around.

google alerts

Google alerts are free, easy to set up, and instantly help you keep an eye on key conversations.

#2: Determine if it’s Worth a Response

Not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over. Sometimes, as hard as it can be, it’s best just to move on.

Avoid these situations:

  • The criticism is on a really small blog or forum, and your response will only bring attention and credibility to an issue nobody saw in the first place.
  • It’s a blatant attack that’s clearly rude and outrageous—and anyone who reads it can see the critic has a personal problem.
  • A known crackpot who is only looking to pick a fight.

There’s just no way to win in these scenarios. So stay out, move on, keep your head up and focus on the wrongs you can right.

#3: Act Quickly

When you’re facing negative word of mouth, time is not on your side. The longer you wait to respond, the angrier the customer will get—and the more likely others will pick up on the issue and spread the negative buzz.

At the very least, say this:

“Hi, my name is ____ and I hear you. We’re looking into it now, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at _____.”

A message like this does two things:

  • The ranter knows he or she has your attention—there’s much less incentive to keep spreading the anger and
  • It makes a real person with real contact info available, so if the person is still angry, you’ve at least specified a place to vent other than online.

#4: Speak Like a Human

The only thing worse than ignoring upset customers is to respond with a canned corporate response. If you thought they were mad before, wait until you see how they react to an excerpt of your policy terms and fine print.

Show empathy, communicate in a friendly tone and use your real name. And if the forum supports it, it helps to include your actual photo.

It’s easy to yell and scream at an anonymous company. But when someone shows up and says, “Hi, this is Emily and I’m so sorry for the trouble…” it changes everything.

The critic now realizes he wasn’t yelling at a giant, faceless company. He was yelling at Emily. Quickly, the anger fades—and you’ll often get an apology.

Check out how Zappos replies to this fan. It’s human; it’s friendly. And even though they couldn’t immediately fix the problem, you can bet this fan will be back.

zappos friendly response

Check out Zappos’ Facebook page for a real-time guide on how to respond in a personable, friendly tone.

#5: Offer a Real Apology or Don’t Apologize

A strong, direct apology will always earn more respect than a flimsy, “kinda-sorta” apology.

Consider the difference between an apology like “We’re sorry you feel that way” to “Absolutely, positively unacceptable”—which was the headline to FedEx’s blog post after a delivery driver was caught throwing a package over a customer’s fence. The post included this straightforward video from Matthew Thornton, a senior vice president at the company:

And it doesn’t get much better or more direct than Jeff Bezos’ apology for how they handled pulling copies of 1984 and other novels off Kindles:

amazon positive response

This simple, straightforward apology from Jeff Bezos drew more than 750 overwhelmingly positive responses.

#6: Offer to Make it Right

Apologizing is part of turning around negative word of mouth, but to actually fix a problem is how you really win over critics.

We all make mistakes. It’s how we fix them that people remember.

At burrito chain California Tortilla, making it up to customers is part of every response they send when someone is upset. It’s this simple:

response to upset customer

California Tortilla replies to every upset customer with a simple, straightforward offer to make it up.

#7: Never Get into a Fight

Any time you win an argument online, you’re losing. All anyone really remembers is that you’re combative.

This doesn’t mean you can’t respond, explain your side of the story and start a conversation. You just need to be in the right mindset:

  • Don’t get emotional.
  • Remember, it’s a real person. Just as they see you as a faceless company, it’s easy to see them as just another complainer.
  • The critic is actually doing you a favor. They’re helping you learn to be a better company. For every person who actually speaks up, many more walk away quietly, never to return.

For more on how to reply, check out this quick explanation from Jeff Diamond of Oakland’s Farmstead Cheeses and Wines:

#8: Keep the Discussion in the Open

When a negative issue comes up, a common gut reaction is to ask to move the conversation offline. But when you do this, the world can’t see all the effort you put into fixing the problem.

Nobody sees the private email where you give that sincere apology. We can’t search for that phone conversation where you politely explain why the situation happened in the first place.

But when you do it online, in public, you earn word of mouth. For the same effort and cost, thousands more people see that you actually care about customers. Plus, you save on all the people who now don’t need to call in (or write a similarly angry post) to find an answer to the same question.

Graco’s quick and transparent use of Twitter during a recall of more than 2 million strollers, for example, helped get an important message out much more quickly, showed customers how much they cared and it just might have saved some lives, too.

graco twitter response

Customers were thrilled with how Graco kept them updated and informed during a product recall.

#9: Use Fans and Third-Party Sources to Help Tell the Story

What you say about yourself isn’t as powerful as what others say about you. It’s true when people are promoting you, and it’s true when people are calling you out.

When their brand was under attack from a competitor-led PR campaign, UPS’ Debbie Curtis-Magley and her team pointed to third-party content from news articles and industry experts to help explain the full story.

And even more powerful than experts can be the voice of your fans. You never want to put them in an uncomfortable situation, but it’s OK to ask for help sometimes.

For example, a blogger might share how he’s frustrated with a particular product feature. In which case, you might turn to your Facebook or Twitter fans with this message:

“Hey guys! Chris over at [blog name] is having trouble with [feature]. Can anyone share how they’re using it?”

#10: Involve Them in the Fix

If someone’s criticizing you, it’s often just a form of tough love. They’re doing it because they care. They see potential, and they want you to do better.

So instead of seeing them as critics, start looking at them as frustrated fans that might have some worthwhile ideas.

On one hand, Dell’s IdeaStorm is just a big list of things people think they’re doing wrong. But it’s actually a release valve—a proactive community that gives people with ideas, suggestions and complaints a place to share and vote on their favorites.

dell status update

Every idea on Dell’s IdeaStorm can be voted up or down, and Dell keeps everyone updated on progress.

A platform like IdeaStorm isn’t right for everyone, but giving your biggest critics a way to get involved is. Try inviting yours to customer advisory boards, beta tests of new products and brainstorming sessions.

See! Negative word of mouth doesn’t have to be so bad after all.

How do you handle critics? How are you making the most of negative word of mouth? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,