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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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Special Sauce #3: Be Yourself

11 Feb

I remember having to take personality tests in school. They were quite long. Even if I wanted to skew the responses to my favor,  it was quite hard to try to fake it. The maze of ipsative questions,  somehow made sure that I would sooner or later expose my true self and give away my thoughts.

Flash forward to 2011, social media sometimes has the makings of a literally humongous personality test. Like the test I talked about before, we are in some ways led to make ” forced choices”, or similarly, instant responses to the tweets or facebook posts we receive. Although we try to put our game face on, something freudian slips out eventually.

We all know that there are “tools’ available today to aggregate data across contents and contexts, so that an almost accurate profile of the “persona’ can be extracted. Well,  we don’t even have to utilize  sophisticated software sometimes because  a lot can be gleaned even from mere choices of words and punctuations.  Like excessive use of  “… ”  perhaps to indicate someone who must have lived through the 70s (*wink*)

My best advise therefore if we  envision a life in Social Media, would be to simply just be ourselves. This will include putting our best game face on, for even that is truly part of  who we are. But remember… sooner or later, no matter how hard we even try… our slip will show.

Peace… man.

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