Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Do you remember your first time? That toe-dipping moment when you tested the waters of social media? Perhaps you watched from the shallow end to start with, learning by observing some of the ‘big fish’.  The question is – have you looked back since to evaluate your progress and maturity?

Whether you’re still progressing up the pool and wearing armbands or fully immersed in the deep end and performing the equivalent of backflips and tricks each day, you should still review yourself regularly, because nobody is an Olympic performer all the time.    It was at a Comms2Point0 event earlier this year when I inadvertently found myself revisiting the moment I’d lost my corporate Twirginity. Having brought some examples of my social media use on the council’s main feed to stimulate discussions, I was showing a fellow comms officer I’d just met how we’d dealt with our first pothole report, when it struck me that I’d perhaps do certain aspects of it differently, were it to come in today as opposed to 2009.

The speed of response, for a start, demonstrated how differently we prioritised things back then (we’re talking days and days here, not hours!). Then there was the fact that the resident informed us he’d geotagged the pothole’s location, something we’d never even considered. Our customers were clearly ahead of us.  It was also interesting to see how my general style and tone of voice has evolved since then (I’ve previously written a separate blog here on the new social media language we should all be using).

I’ve always been a trumpeter of how important evaluation is in completing the circle of comms planning and self-evaluation – and social media should be no different. With it being perhaps our most speedily-used, short, sharp tool, do we spend enough time reviewing things to ensure continuous improvement? If you’ve empowered others in your authority to post, are they being reflective too, or receiving advice from you?

There are many ways you can do this, but here’s three tools I use to monitor myself at the moment:

  1. www.allmytweets.net – have an enlightening trip down memory lane to look back at every tweet you’ve ever posted and see what you learn about yourself. Perhaps seeing them all together will help you realise you use a certain phrase too much, always seem to post long or short messages only, rarely start with a friendly greeting or simply how far you’ve come.
  2. http://timehop.com – this one works across various social media platforms and will send you a daily email of the posts you made exactly one year ago!  A fascinating look at ‘last year you’ to start your day.
  3. Try www.twittaquitta.com or www.twitquit.co.uk for a daily snapshot not just of who has started following you but, crucially, who and how many have UNfollowed you.  Now we know it’s not all about the numbers, but by tracking those who leave you each day, you’ll soon establish a baseline of what’s normal (and then you can try to improve it) and, if that number suddenly increases one day, you can look back on what you tweeted in the last 24 hours and ask yourself whether it somehow caused so many to jump ship.

Self-scrutiny isn’t easy, but such evaluation could prove to be your essential life raft, keeping you afloat in such a big pool, helping you to dive deeper and ensure your social media life goes swimmingly!

Look out for my next blog which will be about my Granny, the web and what’s happening to the generation gap…

Don’t fear the difficult questions on social media – in fact, go looking for them!

When you start a social media account, you’re probably hoping all will go pleasantly and that you’ll receive nothing but nice comments and compliments. If you do, you’re either running the most perfect, flawless business in the world or, more likely, you’re not engaging with your customers fully enough.

Chatting to people at a couple of social media events recently, it appears – quite understandably – that the biggest barrier to going for it with such online engagement is the fear of receiving criticism and difficult questions.  However, is it really so different to all your other comms planning?  If you’re putting out a statement, or someone up for a radio or TV interview, you’ll hopefully be presenting an honest set of key messages, even if these are sometimes tough for people to hear. Likewise if one of the risks you’ve identified is, for example, that people will think that you’re just doing it to save money, you should WANT the show’s host to accuse you of that, so you can put him and all the viewers right.

Social media is no different, except it gives you the chance to learn what negative things people are thinking – and address them head-on.

By not only dealing with complaints and those with the harder-to-handle queries, but actually seeking them out, you’ll find yourself correcting misconceptions about you that you never knew existed, taking part in healthy debates which will help you learn about your customers’ needs and views, and gaining respect among those watching on for your upfront honesty.

Generally speaking, you’ll get four types of negative customer posting on your page:

1. Miss Informed and Mister Point

This person has received duff information or they’ve misunderstood. They are expressing an incorrect view which he or she has either misinterpreted from somewhere or it’s a commonly held myth. But they are pleasant, open-minded people and upon your correction, they – and potentially many others – go away happily enlightened.

2. Dee Bater

This person is venting their frustration at something they believe to be true and is up for a healthy debate about it. They are of a nature which can be calmed down and talked around in part, whilst not necessarily admitting this online. They may end up still not fully convinced by your response, but think more of you for taking part in the discussion with them, and may even say so. This conversation lasts a little longer and they go away appreciating, if not fully agreeing with, your view.

3. The Impenetrable Irate

This person won’t be dissuaded from their view, no matter what you say. They may turn nasty and force you to take the conversation offline.  However, the debate was still worth having in public – others watching on may be more convinced by your view or it may help you to realise that you need to make a change to an aspect of your business due to its public perception.

