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Aside from Facebook? Talk talk and talk!

2014 will be a year of challenges for Facebook business pages.

It had to happen eventually.

The platform’s been available publicly since 2006. There are a billion users – almost 13 million in Australia.  Facebook page management is professionalised. There are multiple ways to learn more about Facebook from online courses to university lectures. Every day more brands are creating a Facebook page. The newsfeed is an incredibly competitive space to appear in.

Facebook.com/PrakkyCom

If you read about social media much at all, you would have come across articles about Facebook’s so-called change of algorithm and drive toward boosting its bottom line; a new era of “no free lunch”. You might also have read about Facebook’s desire to show less memes and ‘more relevant news’.

Justin Lafferty recently proclaimed “Anyone remotely serious about utilising Facebook as a marketing channel will need to accept that paid (post boosting in this case) will become the norm”

Mashable reported that “after Facebook tweaked its News Feed algorithm earlier this year, companies and their social media marketers had to watch as years of work were undermined seemingly overnight.”

And Business Insider recently wrote “Facebook brand pages are suddenly getting a lot less traffic, and it’s threatening the entire social media marketing industry.”

What does it mean for Facebook page owners?

Good social media consultants counsel their clients not to put all their eggs into the Facebook basket. In fact, don’t put all your eggs into the social media basket.

One of my first questions to clients is: do you have a communications strategy?

I have a PR background and so your wider comms strategy is of enormous interest to me. There’s so much that can be attained through other methods and channels. I firmly believe that Facebook pages can be great for maintaining a higher profile, opening up to two-way conversations, being available to customers and more. A lot of your stakeholders would expect you to be there. But it takes dedicated resources, creativity and now – more dollars – to have your stories appear in your fans’ feeds.

So please don’t forget methods including:

  • Traditional media or mainstream media (MSM). A lot of your customers, stakeholders, partners and peers read newspapers (online too) and listen to the radio. Build your media networks. Be available and generous with your expertise and commentary. Become that ‘go to’ person for your industry.
  • Events. I mean everything from launches and parties, through to boardroom lunches or networking coffee meetings. Bring people together in real life, build warm relationships and get to know them. You’ll find there are remarkable results if you do this regularly and strategically.
  • Enewsletters. They can still work. Not all of your stakeholders want to hear from you via Facebook or other social platforms. Some will prefer an email and they will read it. Make sure your content is targeted and high quality and useful.  Using a tool like MailChimp will help you keep on the right side of spam legislation and serve up neat metrics.

Ensure you have an overarching communication strategy and be ready to talk to people about your business in all sorts of forums using all sorts of methods.

NewspaperTalk talk and talk!

If you don’t like talking, have someone in your business who does.

  • Be the leader in your industry
  • Be interesting and be interested in others
  • Be a good networker in the old sense of networking
  • Social media will support the stories and content and networking you produce naturally

Don’t beat your head against the wall trying to get Likes and engagement

Take a breath: how to deal with customer complaints on social media

No business owner likes customer complaints.

But a public complaint on social media? That can have a larger impact – and it can feel so much worse.

Customers with smartphones: sharing coverage of your venue
Customers with smartphones: sharing coverage of your venue

Yesterday I came across a story about a Sydney café owner and the colourful response to a complaint posted on the business’s Facebook page.

The customer’s complaint was six words; the response from the business was lengthy, fluctuating between reasonable and vitriolic, and full of emotion. It shared some frustrations about running a business and lashed out at customers who don’t take the time to share their feedback directly with venues while they’re there.

I don’t want to dwell on this one example of social media argy-bargy, but offer some broad tips when it comes to dealing with published customer complaints. These tips may seem like commonsense, but they’re very important especially in the heat of the moment when you may be feeling incensed.

