One of the great benefits of social media is its instant connectivity and accessibility to so many individuals across the globe. This benefit however can become a distinct disadvantage when things are not all rosy in the social media garden.
Let’s just look at a few examples. Staff with the responsibility of posting content on behalf of your business decide to boost the reach of your messages by tapping in to a popular hashtag #. It can be harmless and often look unprofessional, more akin to jumping on an overburdened bandwagon. One such recent example is #PlutoFlyBy .
Nice pun from the bathroom accessory guys…
Space is all over the news with the#PlutoFlyby, so let us help YOU save space in the bathroom
Or this one from a US Italian restaurant chain…
Have a breadstick on us, Pluto! You’ll always be a planet in our eyes. #PlutoFlyby
Mmm… awkward and looks a little desperate however it’s not malicious and no one is harmed in the hijacking of the hashtag.
Moving on to corporations creating their own hashtag and it backfiring; now that can be an interesting spectator sport.
#MCDStories McDonalds marketing team expected nothing but genuine “nuggets” of wholesome stories, instead they created a McFlurry storm of negativity as tweet after tweet tried to out-score the other on their terrible experiences. Ouch!
Even classy supermarket Waitrose hasn’t escaped the hashtag howler brigade. Their #Waitrosereasons campaign generated a stream of pretentious and pompous tongue in cheek tweets that played on the expense of shopping at the store. This included a tweet suggesting the shopper always transferred shopping to tesco bags so neighbours didn’t know they’d won Euromillions!
Yes we can laugh at the big brands getting it wrong but what if it happens to you and your business. We are all vulnerable to attack as soon as we “put ourselves out there” but how do we respond if someone genuinely takes against your business or someone who works in it.
Examples that hit the media spotlight often involve high profile individuals. Kevin Pietersen brought a successful claim for defamation against Specsavers when their Facebook and twitter advert suggested the ex- England cricketer tampered with his bat.
But it’s not always possible to hit the troublemakers for six. Bed and Breakfast owners Martin and Jacqui Clark failed to win their case against TripAdvisor after they had received very poor reviews on the rating site. The Judge refused to reveal the identities of those making the post which had caused the Clark’s to lose business.
This leaves something of a hole in the world of social media where trolls can continue to inhabit and inflict their pain without fear of retribution. In my view this should be addressed rather swiftly as the proliferation of rating sites has led to many attempts to “game” the sites for competitive advantage. If a review is fair the reviewer should have no fear of being seen. If they are allowed to remain anonymous the opportunity to post false and defamatory messages is made far too easy.
What Should You Do
There has been a great deal of media attention around high profile cases of social media based defamation including Kevin Pietersen, Lord McAlpine and Russell Brand. As a result there’s been a threefold increase in cases across the country as more of us gain an appreciation of our rights. The numbers are still pretty low, only 26 matters 2013-14 but the year before saw only 6 cases. Source: Thomson Reuters – Practical Law
One of the biggest problems a victim of social media trolling can face is the challenge to find anyone to listen. The huge social media corporations are notoriously oblique in their “face to face” relations with users. Facebook, Twitter and Google have layer upon layer of FAQ’s, help forums and suitably straight-jacketed reporting processes. If, as many find, your problem doesn’t tick the right box you’ll have a merry old time attempting to get a sensible answer or swift resolution.
If you find yourself in such a situation please drop me a line. Over the years I’ve had a number of successful outcomes for clients dealing with Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter.
Make an enquiry here:-
Oscar Wilde’s famous quote from his only published novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one that intrigues me. It can have a number of subtle meanings but within the novel it is specifically relating to the bartering of an item in Wardour Street . In the late 19th century this part of London was known for antique and furniture shops and Lord Henry’s bidding for a piece of old brocade may have hinted at the difficult economic circumstances of the period. Lord Henry’s frustration at the time taken to secure his purchase leads to his statement, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Fast forward to the 21st century and things are not so different. One effect of the recent recession has been our re-focus on reducing our outgoings both personally and commercially as the pinch on our profit and lifestyle hit home.
Let me be very clear (sound like a pompous politician there) I don’t have an issue with careful cost control. Quite the contrary, I actively encourage a regular domestic and business review of expenditure. The issue as it relates to Oscar’s brilliantly written line is that we can become “hard wired” to focussing exclusively on the currency of a product or service and not the benefit or return that item will bring.
As a marketer and business owner this is very important territory. I’m equally a supplier and customer and in both relationships I try my best to be consistent. The difficulty is in identifying what that often quoted but rarely defined “value” is.
What is “value”?
As a noun it’s “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”
As a verb “to estimate the monetary worth”
All too often we see the term reduced to a base level with items branded as “value meals” and the like. That’s not really value, it’s just cheap but of course that’s a word that won’t shift a chicken tikka masala from your local supermarket shelf.
