Social Media as Customer Service

15 Jan

Companies have for sometime now realized the great potential of Social Media to help deliver remarkable customer service to their clients. The logic being that if it could well topple dictatorial governments or spread Bieber memes at lightning speed, it could well deliver their messages to customers in a positive light ever so easily, right?

Well, sorry they’re very WRONG.

For in a recent post on Social Media Today quoting a report from Javelin Strategy & Research, a study of  U.S. banks’ social media implementation, particularly, with Twitter programs, showed that most of  the same banks have  fared quite badly with their efforts.

Because besides being too slow to react to events and usual queries, the banks have run their Twitter programs like they have always done with their onground systems. Which is basically to pass on any problem to the next bucket down the line. Have you ever experienced these famous words:

” Dear customer, we do understand your situation and would like to do something about it very soon. But, could you fill in this form in triplicate and reach our customer service assistant for a resolution. But in the meantime, please listen to this lame elevator music while we try to attend to ten other people on the queue…”

Social Media Marketing and Twitter initiatives are in fact not easy to run. An enterprise must have an institutional commitment to them and back it up with actual people and resources to be effective at all. The most important element however is a  simple realization that “Social” is a different animal from the old, plain Customer Service Desk.

Twitter moreso, needs immediate response because of the thousand other tweets scrolling in your face. People who bring their problems to Twitter would like to get their answers on Twitter. They do not want to be asked to do another search, or step, or action. They do not want to talk to a logo. They want a real caring person on the other end.

Social media is about the ease and convenience of online communication. It’s about directness, that’s why we even have the 14o or so character limit. It’s about authentic, timely and real-time solutions that can make  customers either truly happy or supremely pissed.

So the next time, we dream of using Social Media as Customer Service, let’s ask ourselves if we are ready to walk the talk. To learn how people truly interact in these new platforms. With their shiny new tablets, with SOPA breathing down our necks, and with maybe even that  an old-fashioned enthusiasm  to serve hot and fresh content.

If we do, our customers will love us for it and become the raving fans we’ve all always wanted, but can for now only dream of.

Social Media and Affiliate Marketing Connection

20 Nov

I’ve always ran away from having to deal with affiliate marketing as I’ve somehow associated it with  capitalism of the evil kind before. But now that I know better,  I have approached it with a more open mind and have began to see how indeed it can complement your social media addiction and even make an “honest” buck in the process.

To simplify this to the uninitiated, affiliate marketing is quite plainly any business offering an internet-based sales program to opinion makers and marketing persons, to help sell the businesses’  products or services through the marketer’s network. Smart business people know that nothing can exponentially grow their businesses better than a system of tapping  people or organizations to create marketing opportunities for their products through a referral scheme. The proverbial carrot of course is a substantial commission with every sale made through these sales partners. (one could expect hefty ones in the area of 25- 60% ).

This is done mainly through the following steps: 1) Interested parties apply or are recruited to help sell the online products or services 2) Business approves relationships and assigns specific and unique affiliate tracking codes for affiliates/ partners. 3) Affiliates help create marketing opportunities for the products or services THROUGH their online network 4) Downlines are introduced to products or services through various by the affiliates. 5) Business just mails the “check” after sales are completed through the unique affiliate codes or conduits 6) Hopefully, everybody is happy in the end.

I’ve greatly truncated the process but in a gist, this is how the system works for many successful affiliate marketers out there. And this is where we see the whole thing dovetailing so well with the great social media revolution.

In as much as social media operates on trust and engagements, it is not a completely bad thing for social participants to “evangelize” about good products or services through their facebook posts or tweets or links. Thanks of course to the phenomenon of  “tiny urls”, the whole  process need not look too “sales pitchy”.  A mere mention like- “Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed my new gadget (followed by the unique link), why don’t you try it out too. Thanks”  can actually lead to an easy sale for a business, and a much-welcome commis for our avid social media socialite.