Tips for dealing with complaints on social media:

  1. Take a breath.
  2. Don’t respond immediately. You may regret what you publish.
  3. Write a draft response first – on paper or in a Word document or whatever – but not on the platform. You might even want to write a mock angry response to let your emotions out. You might want to show your draft response to a colleague or friend or partner.
  4. Think of it in context. What platform did it appear on, and where? On a Facebook Page for example, one fan-initiated comment does not get sent to all fans of your page – it appears in the Recent Posts by Others panel (see below). You may be the only person who ever reads it. Was it a complaint directly tweeted to you? How many followers does that person have, and was the tweet phrased so it would reach them or just you?
  5. How you respond will reflect on you perhaps more than the original complaint. Be diplomatic, generous, interested and tactful.
  6. If the customer is wrong, diplomatically put forward your side of the story. Don’t be afraid to correct them – nicely. They might have confused you with another business, they might have published incorrect pricing or menu details for example. But be succinct. If you find yourself ranting about supplier prices, your employees, the state of the economy … it is definitely time to stop typing.

 

The 'recent posts by others' panel on a Facebook business page
The ‘recent posts by others’ panel on a Facebook business page

Also remember:

  • This happens to a lot of organisations. It’s the social world we’re dealing with. It’s not just you. In your personal life, you probably value other people’s reviews and recommendations.
  • An occasional bad review can lend more veracity to your good reviews  – there’s balance on your page and you’re clearly not censoring or stacking feedback.
  • Other people will look at the overall context of published reviews on your social media accounts – and they will make up their own minds. One of the things they’ll take into account is how you’ve responded to complaints in the past.
  • Most people can spot unreasonable gripes and whingers. They’ll be on your side – just make sure to keep them there by demonstrating your empathetic customer service skills.

Have you ever had someone complain about you online? How did you deal with it?

How long should it take you to respond to a customer query?

Customer service is undoubtedly burgeoning via social media channels.

It gives me a thrill to see the great levels of online help being provided on Twitter, Facebook and in other forums by banks, airlines, telecommunication companies and more. These organisations have lauded social media as an integral part of their customer service efforts. In fact, when social media is used to address customer queries, you have the chance to help hundreds or thousands of others at once, rather than the traditional one-on-one service offered by telephone and email.

When you use social media to serve customers and interact with the general public, one very important question arises: how long should it take for you to respond?

I was interested to see Kissmetrics develop an infographic capturing research on this very topic. You can see that infographic below:

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
Why do Companies with Great Customer Service Succeed?
Source: Why do Companies with Great Customer Service Succeed?

With any organisation, customer service response times may differ. We also see some organisations outline their approach – eg, they will tell Twitter or Facebook audiences that they only respond between 9am and 5pm Monday to Fridays.

I know I’ve occasionally been disappointed to wait for several days to get a response from some brands online in particular when they’re larger brands with a dedicated social media team. Yet can we realistically expect a quick, 24/7 service? Is it asking too much?

We all have different expectations. What are yours?

Two tips for personal branding + social media

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged on this before.

I often get asked to speak about personal branding, I’ve given a few university lectures on the topic and also include it in my individual coaching sessions.

So here goes …

 For some of you, personal branding + social media may sound like bullsh*t.

The concept doesn’t suit everyone. Millions of social media users are happy to be online to chat to family and friends, be entertained, and keep up with the news. You don’t care how the rest of the world sees you – you are who you are. You might even have an alter ego online, or some sort of anonymous account.

But if you’re using social media to support your personal career and/or your business, it’s worth applying some branding principles to what you do.

Use social media to remind people what you do
Use social media to remind people what you do

Social media tools can support your career by helping you find potential employers, customers and project partners. Using spaces like Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and online forums, you can create a name for yourself as an expert or leading commentator in your field.

This is particularly so if you consider social tools to be your personal newspaper / chat show / opinion column / town hall meeting. Today you don’t need to rely on the mainstream press for some publicity or being invited to speak at a conference. Done well, you can use your social media accounts to be your conduit to the wider world. (Note: gaining coverage in the mainstream media and being invited to speak at conferences are two potential outcomes of having a good social media profile).

Here’s two things to consider in your approach:

1. Define your communication goals

  • These usually support your business goals. Remind yourself, what are you in the business of?
  • Who’s your target customer or audience member?
  • What do you want to be known for? They are your key messages.
  • Write down your comms goals and then how you’re going to support this with social media.

