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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.

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.

“Always-Never” Business Rules of Social Media [Marketing]

19 Feb

taxi-drivers-wanted-morten-gade-flickr (19Feb2011)

We need more taxi drivers for social media | Flickr | Morten Gade

Using social media is like running a taxi company. Far an analogy it may seem, understanding how bus companies operate will define why businesses and organizations today may not be getting the desired return on the investments they made or about to make with social media marketing.

Stephan H. Haeckel’s book, Adaptive Enterprise, outlines how bus companies are make-and-sell businesses. Based on commuter volume, buses run day after day along the same thoroughfares and pick up passengers on the same stops. Company dispatchers decide what routes the buses will take, instruct drivers where to stop, how long a stop will take, and schedule the bus runs for the day.

Bus drivers do not even need to know where their passengers are going. In fact, they do not need passengers at all to do their jobs well. They merely have to drive the bus on time safely along the same route every day.

An efficient taxi company shares the characteristics of a business that uses social media. Taxi drivers go where they can pick up passengers, bring them to their destinations, and likely take the fastest route skirting traffic to get to where he is instructed by the passenger to go.

A taxi company dispatches its drivers to customer-moving capabilities. The drivers then respond to customer requests thus they are empowered to fulfill those requests.

Unlike bus drivers, taxi drivers need to know information about what the passenger need—the “I need to be at the central business district in half an hour for a meeting”—then only will the driver put his knowledge about the fastest route to take and practice his driving skills to be able to meet the customer’s need.

Possibly during the 30-minute ride, passenger and driver may even strike a conversation about what matters to both of them. The taxi driver and his taxi company then operate as a sense-and-respond entity—not only meeting the particular customer need but also starting a relationship with the passenger.

Day after tomorrow the same passenger might likely call on the same taxi company, even request for the same taxi driver.

Where do the bus and taxi companies and their drivers point us to?

Business paradigms and processes need to shift with use of social media.

In the early days of the Web, it was—as it still is now with some organizations—seen as a medium where once printed materials such as books were digitized, they were good to deliver online to an audience who would read the materials in a browser. It was literally transposing leafing through book pages with a hyperlink. Or uploading a digital copy of a book to an online  retail bookstore, placed on a shelf where the book will wait to be viewed and checked out by a customer.

Publishers, writers, editors, book designers, art and print production people, and all the way to the entire value chain of distribution and marketing still practice the same analog workflow and do not adopt business processes that will offer them improvements and desired outcomes going digital and online and social.

The same is true with television as a broadcast medium. When the first regularly scheduled television service in the U.S. began in 1928, there was but one channel. Several TV broadcast experiments were simultaneously being done toward the end of that decade. Most of these programs were voice-oriented radio broadcasts or showing of motion picture films that mimicked theater plays.

No more can be gleaned from how we are using social media in its infantile stages today. In a previous post RVBello postulated that media marketing dominates the channels of communication and forgets about all that matters about using social technologies.

The Social Media Business Rules

What then should we always and never repeat from our history of using communication and information technologies?

“Always-Never” Business Rule #1: Social media is a marketer’s activity. Findings from the 2011 Digital Marketing Outlook Survey conducted in late 2010 by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) and AnswerLab show that we are at first instance enamored with tools, outlets, and platforms to use. None, if not few of the respondents, placed a premium on any other aspect of business but marketing communication and technology.

Digital Media Marketing Outlook Survey Responses about use of social media tools

In this one survey question about use of social media tools, the most important aspect of going social–investments in people, our taxi drivers, and business processes with aid of technologies, our taxi units–were not on the radar screens of brand marketers, agencies, and technologists.

People within business companies or organizations are the key driving force in employing social media.

What gives? Are we to see a pathway for social media where while we talk social, we factor less our taxi drivers?

The next “always-never” business rules in succeeding posts.

Memo to Esperanza Spalding

15 Feb

I had wanted to call this blog post, “Social Media Beats Radio S**t”, but was prevailed upon by my daughter from performing online seppuku from all the irate Justin Bieber fans who are bound to descend on this blog with their devastating loss at the Grammy Awards last night.

Yes, if you still don’t know yet; all-time favorite Justin Bieber lost to mega talented but virtually unknown jazz singer/ bassist, Esperanza Spalding for the much-coveted “Best New Artist” category at the Grammys. But while Esperanza truly deserved the recognition more than anything; this post is not really about arguing musical tastes or hair styles but about the immediacy and power (no matter how misplaced) of Social Media, particularly Twitter in this instance.

Here is a sampling from the MTV “Clutch” Blog just a few hours after the Grammys ended:

“For a little while last night, Esperanza Spalding was given the middle name “Quesadilla” on her Wikipedia page by, presumably, a disappointed Justin Bieber fan. To the surprise of many, Spalding won the Grammy award for Best New Artist at last night’s ceremony. Justin himself handled the loss gracefully, but not so for the angry Wikipedia updater who added this to Spalding’s entry: “Recently, she won the best new artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards JUSTIN BIEBER DESERVED IT GO DIE IN A HOLE. WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWAY?”

