I am currently working on a contract that involves, in part, discussing how and why certain social channels should be introduced to a company’s social profile, and it has got me to thinking.
There are myriad uses for social networks in business, and part of the beauty of social is how you can sculpt your social presence on the web to suit the goals of your business. However, I think it is worth remembering that as much as a brand might want to dictate how their social network will be used, the social space belongs to the fans and users, and they will interact with your brand however they see fit.
For the most part, or certainly in large part, that will probably be to publicly complain about products or service. I have certainly used social networks – particularly Twitter, for this purpose. Now there are several arguments that one can make, and a powerful one is, that a public complaint is nothing compared to a public rectifying of that complaint – that is definitely a powerful piece of PR. But what about those companies who don’t respond quickly or cleverly enough. If you have spent any time on Social Media courses, or at seminars or if you’ve done any amount of reading on the subject you will know of a few classic examples of organisations ignoring public outcry via social networks, very much to their detriment – Toyota anyone?
However, there is also the question of controlling how you use your social presence as a brand and deciding if you are going to stick to your guns, so to speak. If your Twitter account is solely promotional, or for PR announcements, or for competitions and you have gone out of your way to give it a non-conversational tone of voice and have actively not engaged, what do you do if a follower or fan want to use it otherwise? A certain National Airline recently, I am told, elected not to engage in any customer service activity via their Twitter account, as far as complaints management and so on goes, and soley use their twitter channel to broadcast. I believe they engage with followers but only in very specific relation to tweets they have put out. There is a caveat here – this is non researched hearsay, hence my choice not to name the brand, but you get the picture and there are plenty of brands out there who might consider this an appropriate approach to social network use.
In my humble opinion, this is unwise, as I think social media is, if not a total return to ‘the customer is always right’ - which we all know has long since been ignored in the high street and in call centres – but it is perhaps a more balanced approach to customer service and complaints handling. If a client or customer is unhappy enough to go public with their complaint, then handling it publicly is not only critical, as I mentioned before it can be highly rewarding. Some one somewhere has run the numbers on this, but I understand a publicly rectified complaint can raise brand sentiment almost exponentially with complainant and their followers and those of the brand.
Is there a danger of abuse? Probably. I think we all know there are malcontents out there who like to moan or manipulate in an effort to get attention or free kit. Having said that, I think you have to take the honest with the, shall we say, less honest. If a brand elects to venture into the social space, then to some degree they are invited guests and so have to play by the rules of that community. Even if that community forms around the brand, and the brand sets it’s house rules, within reason those rules will be dictated by the community. Brands should want this too! A self policing, self motivated and thriving community built around your brand that grows organically through conversation and engagement with your content should be the very least you aim for when venturing out in the social space waving a big old flag with your brand on it and very publicly asking for attention.
So, in a nutshell, I guess I am saying that as more and more brands ‘get social’ there will invariably be a push toward trying to manage the direction networks grow and development to suit brand needs. My advice is, don’t try and drive that. Definitely try and innovate, be original and exciting, and at risk of repeating one of the most overworked words in this business, be engaging, but don’t be a bully, don’t throw your weight around, just be a polite and charming guest and the crowd will come to you.
The infographic this week goes some way to supporting this post, except it is interesting to note that most of the users of Twitter ,in this poll anyway, don’t really give a damn about your PR plans or your Tone of Voice, they follow you to get discounts and free stuff. – What a surprise!
I read an interesting article this morning by Dr. Cynthia Boaz called ’14 propaganda techniques Fox “News” uses to brainwash Americans’, and as I was reading, one bit jumped out at me from within the body of the article – and while it’s related to what I want to write about today it was only a sub point of the article having said that, the whole article is well worth checking out.
Anyway, it was this: The average American spends around fifty hours a week consuming media. I don’t know the stats for the rest of the world and particularly for the UK but Boaz makes the point that even though people are more connected and are consuming more and more media, ever more immediately, across newer faster and better platforms, the majority of what is consumed is essentially crap.
Now, I don’t want to get into a debate about culture and intellectual snobbery and I don’t want to dis lol catz, but there does seem to be a bit of a race to the bottom when it comes to voracity of information and the boundaries of what is now considered accurate reportage.
At the same time, to para phrase Seth Godin, allowing ones self to think creatively and outside the box is made that much more ‘permissible’ in an age where facts are immediately available online.
So, to try and bring these two ideas to a lucid and relevant point . . .