For example: Imagine you’re Mr Fred and you create gorgeous letterboxes. Make sure you say just that in your bio: “I’m Mr Fred. I create gorgeous letterboxes”. A bio that says “Cat lover, #Qanda fan, can’t stomach coffee” may be fun, but it’s not doing your business goals any favours. Share lots of photos of letterboxes. Write a blog about bad letterboxes. Find sensational letterbox images for your background design on social networks. Find other people who write about letterboxes. You might talk about lots of other things online: your day, your garden, your new staff, community events. But a large percentage of what you write should be about letterboxes, to remind people of what you’re about.

Sounds simple, right? Yet I still see a lot of business accounts lose their way. And you don’t want to turn into Mr Fred who’s tweeting about politics or the AFL continually, when he originally embarked on using social to promote his letterbox business.

[Another teeny tip: look back over your profiles occasionally and see what you’ve been sharing overall. Are you spruiking too much? Looking spammy? Banging on about the same thing too much? Have you been too quiet?]

2. Consider how to represent yourself

Look at yourself as if you’re Pepsi or Mercedes Benz or Google or the World Wildlife Fund. Develop a brand image and try to maintain some consistency. On social networks, consider:

  • Your profile image – a consistent image across networks will help build your brand recognition
  • The words you use in your social network bios
  • The type of content you share and the language you use
  • Who you associate with (follow, retweets, conversations, re-blogs and so on)

It wouldn’t have escaped your notice that I am my product, and I use my image not only on this blog (and a large one!) but across all my platforms, most of them being the same image or very similar.

How you represent yourself visually can have a big impact on whether people engage with you. The more you share, the more reassuring your accounts are.

Take the two examples below. Which Twitter profile would you prefer to follow?

Twitter account Example 1
Twitter account Example 1
Twitter account Example 2
Twitter account Example 2

Any questions  or tips of your own?

You can invite me to present at your next team training day or conference. Topics can include personal branding right through to ‘how to use LinkedIn’ and more. Email admin @prakky.com.au

6 things I dig about Hootsuite

This is a Social Media 101 post

I can still recall the day I started using Hootsuite.

It was late 2009 and I was working for the South Australian Tourism Commission. I was Digital Content Manager at that time, mainly charged with editing websitesand managing a database team. But I also had the opportunity to venture onto social media channels. Those were the sparkly days when the state government wasn’t overly aware or concerned about how social media might be used or abused.

Hootsuite
Hootsuite

I’d been using Twitter for a few of our tourism entities – mostly events including the cycling race, the Tour Down Under. And the bulk of that work was of course via twitter.com

Then I read about a new social media dashboard which could help draw in several Twitter accounts. Published reviews looked good. I signed up to take a peek. Then I asked my colleague David Pyatt (@digitaldavo) to give it a whirl and tell me what he thought.

I’ve been using Hootsuite ever since. Clearly, I like it.

Why Hootsuite?

  1. The display in Hootsuite is more useful and efficient than the display you see in Twitter.com on PC. Hootsuite has columns you can scroll across, and you can tailor and set up these columns to suit you. At one glance, you can see your home feeds (newsfeed), mentions (replies), sent tweets , DMs and sent DMs. You can add streams for almost whatever you like: search terms, hashtags, a particular Twitter account. This is starkly different to Twitter.com, where you need to click and refresh to see your replies (Connect), your DMs and so on. This different display in Hootsuite is immensely useful.
  2.  Hootsuite enables you to draw in more social networks than Twitter alone (thought that’s the platform I find it most useful for). You can manage Facebook, LinkedIn, G+ and more via Hootsuite. Beware however that the more you do within Hootsuite, the more likely you need to go beyond the free model and begin to pay.
  3. You can schedule posts in Hootsuite. That’s handy when you have news or links you want to share at a particular time, or want to resend a regular message. You can also schedule posts to go out to platforms like LinkedIn!
  4. You can shorten your links in Hootsuite (though I must say I still use bit.ly for this)
  5. If you take up a Pro or Enterprise account on Hootsuite, you can assign team members to the account and Hootsuite keeps track of ‘who replied’ so you can track team involvement.
  6. Hootsuite provides analytics. At the free level, this is just basic, but at Pro and Enterprise you can run more advanced reports to track for example your Twitter or LinkedIn performance.