4. Richard Right

This person, is quite simply, correct in what they say. Their complaint is entirely justified. They may express it in a calm and constructive way or come in full guns blazing – but the response should be the same… an apology followed by a promise to put it right. This may pacify them or they may continue their anger online. If it’s the latter, draw a line under the public conversation and steer them either into private messaging or your existing complaints procedure. Some onlookers will admire your honesty and determination to sort it.  Yes, of course others will think worse of you and it will have damaged your brand – but don’t blame that on social media – if you didn’t have the account, it would have happened anyway, either on social media but without you being there to answer it, or in the pub instead.

Richard Right and indeed all the above characters want an outlet to express their view and more people are turning to social media for that outlet.  Brilliant – you can see it and deal with it there.  Far better than hearing ad hoc that people are generally saying negative things behind your back and you can’t reach all those exposed to it to put your view across.  Far, far better than never knowing your customers even had these negative views, so you never have a chance to win them back.

So don’t shy away from having an account in case you get negative remarks to deal with.  Yet, even when you have an account, go one step further. Go looking for people saying bad things about you!  On Twitter for example, they might not choose to say it directly to you, so relying on them messaging @OldshireBoroughCouncil is not enough. Add search columns in TweetDeck for “Oldshire Borough Council” and “Oldshire Council” and “OBC”.

You’ll be surprised at what you find – knowledge of what people are saying about you is power.  It will influence your proactive comms, it will help shape your services, it will help you form direct relationships with your customers and manage your reputation on a more personal level whilst influencing many people at the same time… and of course you’ll find people saying plenty of great stuff, too!

In my next blog soon: Do You Remember The First Time?  How did you lose your Twirginty and what have you learnt since?

Companies, brands and local government having a presence in the social world is, on the face of it, like inviting your Granny to a rave.  It’s two separate worlds where collars meet chatters, daytime intrudes on playtime and the well-spoken face the outspoken.

We now know that, despite this apparent oxymoron, there’s room for us on Twitter, Facebook and so on – but only if we get the language just right… it needs to be personal but with a decent tinge of professional remaining.  It needs to be Personfessional – the new social media language for businesses.

For example, in the online social world – even if you’re speaking to the very same person – a letter to them saying “Dear Mr Simpson, thank you for your recent correspondence…” becomes “Hi there @SimmoRocks, just picked up your Tweet…”.  People want to talk to people on social media, personality to personality, relaxed language to relaxed language.

However, can you as a brand take that too far?  Of course.  People still need to respect your business and have the impression that it’s run by competent individuals.  Social media provides the incredible opportunity of making a better connection with your customers by showing that you’re down to earth and have a human face, but if you overdo it you could be losing credibility.

If someone sends you a message along the lines of “What a bloody crap service, you *$%*s kept me waiting over an hour yesterday 😦 ”, would you reply likewise with “Holy shit dude, we proper f*cked up there, didn’t we? :-D”  Would you casually send out a random link to some entirely unrelated website that you’ve “spent the morning browsing and thought you’d like to see”, giving the impression you’re not getting on with the day job? Would you tell your customers how drunk you got last night and that you’re therefore running the business with a hangover today?

You can still do ‘personality’ without losing professional structure to your messages.  Take this example from a local authority Highways department. The first is what the road engineers might naturally say if they were being professional.  The second is the Communications Team running it through their Personfessional Social Translator.

Site audits following significant variations in RSTs mean work is being rolled out across structures on the primary carriageway network to cost-effectively conduct culvert rehabilitation and abutment realignment. Each shall commence at 0900 hours under full road closures. Despite moterist’s complaints, 2-way lights would slow the job up againt the target framwork.

Keeping you safe out there on the roads is our top priority, so we’ve been busy bees checking out the condition of our bridges and water channels. After that tough winter which sent half of us into hibernation, we’ve found quite a few in need of repair. To keep you and the workers safe, we’ll need to close each road as we go, but we’ll wait until 9am when the rush hour’s passed. Do let us know if you have any questions though – and post pics to us of any you think we’ve missed!

It’s error-free, jargon-free, interactive, upbeat and friendly but still gets all the key messages across in a trustworthy way.  It finds the right balance – but take it too far and it might say:

We’ve found some buggered bridges and we know what we’re doing, despite some idiots moaning about it. The road will be closed until they’re fixed and it’s just tough! FFS, knackered, can’t be doing with this today ;-p

So it’s simply about getting the tone and content’s balance just right.

Do you speak Personfessionally?

If you’ve got any examples, either good or bad, of social conversation language, it would be great to see them!  Seen any that were way too professional? How personal have you managed to go?

This Personfessional Graphic illustrates the language balance we need to find as brands or businesses on social media.

It can’t be every day that Paddy McGuinness and his lightbulbs are used to illustrate how to experiment on social media whilst keeping your audience. In fact this may be a weird world-first.

On the one side – whilst there’s little in the online social world which can be classed as ‘old’ quite yet – it is soon to become an old, established fact that your sheer number of friends, followers or likes aren’t necessarily representative of success. I could have an account with hundreds of fans, regularly amassing loads of HotCrystalXXXs, Ben Dovers and my mate’s Mum who has 2 Followers, whilst a rival feed has far fewer, but they are all people in the target audience who are influential and with many Followers of their own to spread your word to.