We are ever more connected and since the dawn of time, when people have come together around camp fires and in village halls and in schools and parliaments and now in online communities, people have come together, not just for company and comfort, but to share knowledge and pass on culture. Now, in the digital age, we have the ability to share knowledge from an incredibly broad range of sources and cultures, and the democracy of the web allows such plurality of ideas that we should be entering new levels of enlightenment and peace and understanding and perhaps more importantly new levels of creativity and ideas.
Here I was about to write . . . “and we’re not!” though I don’t think thats true, I do think we can do better, I do think that social networks allow us an unprecedented opportunity. Not to just share knowledge about how to get the most of our brand, or how to perfect our SEO, but to talk about how we do things. I am not suggesting we should be discussing religion or politics or cultural identity (nor am I saying we shouldn’t) but I am suggesting that this opportunity to share knowledge should be encouraging us to be bold, to break out of the box and help one another to try radical new ideas, both in business and in our relationships, be they personal, professional or political.
Facebook helps us to share moments and tid-bits from our lives. Twitter allows to share our thoughts and things we find of interest, but I think, and I can only speak for myself, these tools also allow us to be a little lazy, they allow us a de-facto sense of ‘doing’ – when we need to truly practice what we preach, online and off.
So, in conclusion (how the hell am I going to wrap this up?) I suppose my point is this, perhaps we should be trying a little harder to break the rules, to try something new. Yes we should be establishing best practice for the way we use social networks within our companies and brands, but we shouldn’t be afraid to say, to hell with it, this a new frontier and there are no real rules. So we don’t box ourselves in by trying to set parameters and systems that become ‘industry standard’, or accepted best practice, but instead break new ground and do it better and more beautifully than ever before.
Thats what I’m saying, try something outrageous this week, it just might pay off.
I am spending some time in at one of Europe’s leading Social Media Management companies,Tempero, having a look t the ‘ hows and whys’ of social media moderation and management.
One thing has become very, very clear, early on – this is not as simple as saying; “Hey, I’ve set up my brand’s Facebook Page and Twitter account and released it into the wild and that’s my Social media strategy in place” – In fact, far, far from it.
Every brand or sub-brand – lets call them properties – every property requires some well planned and well considered set up time. You as a brand have to consider things such as brand identity, target audience and Tone of Voice for when you are posting content or responding to user/community comments. But that is more engagement, I want to talk about moderation for now. If your property has even a moderately large and moderately active community, then you are going to want, at minimum, some level of moderation. You’d be wise to invest in community management/account management (which invlove active engagement, insight and strategy) as well, but first things first.
Moderation, many will wrongly assume, is the censorship or removal of inappriopriate posts – easy, right? If someone is rude, biggoted, hateful or profane then you remove the post. “Well, damn, we can do that in house – we can get an intern to do that.” In fairness, while I am about to argue that moderation is a unique and not necessarily common skill, there may be, in some cases, a very strong argument for keeping it simple and keeping it in house. But moderation is not censorship. Moderation is exactly what the word means- to keep the community and it’s tone ‘moderate’ , balanced, fair, on message, within the rules, safe, and appropriate. That doesn’t mean censored and it shouldn’t imply automatic removal of negative feedback or sentiment. Just imagine you are going to bake a cake. Depending on the recipe, you are going to want to use the right ingredients, in the right measure and you will bake it for the right amount of time.
There are several types of moderation. Predominantly though – there is pre, post and reactive moderation.
Pre-moderation involves revue, assessment and approval/removal of all content by a moderator before the content is posted live to your community (it, as with other types of moderation, can also include the banning, temporary or permanent, of a poster/member).
There is also post moderation; the act of assessing, approving/removing content posted by the community after it has been posted, and at the moderators discretion (with an escalation plan in place – in fact, any form of moderation should have an escalation plan in place).
Also, there is reactive moderation. This is where content is moderated that has been flagged as inappropriate by the community itself or members thereof.
Now, that sounds relatively simple right? Again, depending on what platform or how many platforms you are using and having moderated, how busy they are, how much moderation you require – 24/7, 1 hour a day, 3 hours a week – it certainly shouldn’t be too daunting. If you have considered these things, then your are on the right track. You should also give thought to what territories you are going to publish to and in what languages, or if your community attracts a variety of languages, or has a particular or unique vernacular, or is politically or culturally sensitive – then you need moderators who understand the language or languages, the slang, context, acronyms and so on.