Hootsuite has other features; the list above contains the stand-out reasons for why I’ve been using it for so long.

See the Hootsuite clip below, which has a good overview of the platform:

p.s. Hootsuite has apps for smartphones and tablets, too.

Are you a Hootsuite user – or will you try it now?

Dude! Where’s my plain language?

 There’s lots of reasons to like Don Watson.

My main reason? He’s a great writer. He’s well known for being speechwriter to former Australian PM Paul Keating (and wrote a marvellous book on Keating called Confessions of a Bleeding Heart). He’s also the author of two books much-loved in my circles: Weasel Words (Contemporary Clichés, Cant & Management Jargon) and Death Sentence (The Decay of Public Language).

The overriding point that Watson makes in those two volumes is this –  governments and corporations often uses tricky language designed more to hide information from us than enlighten us. Have some fun watching the short Don Watson YouTube clip below:

Don Watson books
Don Watson books

I was reminded of this again recently when my youngest son brought home a notice from his school which advised parents of a narrative incursion opportunity’.

I had to scratch my head over that headline.  Turns out the clues were in the following paragraphs. The notice was about an author visiting the school, not an impending invasion where the school expected us to climb some barricades waving paperbacks in the air.

It’s not the first time the school has used education department-speak which forces the reader to wade through thick obfuscation to decipher what’s being said. It’s language that excludes and frustrates me immensely (as my Facebook friends will recall).

Given all of this, I’m heartened when I see government social media accounts that leap over this obfuscation and use everyday words. A well-known example of this was the Census 2011 Twitter account, famed for its ability to make its data interesting. In digestible tweets, it shared updates like these:

Census 2011 Tweet
Census 2011 Tweet

And it’s kept up the good work with this recent tweet  (referencing a reality TV show you may or may not have seen):

Census 2011 tweet - in 2013
Census 2011 tweet – in 2013

Some government accounts make pop culture references or talk ‘in our lingo’ in a light-hearted way that brings their messages home:

SAPOL tweet
SAPOL tweet

Some reference song lyrics:

SA Gov tweet
SA Gov tweet
Qld Police Facebook post
Qld Police Facebook post

Others remind us they’re human:

Qld Police tweet
Qld Police tweet

You’ll have noticed that many of these ‘plain language’ or fun posts come from police social media accounts. Why is that?

Here’s some guesses: Police need to work closely with the public. They need our help and want to have good relationships with us. Hence they try to use warm or funny phrases when they can. No doubt this was difficult in the early days of their social media accounts. Some agency members would have been nervous about taking this route. But it’s paying off, in my opinion.

In my 2003 edition of Death Sentence Watson writes:

“All elegance and gravity has gone from public language, and all its light-footed potential to intrigue, delight and stimulate our hearts and minds.”

I’d like to see more social media accounts that delight and stimulate us.  And I think it’s vital that government agencies do. That is, if getting the message through to us matters. And perhaps that’s where the problem lies …

New digital resolutions

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, this post is all about “social media resolutions” – or what we can do to improve our digital experience in 2013.

(So, to be clear. This post isn’t about resolving to see your parents more, to stop eating sugar, to tidy your room, stop reading Who magazine, to start watching Lateline, to grow all your own herbs, to learn to scuba, to learn to mosaic and to learn to speak Spanish. All admirable as they may be.)

I asked my Facebook community what their digital resolutions are. Their ideas included:

  • Using social media more efficiently: ie not checking their sites so often, and not allowing social media to be a big distraction
  • Shifting more focus to Google Plus
  • Auditing privacy settings and terms of use
  • Developing a new website
  • Developing a new blog / focus more on blogs
  • Giving up on Facebook ads

See the full comments and context on the Prakky Facebook Page. If you have time up your sleeve, it’s a good idea to sit back and think about how you use social media. It is taking up too much of your time? Are you enjoying it? Are there elements that annoy you? Is there a social media tool you’ve been meaning to use or a community that you’ve been meaning  to set up? Now could be the time to address this. As with any resolutions, it’s wise not to have an overwhelming long list that’s difficult to implement. Keep it simple or prioritise with the most important up top. I’ve created some mock digital plans below, which you might use.