Knowing the value of something can be harder to realise than you might think. Often we only truly gauge something’s worth when it’s no longer available. From your favourite TV series to particular brand of perfume, that great boss who selfishly retired or reliable local mechanic who always fixed your car with a smile. When they’re gone we appreciate them more.
This test equally works on goods and services that we might already attribute more value to than they deserve. What about that expensive watch, particular club membership, car, holiday destination or brand of coffee? These are often aspirational items and by owning or experiencing them we believe as a consequence our lives to be “better” and thereby valuable. That’s a state of mind that many brand owners want their target customers to buy into but if we were forced to use an alternate would our lives be so much worse?
Businesses that sell services can often struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition. There will always be those who use price as a promotional blunt instrument. Successful companies take the time to understand not only the mechanics of their offering but the emotional response to experiencing the best and worst of the market offerings.
You might technically be measured as the very best at what you provide but if you employ robots or a team of over confident practitioners to deliver, they’re unlikely to capitalise on that technical advantage.
Good business is all about the human experience.
So what are the factors that make the difference?
And of course this can all add up, when we include the fee, to value.
If you’re up for a challenge take a look at a couple of services and products that you use over the course of the next few weeks. Ask yourself what you are basing your decisions on and consider if that is the best measure for making those purchases. Put yourself in a position where you must justify those purchases to a boss and they are going to want clearly articulated and rational responses. Consider which of those items you would wish to retain and those that fall short and face being replaced.
What does value look like to you? Once you’ve thought about it from your own consumer perspective you might want to have a go at applying it to your own business. Consider, honestly, if you would want to buy from your business, if so great…. can you do even better? If the answer is no… where are you failing and how can you address the shortcomings?
If you’re not a typical customer of your company’s product or service, seek out those who are and ask for their honest, non sugar-coated views.
Knowing the price of something is the easy bit, knowing the value… that’s a skill that we all need to work on.
A short while ago I was asked to present at a Practice Management Conference to owners and senior managers of law firms in the UK. The brief for this event was to present on the challenge of engaging with younger clients. A very topical issue not only for lawyers but many businesses facing the prospect of attracting new customers in the digital age.
Personally I find the topic fascinating and equally intriguing when you consider how little attention is given to thinking about the socio demographic make-up of potential clients. OK, my apologies to those marketers out there that have this all neatly packaged but note, you’re in the minority. There’s plenty of talk about addressing customer needs, presenting and delivering goods or services that appeal to a niche market but how many of us need to appeal to a broad spectrum of the population? How do we make that work?
For my presentation I didn’t want to talk solely about the youngest, newest client segment. Sure, talking social media and digital advertising would be sexy and necessary but in isolation would not place that particular generational trend in context with other older segments of the population. So there I had it. Let’s cover ALL bases and provide an overview of the generations and their likely preferences.
To kick the presentation off I asked the assembled audience which category they fell into. The options.
To truly test the audience of law firm senior executives I didn’t offer up the list in timeline order as it is above. I then provided the specific classification by year to determine exactly which group they would fall into with a little more detail as to the typical traits of each, the dates represent the dates of birth :-
Formal, private, loyal, trust, respect, face to face, written, value time
Competitive, aspirational, hardworking, want detail, like options, challenging
Entrepreneurial, independent, work life balance, sound bites, e-mail, feedback
Optimistic, confident, seek positive reinforcement, multi taskers, e-mail, text, skype
Connected, ethnically diverse, entitled,
When asked to then place themselves in the appropriate category it became quite apparent most had mistakenly considered themselves to be in a category other than the one they belonged to. This highlighted the fact that as a rule we don’t know which generation we are and probably don’t see it as being very relevant. That is a mistake.
Let me provide a couple of examples:
Mrs Marple is a recently widowed lady of 77. She is having her late husband’s estate managed by Swish Swash Law. Swish Swash pride themselves on being at the cutting edge of technology. “It’s all in the cloud man” “we’re totally paperless” “Have you seen our App?” “The websites purely organic and built for the mobile and tablet market” Yadda yadda – you get the picture. Well Swish Swash employ some very bright young lawyers and they are equally adept at their use of technology as they are at applying their legal knowledge. They have a 24/7 approach to service and in their best efforts to keep Mrs Marple informed they send an e-mail and follow up text to her to inform her of their progress. It’s sent at 9.15pm. Next morning a rather angry daughter of Mrs Marple calls the lawyer who sent the text explaining that her mother had been asleep and got very stressed when the message arrived thinking anything sent at such a time could only be bad news!
As a Traditionalist Mrs Marple would prefer face to face communication, a phone call would be ok as would a letter but only during normal office hours. This generation values privacy and whilst very hardworking they do not always appreciate the 24/7 immediacy of life preferring a more ordered and sensible approach to working hours.