It’s getting a little more complex now, right? After all, are you, as the head of communications, or even a junior member of your team going to do the 2am – 3am shift for your subcontinental territories? Moderating the community that is enraged about your brand contravening a social more, and are you or your junior team member able to read, contextualise and moderate the comments in Hindi, Urdu and English? Ok, it’s an extreme example, but you aren’t leaving it to a graduate who thinks Pakistan and India are the same place, or Tamil Tigers are a kind of breakfast cereal, are you?
So that gives you an idea of how complex moderation can be – and I haven’t even touched on the legal pitfalls, that are very easily breached. The child/ceop/nspcc boundaries and guidelines that come into play, depending on your property and territory. I know that if I had pretty much anything beyond a web page, that had an active community, I’d be seeking advice at the very least, if not outsourcing my moderation. It’s worth mentioning, with outsourcing – I mean to a known and reputable social media moderating or management company – not to someone who is going to charge you and then secondarily outsource the work to a third party, who is perhaps offshore and culturally or brand inappropriate at half the price with no knowledge of the laws or guidelines. This is not to suggest that offshore services are, by defination not right for some brands – but remember, this is a tool of CRM.
So bear in mind, that social media, as it grows in popularity and broadens in its uses, is getting more and more attention from lawmakers and legislators, and the ease of entry might sometimes belie the legal and ethical dangers that await. Particularly for brands, that are bound by stricter standards than individuals – would there be the same response to the Ryan Giggs superinjunction twitter scandal if a branded twitter account (say another Premier League team) had revealed his identity and not individual users or a politician protected by parliamentary privilege?
Think about it before you launch your brand’s social media campaign – or if you already have, tread softly and exercise judgement – because while the medium is great, social media is an effective and incredibly powerful tool, but like a really nicely balanced hammer, it hurts like hell when you whack your thumb.
Now, I know I aluded to the difference between Community Management and Moderation – and there most certainly is a difference – however this infographic gives you an idea of some of the things both ‘Mods’ and ‘CMs’ have to either know, do, or be. It also serves as a bit of a teaser for my next post, which will most likely be on the subject of community management and active engagement. The infographic is courtesy of Get Satisfaction
By the way – I’ve added the Google +1 button here, so give it a tap for me if you liked the post.
The future is Social – at least that’s what everyone working in Social Media and digital is telling us, and if the following stats are to be believed from last nights Social Media London event – a presentation on How to Market Your Business with Social Media by David Taylor – then I would suggest that Social isn’t going anywhere.
Phew! Long sentence. Sorry.
So some statistics . . .
75% of FTSE 100 companies are on Twitter – active? Maybe/maybe not, using it well and maximising their reach and effectiveness? I don’t think they all are, but if the big boys are playing then surely these virtually free services should be adopted by small to medium enterprises, yesterday!
50% of the population of the planet are under 30 years of age! This I did not know – and it surprises me, scares the hell out of me and means that whatever ‘the kids’ are into – read Facebook & Twitter – then it’s going to stick.
Social Media has become the most popular online activity, it used to ‘viewing’ pornography - so social networking is pretty damn popular. I don’t want to sit here and just drop stats on you, but the point is that I think you’d be mad if you thought this was just a fad. Yet, I am lead to believe that a lot of middle and upper management types think that the people and departments looking after social are just fooling about on their laptops. Not all execs, just some, and everyone will come around eventually – my sister works for a global media agency where, about 5 years ago, they banned their staff from using Facebook. Things have changed there and are changing in a lot of places, but it’s fair to say that most organisations are a little behind the curve.
And not just large organisations – I have posted previously about how not everyone in my real world social circle are ‘Social’ and my folks are still pretty clumsy with Facebook – though since our wedding they have found the motivation to work out how to look at photo galleries. The thing is, like all ‘revolutions’ there are early adopters, leaders and then the general populace. The fastest growing demo of FB uptake are women aged 55 – 65, it’s just their time – everyone else is already there (1 in 12 of the world population – bearing in mind that FB is banned in China).
So, back to small to medium enterprises.
Social Media participation, marketing and reputation management is time consuming and labour intensive and for people who haven’t taken to it naturally, like all the social media types have – that talk SoMe 24/7, I include myself – it can be hard work.
There are myriad training courses, I am certainly still learning things – analytics particularly, but generally speaking there is a lot to learn and a lot to do to maintain your engagement with your audience/fans/clients etc. Ideally an SME operator could employ someone to take care of their business, but that costs money and the whole question of measurement of ROI then rears it’s ugly but particularly topical and relevant head. Who can afford that when running a small business, and how much is a Social Media Manager worth?