Plan  one: Facebook quick n easy

  1. Check your Facebook  profile’s privacy settings. Go to your profile page. Click ‘view as’ and see how the rest of the world (non Facebook friends) sees your status updates and photographs. Don’t like what you see? Head to your privacy settings and make adjustments.
  2. Consider your Facebook friends. Is it time to lose a few friends, or go out scouting for more? Take a look at your Friends list (bottom left Facebook menu). Don’t be afraid to unfriend people.

 

See 'view as' under your Facebook cover image to see how others' see your profile.
See ‘view as’ under your Facebook cover image to see how others’ see your profile.

Plan two: Twitter promises

  1. Set up Twitter Lists. This helps you sift through the Twitterverse and avoid missing tweets from accounts that are important to you. Have for example a Friends list, a Clients list, a Media list and so on. Whatever hobby you have, put together a list for relevant accounts.
  2. Every time you’re spammed, report and block that Twitter account.
  3. Check your Twitter Favourites list. Is it time to unfavourite some tweets you had saved, or do they still apply?
  4. Try using a different Twitter phone app, to see what they offer and what might suit you best.  There’s the native Twitter app, but also Tweetbot, Tweetcaster, Echofon and Hootsuite.
  5. Look for a regular Twitter hashtag to participate in. This can help you find interesting tweeters to connect to.
Experiment with a new Twitter app, like Tweetcaster
Experiment with a new Twitter app, like Tweetcaster

Plan three: Do more

  1. Look at a service like IFTTT (if this, then that) to do things like saving all your Instagram photos to Dropbox, sending a Facebook update to Tumblr, post a daily cartoon strip to your Facebook and so on.  There are ‘recipes’ to browse or you can build your own automated actions.
  2. Audit your Facebook business page from the point of view of a stranger. Is it easy to immediately understand what you offer? Can people easily contact you? Does the cover image or description need a refresh?
  3. Audit your LinkedIn profile. Is there more you can add? Is it time to ask for fresh recommendations? Do you need to eliminate some jargon from your descriptions?
  4. Join a new group. Explore LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Google Plus Communities and online forums. Introduce yourself, browse previous discussions, answer questions and participate. If the group doesn’t appear to offer anything of value – after a month or so – leave it.
  5. Look at all of your profile photographs across your social media accounts. Do they need updating? A new year, a new wrinkle?😉
  6. Read, comment on, and like more blog posts. (This is one that I’m doing). Get outside of your own blog and acknowledge and remark on others.  Be a better blogcitizen.
  7. Assess your RSS feed. Are there things you need to unsubscribe from? Are there blogs or sites you should add?
  8. Write down two sites or tools you’ve always meant to try but haven’t had time for. This might include Quora, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Path, Branch or the new MySpace. Sign up, find friends or interesting topics. Participate heavily for a week or so, then assess your experience and consider whether you want to continue to use it.
Prakky's Pinterest
Prakky’s Pinterest

Of course, not all of your ‘digital life’ involves social media.

Your digital resolutions may also include improving your data back-up routine and password protection habits. You might decide to use email differently, switching off instant notifications, setting up folders and better auto signatures and more. You might change your hardware. Again, write a list of what’s been annoying you and what you want to achieve more efficiently. Adelaide Tech Guy and Packet Networks have lots of ideas for this field.

What are your plans for your digital life in 2013?

Socia media: It’s all in the approach

Why do you use social media?

What do you want to gain from your social media platform? What’s the ROI?

What's your approach to social media?
What’s your approach to social media?

What can Facebook or Twitter or GooglePlus do to raise your profile? How can you use Instagram or Pinterest or Tumblr to get people to notice your brand and increase sales?

These are some of the questions I often hear revolving around the social media space. And  I’ve often discussed these with clients.

But what if they’re the wrong questions? 

We often approach social media wearing our marketing, promotions or sales hats. But it’s wise for brands and organisations to remind themselves of the role that social media plays in people’s lives.