Why don’t you try exploring these if so inclined. Check out that tiny footnote in the the home page of your favorite gadget or software product  and look for the inconspicuous “affiliate” text. Then you are on your way to starting your own social media- led business on the side. A little moolah is not at all evil if done in an authentic and helpful way. Otherwise, because social media are  truly accountable and leave a clear “paper trail”, all I can say is that you’ve been warned… and after all, Social Media and Affiliate Marketing done properly is a marriage truly made in “referral” heaven.

Beware of Geeks bearing gifts

21 Jul


No, I did not forget to do my spell-check . It really reads: beware of geeks, an allusion to Helen’s unforgettable love story. But I digress.

I wrote this today because the social media wave has brought with it the bad with the good. In the mad rush to cash in,we have been deluged with so many tools and apps on our favorite social networks that blithe the experience. Yes, apps are wonderful because they tend to make our lives easier but do I really need to have the “share” button at every turn. And please spare me from the request to accept a gift from your garden. Let’s not cram too much into that small desktop space. Give us more space to really exchange messages, ideas, responses and less of the multiple choice questions. Let’s keep the spirit of Steve Jobs when he asked not to see a single screw on the iPhone when it was being designed. Google+ looks clean but wait till they start to “monetize”. Grrrr.

I hate to rant in the middle of the week, but I really think we ought to not forget that social media is being social mainly, and having to play arcade games only an option.

Peace.

Social Media and your Inner Self

21 Apr

Social media provides a window to your soul. Big words, but quite accurate really if you define soul in a sense, as your collective consciousness or the summation of your life’s experiences. Not the whole picture by any stretch; but only a peek that sometimes would not be possible with all the clutter of daily life. Not to mention the tendency for us to oftentimes put on masks or pretenses as a means for self-preservation.

But I guess this can happen only after your 300th post or blog or comment or so. By then, it has already become too difficult to monitor or edit your blurbs in any organized way. By then, like it or not your slip will show. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. For after all, you are who you are, unique and have something important to share that no other person can have– your ontology. I am sure, someone out there is genuinely interested in what you have to say or think.

We have these unique lenses conditioned by  experiences that will make us push that button to like a page or become abhorred by some topic or antic. We are moved to cheer, commiserate and even admonish by the new feeds, points of view, value systems. This is part of our being human, to engage with the community because we all have a stake in it.

With the social web however, this community just got bigger, and the exchanges richer. Hopefully, we will all become better for it. We hope this will lead to greater understanding and tolerance. If not, spark that move towards positive change as it had happened in Tunisia.

I once said that social media helps us write our autobiography in installments. And I hope that killer app becomes possible where I can simply extract all my past and current social engagements  and write that definitive book of  me.

I know even I will be surprised by what I may read. But that’s just me… love or hate it.

Social Media is a Two-Way Street

16 Apr

#SocialMedia is a two-way street. Media should flow from both ends, otherwise it’s just #broadcasting or worse, #narcissism.10:30 AM Apr 13th via web”

Can’t help but to twitter this one recently. I just felt frustrated that not very many still seem to understand, that Social Media need at least “two to tango”. It is not like broadcast media or the polished TV ad  that most marketers have played to perfection these past 50 or so years. It is new media that need to be  accepted in their own terms, warts and all.

Although I support that social media also need not take on one specific template that precludes all others; I believe strongly that we will not be utilizing to its utmost the true power source of the platform, if we turn it merely into a loudspeaker. Or in some cases, even worse, if some are allowed to make it into their instrument of narcissistic behavior. With their having discovered a captive audience, they must not be permitted to freely  insinuate themselves ever so aggressively into our lives. Just see those endless self- aggrandizing tweet streams to realize this.

So when we think of that next post, please remember that social media begins only after the first hello.

