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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.

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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. )

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.

Business and Social Media (Part I)

19 Feb

Talk about a love/ hate relationship. It’s like Britney Spears and the tabloids.

Business has always been first to recognize any developing trend. But it took a while before it started doing anything with social media. First of all, their systems were built around ironclad structures such as mass marketing, advertising and broadcasting. Tools that were made to be efficient for the greatest profitability. Tools that were designed for maximum control. Yes, greater control has been the linchpin of marketing communications for more than a hundred years. It worked best when it could dominate the channels of communication as well as find its greatest common denominator. This has meant buying primetime and  preaching to everybody that they should have long, black hair because the focus groups had said so. This could be done because business had made sure that the channels of communications were limited by barriers to entry, that included very strict regulation and megabucks to even play. They had so relished this role as the gatekeepers of thought and taste.

But then the internet revolution had changed everything. People started creating their own media channels to reach out to each other thus bypassing the gatekeepers. Costs and regulation were no longer any real  issue. So much so that people,  for the very first time, were truly at the driver’s seat. They now do not need to be told that they had to have long, black hair to be cool;  because having it in some other way could just be as radical. People had the numbers to prove this. The know,  because they are in touch with each other directly and THEY now own their media.

At this point, business had to take  notice because they realized that their influence is rapidly being eroded . It’s not about being bad guys because they really are not. They just had it so easy these past hundred years so that in an almost Darwinian kind of way, business had to just really adapt or else die.  And adapting was another thing that they were actually good at, besides spotting trends. And they had to simply bite the bullet.

Business, to again thrive in this brave new world, had to retool their systems around the new social thinking. Preaching to customers and control of media no longer worked. Persuasiveness, advocacy and consensus building did. Engagement based on honesty and authenticity was the new currency. Smoke and mirrors had lost their sheen, while listening and nuancing will pay  greater dividends indeed.

To understand social media, business must now necessarily be part of it. It must learn to be customers themselves. It must integrate all their traditional channels with the new media. It should monitor more closely than before, changing habits and taste. It should be in the middle of conversations. It should never scrimp on the process of understanding. And most important of all, it should learn to accept that it no longer can have total control. If it just kept all these to heart, then we are sure that it will get the love back.

Peace.

Social Media: A Possible Necessity or A Necessary Possibility

16 Feb

Social Media have been getting some bad press lately. Well, of course it depends on which side of the fence you’re sitting on.

The New Egypt and its great people have praised to high heavens the inestimable contributions of facebook & twitter to their unseating (pun intended) President Mubarak and helping the ushering in of an era of freedom for their country. It goes without saying however that Mr. M and his henchmen are probably sulking in their boots for not doing enough to close down early the new media channels for people’s interactions.

More recently, Justin Bieber’s  true “beliebers” have terrorized the twittersphere with vituperative rants after they didn’t get their candy bar from the Grammys.  Or just now, Mick Jagger probably woke up to see himself killed online with the “RIP Mick Jagger” buzz which had obviously proved a big, ugly hoax. The Godfather of Rock is not about to sing into the pearly gates, at least not just yet.

But for every little horror story about social life, one could probably rattle off a hundred more examples where social media had actually made a positive difference. Whether it was getting people to become more aware of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest or making it possible to catch up with long lost friends after a High School reunion, social media and networks have been mainly a force for good. I even remember how a friend had posted once that it was actually a gift that has allowed her that “much-needed break from the mundane chores at work”, an oasis in a sea of minutiae.

It may surprise many to know that the phenomenon of  social media is not even a new thing. It may have already celebrated its 30th anniversary if you counted Mark Granovetter’s piece, “The Strength of Weak Ties” published in 1973. You can therefore say that social media is simply a reflection of the very human need to reach out to our environment;  for even as babies we all longed to touch and be touched. The internet, new media and web tools have only enabled this process to move light years faster and created touchpoints that are virtually limitless.  In fact, I expect pretty soon that social media will  find its way more seamlessly in people’s consciousness so that social life will then be known simply as,  just life. No more duality, only one endless thread.

So to answer the question if social media are a “possible necessity or a necessary possibility”, to echo Bertrand Russell. I’d simply re-tell this little story from my Zen teacher:

“Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”

The other said: “The wind is moving.”

The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng happened to be passing by and he told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving”.

Peace.

Eavesdropping on Social Media and Following Conversations

12 Feb

Angelo Reyes Twitter Tweets Travel - socialcollider.netThe trail of news around Angelo Reyes’ story on the Social Media between Feb 8 and Feb 12. People’s attention span to the topic is shown in red trail.

While the world’s attention has been on Egypt since weeks ago, in the Philippines the attention has been on Angelo Reyes for a few days.

Angelo Reyes was a long-serving government official. In the last decade he was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently held four cabinet posts. On 8 February 2011, he apparently committed suicide in a memorial park in front of his mother’s grave.

Whatever Angelo Reyes’ standing was in Philippine society was partly created by media. What brought him to where he was on 8 February, with a tombstone as witness, was probably driven by what he thought he was in the minds of people.

For a decade now, I have never read nor watched Philippine news. Not that our nation’s affairs do not matter but because I have grown tired of reading and hearing news as filtered by news networks. Almost indifferent, there’s no news that would promptly grab my attention. Those that matter to me–in a particular space, time, in a context that I hold dearly–are what I value and stand for, do, and dream about.

Angelo Reyes grabbed my attention at the break of the suicide story. But I didn’t rely much on any print and broadcast media to gather what I need to better understand the event–I also looked into what the crowd had been saying on the Social Media.

Without the obtrusions of media middlemen, we can form our own view of events or decide to go deeper into every facet of news. I sampled an online news source from Al Tech News and it yielded a phrase net visualization of circumstances around Angelo Reyes.