My 2nd example features Jordan, a young entrepreneur who is setting up a business with a couple of friends he met at University. They have plans to launch a business offering animation and augmented reality software solutions. They need help with setting up the company and creating a partnership. Jordan’s father has recommended the family firm Boggit Down & Co. Established in 1888 they have a long tradition of serving the local people of their small market town and cover private and business clients services from their grade II listed high st office. Reginald Smythe (63) is the head of company commercial and a partner. He receives a call from Jordan’s father and askes his secretary to arrange a meeting with the 4 young men.
Jordan receives a call from Edith, Reginald’s long standing secretary and she has difficulty arranging a time when they would all be available, they finally settle on a date 3 weeks hence. Jordan receives a letter 3 days later inviting him to the offices and setting out the terms of an engagement with Boggitt Down & Co. Jordan and friends are not impressed. They wanted to get things up and running pronto, they can’t wait 3 weeks and quickly decide to find a lawyer who can see them that week..or even better be prepared to have an initial e-mail exchange to provide advice and help them get started. They Google for law firms who understand software businesses and find two within 10 miles of Jordan’s home town and a third that offers online support nationally.
As a Generation Y/ Millennial group the young entrepreneurs are quite confident, assertive and expect rather more instant returns. The culture clash with the very traditional firm of Boggitt Down & Co. is too much and they can see that the firm is not going to “get” them or their business. Boggitt Down & Co. has not moved with the times nor understood the urgency of their need to set up this business. The firm simply presents itself as it has done for years and not adapted to the preferences of a new, informed and impatient generation.
Two simple examples that do genuinely occur on an all too regular basis. But what can firms do if they need to win and maintain clients from a cross section of the generational divide?
In my firm we have a mixture of baby boomers, generation X’s and recently introduced generation Y partners. The business is evolving and the factors that impact on the outward facing communication with clients are equally prevalent with internal communications. Being aware of those subtle differences in attitude and approach to work is becoming increasingly important. The generation game certainly is one for all the family – just don’t forget your *cuddly toys.
*(That final reference places me firmly in my Generation X category, but equally recognisable by baby Boomers and Traditionalists apologies to any readers who are too young to remember the classic Saturday night BBC show of the 70’s and 80’s)
If you would like to discuss marketing support for your firm please feel free to contact me to arrange an initial no obligation meeting
Have you ever found the need to offer up a tweet of desperation, or Facebook post of frustration when a company fails to deliver on its promise or has caused you a problem?
I know I have.
At the time of composing the message it can prove to be cathartic, setting out your ire and pointing it at the target you can get it off your chest, even in 140 characters.
But how does the company deal with your complaint? For me that is the true measure of a good organisation, its ability to respond. Did they get back to you swiftly, accurately noting your comments and responding appropriately? Or did they respond in their own sweet time and offer up an auto bot placation to hope you’ll go away? Worse still are those who just fail to respond leaving you to boil and find a way to escalate the issue with added justification.
If you’re running a business, any business, you must consider the way in which you can handle potential negative feedback. The rise in popularity of Tripadvisor has taught many restaurants and hotels that negative reviews can directly impact future business and positive feedback offer a reassurance and drive customers toward you.
With so many of us now connected on social networking platforms and becoming increasingly comfortable with the medium as a method of communication we cannot afford to overlook their impact.
These are the key tips for offering excellent customer service on social networking platforms;
• Make your company twitter and Facebook accounts clearly visible on your website
• Actively engage with those who “like” your Facebook page and “follow” you on twitter
• Monitor the social networks for references to your business and keywords associated with it;
o This can be done via Google alerts by setting up the keywords and having any reference e-mailed to you. Note: This can build in a time delay so should not be relied upon for real time responses.
o Use a social mention monitoring site to manage the references and keep up to date by having the alerts function activated.
o Sites worth considering; SocialMention.com, mention.net, social oomph, hootsuite, twilert.
o Take a look and see which suit your needs, twilert is good as it is simple and low cost and enables a free trial to assess the effectiveness for your business.
• When you receive a negative comment whatever you do don’t become defensive or aggressive
• Offer multiple channels for communication, tweet but take it private so DM (direct message), e-mail, phone or text.
• Respond quickly and consistently, if you don’t have an immediate answer let the customer know that you’re working on it.
• Don’t patronise or engage in chat that would be considered “too personal”
• Above all ensure those who are charged with handling frontline matters on social media understand the rules and are chosen for their interpersonal skills and client care focus.
• Don’t allow third parties to present themselves as “helpers” or “customer support”. Self-help through technical forums can be beneficial but taking that one step further exposes your business and brand to potential risk of damage through unauthorised comment and actions.
Its common sense, you may think, but just consider your own experience and how the big organisations often get it wrong. Mostly customers want to know they’re being listened to, offered a channel to communicate and be allowed to express a view. Of course not every complaint or query will be justified but by offering a sympathetic and proactive customer response via social media can significantly reduce the negativity and in many cases reverse the position entirely. If you’re not aware of the conversations on social media you run the risk of missing opportunity and being subject to unwarranted bad publicity.
If managing your customers via social media is something you want to explore in greater detail drop me a line.
David.firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @davidlaud