Lovely, right? That person is not alone in his or her disappointment, though. Much of the outpouring of dismay has been a little less vulgar (not all), but equally insane. Here’s a sample:

+ “Wtf is a Esperanza Spalding?” @PoeticMotionsz

+ “Her name is Esperanza Spalding. That’s like…a Disney Princess and a basketball. But congrats to her.” @kingsleyy

+ who the hell its Esperanza Spalding? -.-. u dont deserve that award b**** -.- @EspeSpalding sucks -.- @Allyitshere

+ “Congratulations to Esperanza Spalding for winning Best New Artist, I will now google your name to find out who you are.” @BeliebInTheBest

+ “Esperanza Spalding shouldn’t have won no one knows her, another b**** we have to google. Drake or Justin should have won.” @Maryam_9

+ “Esperanza Spalding said she was surprised she won Best New Artist “‘because I’d never heard of me.'” @BorowitzReport

Whether you agree or not with the badly-vented spleens of Tweens who worship his Bieberness, social media is here to stay and Esperanza better have a platform of her own to present her case. The good news is today more people, who seem to recognize real talent, were on Twitter to defend our “Best New Artist”.

The only real problem is that Esperanza said, in a recent CNN interview, that she even does not have an email account yet because she prefers receiving “manually written” communication (notwithstanding the presence of a unverified @EspeSpalding twitter account). Well, somebody in the artist management department better do something fast, because Social Life is here to stay.

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.

Social Media [Must] Leave No One Behind

4 Feb

In my daily amassing, digesting, making sense, and finding practical everyday uses of  information and communication technologies, I stumbled upon a graph called “Technology Adoption Life Cycle”.

The graph merely shows how many of us acquire the habit of using a new tool. Any new tool is not all the time useful and there will always be groups of people who will entirely miss–as a choice–using it until the next wave of tools arrive.

But what if the tool is useful and pervasive? What if the tool fulfills us and helps us do things better and subsequently help us to help others?

The Web with Social Media is one such tool. Its use is as basic as everyday human interaction. But the dizzying array of platforms makes the decision-making paths to just start using the tool sound like preparing for a thesis. When a tool has a barrier to adoption, most would say, “Don’t bother!”

But what is communication?  Communicating is an intrinsic right. It is expression. It is as human as human we can be.

The Social Media [remember, the use of it as tool to communicate] has been phenomenally growing in importance and steadily breaking down barriers to communication, allowing people to connect, engage and share in a more informal way. Individuals can now leverage the power and popularity of social media to be their own [Me]dia.

For the “early majority”, “late majority”, and “laggards” (not flattering labels!) to adopt technologies, communication technologies especially, the only question to ask to find out why adoption is slow with the “other half”  is to know what could motivate or make such groups embrace use of social media as staple as food.

Gutenberg’s press, which started the literacy revolution, wasn’t picked up by the mass of citizens of the world during the renaissance centuries. It took still another hundred years that books were available even for those who cannot afford to have one.

What took hundreds of years to mature adoption of books and be pervasive was a mere decade and a half for the next stages of today’s revolution–information and communication.

It is not too late.

Why you should (and not) consider Social Media, in a next post. Stay tuned!


Data Is The New Scent: How The Internet Sees You

1 Feb

On the Internet, we leave a trail of scent faster than we can ever imagine: data. With ~ 600 million users today, activity on Facebook alone is staggering.

  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.

The vast amounts of data we create and transfer across the world’s networks in a day is more than we are able to count humanity.

We leave our data droppings–our Internet footprints–in social network and media sites, cloud services, and yes even when we use our location-aware mobile devices.

This tapestry of droppings is aggregated into information objects.  And information objects stitched together becomes content. Presented with the same information, people derive different meanings, their own meaning .  Here lies the crux: data turned into information isn’t valuable content for everyone.

For content to be useful and meaningful, it has to have context. Our context. A context for our community. A context for our society. A context about what we care about.

Who else would care?

Try and find out about your online scent. Here is how the Internet sees you.

Welcome Friend!

31 Jan

Welcome to http://wherethesauce.wordpress.com. If you got here, you are indeed a friend. And I do not use that word lightly, for I know we do share some affinity. Online or offline friend, the difference these days has been somewhat blurred. (Although my longer-lasting associations, like with “Mr. C”  above, have been forged by a common interest and taste, pun intended). But then, it’s enough that you got here. Let me offer you some water to drink and a space to rest. To refresh, rejuvenate or simply to pick-up something you need on your way to your own journey. You are always welcome back anytime my friend. And I pray we meet again. Namaste!

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