We know  that people:

  • are spending increasing amounts of time on social media while traditional media consumption (as in newspaper circulation and free-to-air television viewing) is diminishing in the face of massive competition and choice
  • can easily take to social media to support causes, encourage activism, complain about brands and customer experiences and demand change
  • can be newsbreakers, first on the scene to broadcast observations or photographs

Anyone with a social media account can be a ‘citizen journalist’, thought leader and influencer. It’s incredibly exciting and unpredictable and inspiring. And that’s why social media is so compelling and of interest to brands and organisations.

Social media platforms represent an unprecedented opportunity for organisations to listen to the community. Social media is rich with public opinion, conversation, feedback, ideas and inspiration.

Make sure that you’re not always approaching social media with your Promotions Hat on. When you’re trying to ‘make a case for using social media’, listening is a good way to start. It’s simply good business if you:

  • listen to what your stakeholders / customers / community is saying
  • listen to what’s happening in your industry
  • listen to what your competitors are saying

Of course, we know that not all of your stakeholders are on social media. Maybe a lot of the conversation  is locked away in spaces you can’t access. But themes and issues relevant to you will rise on mainstream networks from time to time.

If you’re not even aware of how to use social media, if you don’t have your own accounts to enable you to listen, your own access and gateways … then you’ll be a long way behind.

Social media: the new Complaints Department

Once upon a time, companies entered the social media universe hoping to talk about their terrific products and to find thousands of new customers.

They placed their shiny new social media channels in the hands of eager (and perhaps nervous) marketing and communications teams. And they started working on lots of happy content to share.

What they failed to recognise – and this is still evolving – is that many members of the public didn’t see social media engagement in the same way.

For many consumers, social media is the new complaints department.

And no matter what type of good news you share, your organisation may find that some responses you get from the community are negative, critical, angry, aggressive and off topic.

Related reading: PR and social media – cousins in conscience

In Australia, perhaps one of the sectors which has rolled with this more than others is the telecommunications industry. After all, it is one of those industries which historically “can’t please all of the people all of the time” and has long devoted substantial resources to its customer service centres.

So we see now that companies like Vodafone and Telstra have spent some years in Facebook and Twitter and are taking a somewhat more mature and measured approach to social media than many.

I was interested to see that both Vodafone and Telstra have a ‘customer service’  Twitter account and a separate company Twitter account that provides news and product updates. So in this way, they’ve separated customer service and marketing (though of course both accounts will get varying interactions from the community). This separates the tweeters who are interested only in ‘online help’ and those who want to be in touch with company news and marketing. (I searched the Optus presence on Twitter and it would appear it only maintains one Twitter account. Correct me if you find another.)

@telstra_news on Twitter
@telstra_news on Twitter

If you’re a newcomer to social media, you might look at the telcos Twitter accounts and be aghast at the tweets they’re receiving. After all, it looks like a long list of frustrated complaints and bad publicity. But if you consider that this is occurring for all major telcos you realise they’re on a level playing field.

And after all, we know that telcos get complaints. As do the banks. As do airlines.

What matters is how these companies respond – and this is where they can set themselves apart and even ‘win back’ disgruntled customers.

@vodafoneau_help Twitter account
@vodafoneau_help Twitter account

(Additionally, when a customer complains about a telco online publicly, it provides an opportunity for a competitor to step in and tweet an offer to entice that customer away).

These complaints used to be billed as ‘social media crises’ but we’re growing up now and recognise that they’re not the end of the world. Today, they’re a business reality.

Related reading: Coles and other social media crises I’ve met

This post is focusing on your day-to-day service complaints. But we know that corporations experience much more than this online today. Many public posts demand that corporations make a change to the way they behave. I’ll be writing about this – and Corporate Social Responsibility – in my next post.

This post is based on a section of the presentation I gave to Marketing Week #MICON in Adelaide last week. You can find the Storify summary here.

Footnote: I had a chat with Jason from the Optus social media team and I really appreciated his time. Optus does in fact also have an @optusbusiness and @optus_careers Twitter account, but the main community interaction is via @Optus as I outlined above. Jason says they put a lot of time and effort into the social environment and what they do is always evolving, but the focus is very firmly on support and help.

@Optus on Twitter
@Optus on Twitter

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