( Good or bad, let me know your thoughts here -https://twitter.com/rvbello, among others. I cannot commit to always agree, but I promise that I will always listen– B. )

To Innovate with Social Networks and Media, Bring it Closer to Home

19 Mar

I was recently introduced by a long-time friend to a CEO of a local company, a man at the helm of the family corporation established by his father. One thing that struck me during our  conversation–and as an observation during my stay at the corporate premises–was that this man recognizes family strength and deeply believes in the benefits of innovation derived from learning and in adopting advancing technologies in the industry they vie in.

Family Working at Home, November 1912 (New York City)

Jewish family working on garters in kitchen in tenement home, November 1912 (New York City). TRiver | Flickr | U.S. Library of Congress

From Offline to Online

I can sense that the business is something the CEO would defend at all cost from competitors’ slaying tactics and strategies. The business is his life. It would likely be so for his children and his family’s next generations. The corporation’s C-suite is composed of siblings or close family relatives. And the rest of the company–its employees–are treated as family members.

The company inculcates in its employees the values of the family–the company’s aspirations to continuously grow and progressively succeed.

The company is home-grown and regarded as among the leaders in its industry. It competes toe-to-toe with a multinational corporation, which is the acknowledged leader in the local market. And it is about to launch a wave of new offerings with an upgrade of equipment that are cutting-edge in the industry. For the CEO, that also means adopting the soft component of technologies to extend reach and engage with its b2b market–bringing the business through its bricks-and-mortar network online through social media.

The pathways to the decision to adopt social media wasn’t easy. In an initial round of conversations among company staff members, the dilemma was in identifying who should run the company’s online presence.

As most companies would do in starting to conduct business and engage customers online, the obvious choice is to tap function units in the organization with key employees who speak  the language of the trade at marketing and technical levels and are themselves, in their personal capacities, already online with their social or professional networks.

There are but two key staff members who they think are eligible.

I asked what the universe of the company’s networks are. At least 4,000 individuals and entities. Even with an ideal engagement ratio of 1:50–or 1:400 ratio in their case, with two key company staff members–that is going to be trying. But perhaps not for long if the company frames the fit for it to go social online.

The Prerequisites

One thing going for this company is that it listens. Listening is among the first steps toward adopting and innovating use of social media. The next and greater aspect to listening is being open and willing to experiment. And the third and greatest is an incessant drive to set standards no one else has–not even customers. This is a standard it sets onto itself.

In the course of the conversation, the CEO raised his concern about a 2% quality failure at their labs. He wanted to get the figure down. As an experiment, he “challenged” the production line staff to take on a wager that for a below 2% rejection rate sustained daily, he would put a part of his monthly salary to a pool of incentives that the staff can partake. This brings to fore the second point about listening: opening up opportunities and motivating people to innovate at shop-floor level.

But the 2% figure has remained to be so even after the challenge. So our CEO is moving on to a next experiment with a question:  What if we can go below 1%? This is now finding innovations in the company that would approximate zero-defect in his production labs. Compared to the closest multinational competitor’s quality failure of 10%, this is setting a gold quality standard in the industry.

Having listened well, having been open to learning and willing to experiment and seeking to establish a gold quality standard, our CEO and his company then deliver the incomparable advantage the competition will not and cannot ever provide the market, i.e., offering customers a replacement of damaged merchandise from its production lab errors. Competition, on the other hand, asks customers to sign a waiver of claims from damages.

Online to One’s Roots

Just how long would it be trying for this company to take on being social with its networks online? The answer lies in its ability to find the natural fit of its corporate values to use social media in any of its business processes–inside the company and outward toward its customers, whether in marketing or in the entire value chain of the business.

The foundation to succeed, to sustain success, and to be able to simultaneously innovate with adoption of social media is to practice it along deep company values and teach others in the company to do it in contexts that fit the corporate culture. A culture that then ripples out to its business networks–on- or offline.

In dealing with the social markets, a shared positive culture that reflects the company and one that goes beyond the walls of its offices have great potential for rewards.