However, what Paddy’s dating gameshow Take Me Out demonstrates is that, although you should of course still keep an eye on who and how many people are interested in you, it’s the numbers who UNfriend or UNfollow you which require close strategic scrutiny.

Imagine your current fanbase are the contestants on the show, each giving you a chance to show who you are and what you can do, each watching – each with their light on. In time, you perhaps lose one or two after they realise you aren’t quite as they’d thought, but things tick along nicely.

Or perhaps you’re not doing as well as you’d hoped and want to improve the connection between you and your prospective partners.

Either way, experimenting with your feed is good – try new things, show new sides to yourself, express your brand’s social media personality in a more personal and creative way, fluff your feathers, keep the romance alive.

What do your audience think about you on each day that you try your new tactic or launch a new product in a certain way? Do you really monitor your numbers that closely to know what might have turned certain groups off and what might be keeping them turned on with every post?

On Facebook, try the native Xtrackerapp to keep a close eye on those who choose to pack their bags and leave you – and exactly when they did so. You can also monitor Unlikes and Unsubscribes via Facebook Insights.  Perform keyword searches using variations of your company name within SocialMention or columns on TweetDeck – seeing what people are saying about you out there could give you some really useful clues.

On Twitter, TweetEffect really breaks things down to help you pin down where you’re going wrong; it displays your most recent 200 tweets and notes next to them how your follower numbers changed after each (just make sure you’re logged in to your Twitter account in another window). Tools such as the excellent TwittaQuitta will email you daily updates of who followed you in the last 24 hours and – more crucially – who stopped following you. You can use it to establish an average base rate of how many you to tend to lose and gain each day.

Then, on the big date when you chose to run an attempted humourous competition, participated in a public argument with someone, upped your Tweet-rate or didn’t Tweet at all, did that base-rate change? Did many more people than usual turn off their lights because they no-likey what they saw of you that day or week? Or did they keep their lights on, showing you their love?

If some lights were turned off, were they the people you admire as potential suitors for your business or some also-rans whose presence added no real value to your account anyway?

Either way, you now know whether to repeat the experiment, change your message-rate, tone or pulling tactics etc.

Sorted – you’re off to Fernandos. Let the Face see the Book, let the Twitter see the bird!

In next Tuesday’s post, I invent a name for the evolving social language we should all be using now…

Unfortunately for Mr Darcy at the turn of the 19th century, he wasn’t on Twitter.

He didn’t even have a smartphone. Well-to-do gents in the early 1800s were probably packing a Nokia 3210 with Snake and three polyphonic ringtones instead. If that generation had pulled their fingers out and got some social media apps happening, rather than spending their days walking really slowly around gardens and writing letters with feathers, Darcy might not have been quite so in the dark when Wickham started spreading bad stories about him.

His tall tales went viral – Elizabeth Bennet effectively retweeted Wickham’s wicked words to her sisters as they sat and sipped tea and again to her friends as they danced and dined at social occasions. Darcy’s reputation was being lowered all over town – and wrongly so – yet Darcy himself knew nothing about it for ages.

Thankfully, businesses, brands and local authorities today can metaphorically join the tea-party table wearing an invisibility cloak to hear the gossip and they can be present at every social event as a fly on the wall.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every single brand in possession of good public standing must be in want of a Twitter account.

That way, you can listen to what people are saying – good or bad – learn and act accordingly. However, if your business provides gardening services in Pemberley for example, don’t just sit back and wait for the questions and complaints to come in via mention of your @collinsgrassltd profile. Wickham didn’t pick up his quill and send a copy of his criticisms directly to Darcy. You also need to set up keyword searches which are likely to capture the intelligence – people talking ABOUT you or your general field.

Use Twitter, or columns in Seesmic, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, to add terms like “collins grass” and “collins grass limited” to find people telling their friends “Hey, that damn Collins Grass Limited don’t tidy up after themselves.” Your staff normally do, so reply and offer to sort the issue! That conversation could have spread and spiralled without your input, putting prospective customers off. Now you have a chance to nip it in the bud and even turn it around.

Also, trying the two-word string of “gardening” AND “Pemberley” will let you know if people in the area are saying “Argh, can’t find a gardening service in Pemberley anywhere! Anyone know of any?” Yes – you do! So reply and tell them! How much does such lead generation USUALLY cost you?

Tools such as Twitterfall will also stream live and local mentions of any key words or phrases that you choose, immediately as they are posted. No need to wait for someone to tip you off by telegram or the arrival of a third cousin on a horse-drawn carriage.

Whether you are there, listening everywhere on social media or not, people WILL be talking about you. So be there.

If there’s predjudice about your business, Twitter keyword searches can help you restore your pride.

Look out for my next blog post coming soon.  It’s going to involve Paddy McGuinness off the telly.