Then there is the question of who’s responsibility social is (here’s an interesting article on that very subject from Marketing Magazine) is it PR, Marketing, a stand alone department?
If you ask me it’s everyone’s responsibility and with a few key pointers and some good training I believe that within an organisation anyone should be able to represent the brand – after all, social moves so fast, there is no time to draft and approve responses – lets get real(time)!
So, I know this has been something of a rambling post, and I will get out of holiday head soon I promise. In the meantime here’s a quote from last night that I thought rang particularly true:
The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years time!
I think that sums it up, get social or get left behind – the web is social – 75% of Google users trust peer recommendations, where as only 14% trust ads!
People are talking about you and your brand, the good the bad and the ugly, are you listening and responding in an old school US V. THEM manner, or are you ready to spend the time to talk to your clients and fans regardless of whether they are praising you or complaining?
I blame Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears, well not Britney, Kevin Federline – I don’t know who started it really, but the forceful smashing together of two words to form another is bad enough with proper nouns, but when you start to do it with verbs and adjectives and so on then it just gets ugly.
That’s right Jlo and Kfed and Brangelina – I’m talking about you guys…well no, I’m talking about Mumpreneurs and the Twitterverse.
Now, I’m not saying that this is all bad, and if you look through my posts (go on – have a look) there is proabably evidence of some of these ‘terms’ – all I’m saying is, it’s not a competition to see how many words we can cross breed.
Do you remember that scene in Aliens or Alien 3 (I can’t remember) where Ripley’s DNA is being cross bred with that of the Aliens and some of them haven’t quite worked out – Thats how I feel about some of these terms.
Ok, Blogosphere is ok, it makes sense, it tells us something but lets not over use it. (I feel like this is one of the first ones of these so it has the advantage of being in the vernacular).
Tweeps is ok, if you think Peeps is ok, and I guess, depending on my mood, I sometimes do.
I was having coffee the other day with a couple of social media heavy hitters and we got onto this subject during the conversation – hence this post. A few terms that came up that really caused eyes to roll, one of which was Mumpreneurs. I mean, I get it and I get the whole ‘Mummy Blogger’ thing but I just think Mumpreneur is a really messy half alien half Ripley in a tank.
Now, Gamification (and this is one I have used – and probably will again), this is the new kid on the block, as far as I know. It makes sense, the word serves a purpose, it describes something that is happening, I’m just saying lets not go crazy, and lets not gamify everything – can’t appreciate a sunny day if never rains – how will we know whats fun if there’s no work?
The things is, this social media thing is all about conversation, and communication. If we bastardise words, and become so efficient at brevity that language loses it’s innate beauty, then by default, the conversation becomes rather dull. I know it’s the content of the conversation that really matters, but when the conversation itself is a thing of beauty and rythm and cadence then the content is raised up onto another level.
I’m trying to say, in a rather inelegant way, that just because we all write now, be it in an SMS, a Tweet, a status update or a blog post, doesn’t mean it has to be a race to the middle. Words are beautiful and are made even more beautiful when treated with respect and arranged in manner where they complement one another as opposed to being abbreviated, cross pollinated and masticated into an ugly mess.
A lot of content on the web has been called a triumph of mediocrity, and I can see why – a well produced piece of video content isn’t easy, not everybody can write or perform amazing music, but it’s great that the web allows everybody to have a go. Sometimes low-fi is what’s called for (I know it’s trend know in video and content – I heard someone say the other day that low production values look honest… I’m not going to get into that now except to say that there’s a lot of room between say Sneezing Panda and Inception) and the accessibility of the web is a cause for celebration. The fact that everyone who wants to, more or less, can write whatever they want and publish is a triumph of the modern age…
Let’s just not forget that in the twitterverse you tweeps can’t gamify the microblogosphere in order to drive traffic toward your Mumprenuer sight so that you can join the Twitterati!
By the way, do you think Zuckerberg knew what he was doing when he named it FaceBook – not much you can do with that one.
Keep writing people, it’s free and it’s beautiful. Please add your favorite or least favorit mashedup terms in the comments – I am sure there are tons I have missed.
Now in the name of consistency, here’s a infographic (jeez – is ‘infographic’ one?), I couldn’t find anything remotely related, so I thought this might amuse you on a Friday afternoon when the weather is amazing.
Have an amazing weekend and don’t forget to post your favourite Social Media terms . .