Related readings:
Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business | Josh Bernoof & Ted Schadler
Control in an Age of Empowerment | Robert Simons
Sharing Leadership to Maximize Talent | Marshall Goldsmith
Why You Should Have a Hyperlocal Facebook Strategy | Jan Rezab
The Obvious But Uncomfortable Way Your Company Culture is Judged | Amber Naslund

Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape Reviewed

11 Mar

The Jennifer Aniston Sex Tape, on Youtube, is not what you think it is.

But you probably live under a rock if you have not come across the latest video created by Smartwater with movie goddess (yes, I can’t help it) Jen Aniston for the bottled water brand. It has gone viral on the net with close to 5 million views in three days. I know it’s manipulative s**t, but it’s also funny, features one of the more bankable names in Hollywood and if you got here, then I rest my case.

Most of all, it’s very instructive on how our search- engine- conditioned brains have been trained to filter information. We all know about advertising blah, blah, blah but then nothing beats the power a few emotionally-laden words to get your mind whirling. Do you still remember the infamous ” I Love You Virus”? Another formidable feat in social engineering made possible by our cultural programming and a Filipino computer whiz. Can we still rise above the sum of our socialization? Have we become web zombies? I guess the final arbiter will still be in the realm of social media, so you be the judge.

But I’m too in love with beautiful Jen Aniston to over- analyze a simply creative and funny ad for a water brand I will probably never even drink. But did those four magic words get my attention, you bet it did.  Partly because of my Catholic upbringing and mainly because people still believe in wishing upon a star.  If  this headline had  also caught yours, now you know the real power of  the Social Superhighway.

For my final word on the subject. Mr. John Mayer, let me see you beat this one.

Peace.

A Golden Rule Going Social with Social Media

6 Mar

When asked what the business rules about Social Media are, I am stupefied. I tried high and low to search what there is about such “rules” and even attempted to define what such rules are by labeling them “always-never” business rules.

I realized I cannot know what the Social Media business rules are.

There are numerous guides, experiences, recommendations, and great stories about successful ventures using Social Media. But it seems to me, after searching, there are no rules. What there is are practices that have worked in particular fields of industries that have advanced faster in the use of it.

One such field is media marketing, akin to advertising which is in essence marketing communication.

However, Social Media do not comprise all of the Social Web and its technologies alone.  It denotes three general areas of the social sphere of the Web: relevancy (by strict definition, usefulness); networks (people); and last, the media as the communication vehicle of people to exchange or share objects that are meaningful among people–at a certain space of time at a certain location.

Digital strategist Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting depicts the social media as the tactic and mere tip of the Social Media Iceberg. He has combined the aspects of business, people, and efficacy of social media into a strategy framework–a balanced scorecard that stacks up a range of activities in the entire social media value chain.

Social Media Iceberg presented by Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

Social media tactics are merely the tip of the iceberg | Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

What lies underneath the use of  social media are strategic components to make the media work: how it really can work with people and how people must work it up.

Organizations that adopt social media may employ the best and brightest people. A lot has done it. And many businesses have deployed good social media marketing efforts.  But in many other organizations, people and strategy may be hamstrung by their own organizational inertia, multilayered hierarchies, cumbersome decision processes, lack of focus, setting off-tangent or mis-aligned goals, or simply having little perspective to tackle the complexities to take on a culture that promotes successful use of Social Media: being open or cutting across function silos.

Social media marketing efforts succeed because they are driven by marketers. That has always been the way advertising works. At a future state of maturity of Social Media in business,  however, gatekeepers of product or brand management may become at a certain point the bottleneck in catapulting the true potential of Social Media.

Book author David Vinjamuri, president of  ThirdWay Brandtrainers, states in his article “Want to Open a Dialogue with Consumers? Start from Within” that the challenge for many organizations is that in the last decade, digital and interactive media [social media in today’s guise], was often “greenhoused”–assigned to a small group with an independent budget.