Phrase net of a news article about Angelo Reyes' death

The true spirit of the Social Media is not just transposing print and broadcast media into being social. Neither is it, as what is happening in Egypt and what has happened to Angelo Reyes, a rumor mill to form a cast of opinion or hasty judgment. Marshall McLuhan, a communication theorist, argued the idea that technology per se [in this case Social Media and the Internet at large] has no moral bent—it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization.

Social Media starts with an individual and how one uses this tool to make a difference in one’s life and eventually in society. We have less need for middlemen now for we have the tools to directly interact with other people. We must use it well for good.

I have mixed emotions regarding Egypt’s state now as well as with the story of Angelo Reyes. And I am not thinking nor acting based on a public’s attention span that lasts that of a hummingbird’s. People power pushed these two events–the latter with the aid of the Social Media, the former with what is formed from it in people’s minds.

“The Transformative Power of Social Media”

11 Feb

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden tells it exactly, when he talked about ” the transformative power of social media” in an address to university students, about an hour after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down to give way to a new government.

It was about the pivotal role that facebook, twitter and all of social media played in helping spark and sustain the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. There are simply no words to express what great power, people speaking with one voice,  amplified through the internet , can achieve save perhaps to see these images and sounds from Tahrir Square.

Social Media is Us

6 Feb

Turn Us[ers] On

Us users are the Social Media

In his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the SanityAlan Cooper outlined his methodology, called Goal-Directed® design, based on the concept that software should help users move towards their ultimate goal, rather than ensnaring them in computer minutiae.

 

Cooper’s design methodology “humanized technology” with use of personas as practical interaction design tools to create high-tech products that address user’s needs.

Today, the concepts of interaction design strategy, usability, and the use of personas have been broadly adopted across the software industry and in technology product design education.

One of the offshoots of this methodology is a field called User eXperience Design (UXD) which have been, for years since Cooper’s book, a topic in conversations, discussions, and workshops across continents and assimilated in any and almost all the successful high technology products and platforms of service that run in a Web browser.

The Social Media needs a goal-directed design–not the visual and human-computer interaction aspects of it alone but a “contextual functionality” to the design of its use. In doing so, we can begin to see more of the use of Social Media as a Web platform for society with us as participants not lurkers and creators of content not mere users of it.

Most, if not all, of recent developments in Social Media are open. When it was launched in 2006, one of Twitter’s functionalities is an improvement in use of SMS (short message service/text messaging) that before were only used with mobile phones. Users who signed up eventually found different uses for short-messaging on a large scale with tweets. And Twitter as it is used now as a topic-based, community-grown media has found greater purpose.

The Social Media is not much about technology, it is about us.

A post about why there are stragglers from Social Media from my friend RVBello is an advocacy and a call to mainstream the “other half” into starting to use Social Media as a digital tool for the better. And Open Forum with a post from Yvonne DiVita aptly puts that Social Networks recreate the offline notions of neighborhood online.

While many mavens have adopted ways to manage and cope with the dizzying array of online social platforms, average users–non-users more so–may find themselves at the beginning of the curve in need of a 12-step social identity program. This may lead to increased demand from typical participants to have a more integrated and simplified social tool and an opportunity for platforms and companies alike to meet this demand.

Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group recently twitted betting that a growing requirement in Social Media is the ability to better manage online communities’ conversations. And vendors are fast sprouting to offer the integration, simplicity, and efficiency to manage distributed conversations in every part of our world.

The Web, with Websites as its manifest, will exponentially grow to serve as “digital hubs” or “online anchors” that integrate our social activity from many platforms. While further  integration may come soon fast, it can also be as quick for our mass of stragglers from Social Media.

Brian Solis encapsulates the task at hand in order to bring into the fold our digital “other half” in one of his latest posts An Audience with an Audience of Audiences:

“Our job now is to speak to and through the people in our audiences simultaneously. The goal of course is to spread information across social graphs and interest graphs. The cultural impact of new media is profound as it weaves a new fabric for how we connect and communicate with one another.

“As a digital society, we are ushering in an era where everyday people form a global network of self-empowered social intermediaries that accelerate and proliferate the reach and effect of information and experiences.

“We are no longer just part of the information consumption production process; we are evolving the system for learning and sharing through real-time signal repeaters that boost the reach of digitally transmitted messages – from your status update to the world in seconds.”

 

Stragglers from Social Media

6 Feb

Lt. Hiroo Onoda lived in the jungles of Lubang Island, Philippines for 29 years, 1945 to 1972, after the Japanese forces were defeated by the Allied Forces in World War II.  He was one of those Japanese soldiers, eventually called stragglers, that held on by living in isolation believing that the war is not yet over and deciding to resist. While I admire Lt. Onoda and compatriots for their heroism and loyalty, I still cannot understand why some people today similarly resist accepting the benefits of  social media and instead choose to remain disconnected from these important evolutions in communication.

I do not address this primarily at those who are commonly described as “laggards” in the adoption of new technology (see Albert’s previous post on this) but rather at  the ones  who continue to wave their so- called anonymity from the system as a badge of honor. They are so wrong. Because as someone once said, “the (r)evolution will happen, with or without us.”

Nothing is really mysterious about Social Media. All they truly offer are new channels to reach out to each other, and pretty efficient ones at that.  They allow us to be “heard” when before opinions have been drowned out by the powerful PR machinery.  We now have unprecedented access to a global audience that was invisible to us at one time. And most importantly, we can be the spark that was  Khaled Said that brought down a tyrant on his knees.

I suspect though that most stragglers from Social Media are not true luddites, but merely people who are uncertain where they need to start and are afraid to for ask help. (Some may even be driven by mis-information and unfounded fears) So reach out to someone if you can. All it takes is that first “Sign Up”  step to show them their way to a world of opportunities.

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