Acting like media networks, with marketing akin to it, groups within companies who “own the media networks” come flat without real great block-timer shows to put up. There are always the social media actuators but with few social media actors.

Following the traditional media network mind set: while there might be producers of  ” shows” on social media, the shows must have a good concept, a compelling script, a campaign-able story line, and the most important component of all to have great actors who will portray the heart and soul of the story.

An audience to such great shows attach themselves to the actors–seldom with the backstage or production people–even with the show’s directors or producers.

The big difference though between media network shows and a social media “show” is in social media story, producer, writer, director and actor can be one and the same–whether they be people within an organization, or corporations, or individuals like you and me.

In his book Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands, David Vinjamuri underscores the singularity of  brands’ stories as told by its creators. Such moving stories create new meanings as stories are passed from one audience to another. Audience becomes storyteller themselves. And on and on can stories ripple out to people who will build upon these brands’ new contexts and relevance.

In all so far that I have observed, nameless people are the true actors, our storytellers and audience at the same time, on Social Media–in their own contexts of space, time, and with their own things or stories to share.

There is not one shoe that fits. People are the Golden Rule of Social Media.

My appreciation to Mark Smiciklas for allowing me to use his Social Media Iceberg. And to David Vinjamuri who has inspired  me via his book and insights about Social Media in marketing.

Organizations, the Social Web Begs. Break the Silos.

4 Mar

In an ActionLab® on Web content modelling, I asked the participants to form themselves into groups following their organizational chart. It was easy for the participants to come together structured as function units in the organization.

Once each participant was settled into his/her respective group, I posed a question: If we are to engage our Web users or customers in one topic that the organization holds dear and that which captivates our users’ or customers’ minds, who among you then are in for the engagement?

A third of the participants stood up and I asked them to step forward.

After being asked what they would bring into the engagement, in this case relevant information they can share that builds on the topic, five scenarios had emerged from this group:

  • 70% claimed they have information to share;
  • 10% pointed to those who remained seated as the source of the information they need to have to engage customers and users,
  • 2% cannot promptly say what they could share or where the source of information they need to share would have to come from,
  • 18% gave no reply, and;
  • 100% said nothing about any person in the group being a source of relevant information to bring into the topic.

Such is the framing in organizations, the way most of them are, now. Structured into compartments according to function, people’s interactions are silo-bound. And they ascribe their sources of  information as emanating from within their function silos. The interactions are vertical, up-down, not at all times horizontal across functions.

Org-chart2-mikecolibraro-thinkbrownstonesinc
Lost in Organization*: no truer can be seen in how organizations are graplling with the Social Web.

The function of a unit reflected in a chart becomes the  framework for the way people engage people–in and out of the organization.In adopting the Social Web, have dialogs within the organization first. Breaking down  silos would be the first step toward the rewards of social-led innovations in the organization.

* Much thanks to Mike Colibraro of Think Brownstone Inc. for the image in Phil Charron’s think blog post “Why Don’t You Publish Your Org Charts?”

The Medium Has No Message

2 Mar

“The medium is the message”. I could never forget McLuhan and his famous last words from my undegrad days. He was archetypical of media and communication to us then. Although I must admit that I do not always understand what he’s saying, I had often thought that someday I might be able to quote him and sound interesting. Well, today’s the day.

My weekly trip to the mall has now been shaken by those disturbing signs that purport to promote some shops and products via social media. In as much as I am thrilled by the adoption of the new social life, I caution those who see it as a mere fad to look updated without actually providing relevant or interesting content lest it just hastens their downfall rather than redemption. Social Media requires a more than cursory understanding of your desired community. You have to engage and absorb, give in order to receive. Offer something more substantial than a simple link. Do you have something compelling for me to consider following you? Otherwise the “f” logo and the Tweety bird will just be like the Push/Pull sign on the store’s door that nobody seems to notice.

To paraphrase my friend and fellow Social Media explorer, Albert Borrero, Listen after you look, Listen before you speak.

Peace.

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