How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want

Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.

No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.

This wound up being a good thing, because:

The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.

> Read more about the “special needs passengers stranded by Alaska Airlines” incident

> Another great PR turnaround story:  FedEx responds after delivery guy caught on video throwing computer equipment over a fence

This post isn’t about Alaska Airlines—it’s about the other guys

I’m pleased to see more and more stories about companies turning customer complaints into positive publicity. But this post is for the other guys, anyone who isn’t sure they have the right attitude, either individually or organizationally, to handle all customer criticism in a positive way.

Poster child for the other guys: Continue reading “How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want”

Are marketers becoming more like drivers and less like spectators?

This morning I had coffee with Tejas Dixit of Market Dialogues who showed me Junction, his new SaaS social media management solution.

Junction is designed to help small and medium sized businesses plan, execute, and manage their social media initiatives effectively. Unlike many social media management solutions which offer publishing to social media accounts, monitoring conversations, and analytics as independent solutions, or as siloed components, Junction tightly integrates and dashboards all three.

I’ve noticed that a major stumbling block of many social media management solutions is that the feedback they offer about the success (or lack thereof) of social media efforts can be difficult to act on. Even when publishing, monitoring, and analytics are available under the same login, the gap between action and feedback can be wide enough to leave a major hurdle in the path of social media marketers. Meanwhile, the level of complexity conveyed by analytics tools can leave marketers, and the people they are accountable to, bewildered.

Continue reading “Are marketers becoming more like drivers and less like spectators?”

Machiavellian boyscouts get more influence in social business

It’s not just courteous and kind to help little old ladies cross the street: it pays.

Last month I attended an excellent presentation concerning social media analytics and ROI by the esteemed Chuck Hemann, Director of Analytics for WCG, sponsored by the Social Media Club of Seattle. Chuck made an important point about social media influence that I want to share with you.

Both quantity and quality are important for social influence

On one particular slide Chuck showed us an image of Edelman Digital VP Michael Brito accompanied by a few bullet points scoping out his social media influence. At the sight of this slide the standing-room-only crowd murmured approvingly. More than 30,000 folks, myself included, follow @britopian on Twitter. He’s a well known thought leader and published author in the social business realm.

Chuck’s next slide showed a sweet looking woman wearing a straw hat with a flower on it—Chuck’s mom. She has around 1300 Twitter followers: very respectable…but she’s no @britopian, at least at first glance.

Flower power: social influence means talk gardening to gardeners Question: Given the choice, would you rather have @britopian or @susanhemann tweeting about your brand? Answer: It depends what your message is.

In Chuck’s hypothetical, your message is about gardening. You’re trying to influence people who are into gardening and have personal networks of like-minded people. Low and behold, Chuck’s mom is a well-established gardening Twitter personality and blogger. Many of her 1300+ Twitter followers are, presumably, rabid, over-the-top gardeners and gardening influencers. So naturally the person you want tweeting about you is Chuck’s mom.

Not that there’s anything shabby about Michael Brito or his followers, thank you very much. But they’re not focused on gardening. Yours is not a high Continue reading “Machiavellian boyscouts get more influence in social business”

Confusion over the meaning of ROI in social media

You say tomato, I say tomahto….

Here’s a quick vocabulary lesson I’ve learned about social media ROI (“return on investment”), a topic I’ve been writing a lot about lately. In a nutshell: ROI means different things to different people, so it pays to be specific when you are talking about it.

3 ways we fool ourselves with social media metrics

This is part three of a series of posts about using social media metrics.

This is not the porn industry here, kids, and this is not about buying a house… SIZE DOESN’T MATTER!

– Steve Olenski, Too Many Social Media Marketers Still Believe Size Matters

An optical illusion: our brains add information that isn't there.
Would you believe the squares labeled “A” and “B” are identical shades of gray? Click the image for proof. (Developed by Edward H. Adelson of MIT.)

Don’t worry, it’s normal (statistically speaking) for people to fool themselves with statistics. So normal, in fact, that the fields of psychology and statistics can tell you exactly where things go wrong. Read on to find out how you and your organization can avoid being fooled by the Fundamental Attribution Error, Sampling Biases, and Information Cascade when you are evaluating social media metrics.

But first, what are we being fooled to believe? People would like to believe that more social media followers are better, more comments are better, more shares are better, etc. This might be, but isn’t necessarily, true. In fact the opposite may be true. Sometimes less is more. Consider the following hypotheticals, based loosely on real world examples:

Ignore social media metrics: what to focus on instead

This is the second in a series of posts about why I advise certain clients to adopt a “dynamic brochure” social media strategy, focusing on publishing, active listening, and measuring “pulse” without attempting to meet numerical goals for metrics such as “likes”, comments, shares, page views, Klout score, etc.

You can read part one here. In this part I discuss the benefits of a dynamic brochure strategy. In part three I’ll discuss false assumptions about the relationship between social media activity volume and ROI. And in a future post I’ll circle back to how social media ROI can be measured effectively, and some of the frameworks that can be used to measure it.

If you can’t connect social media investment to revenue generation, aka calculate ROI for social media, how does a social media  program help you? Let me count the ways. But first, a new metaphor. In part one of this series you were a rock star. This time you are a rock star’s stalker. You want to get to know a rock star online — really, really get to know a rock star online — what are you going to do? You’ll take a spin through all of that rock star’s (brand’s) web properties, gathering information, and saving or sharing the tasty bits with like-minded friends.

In real life (which for most of us means not being rock stars or having stalkers), who’s going to take this information gathering approach?

  • Prospective customers evaluating your offerings, either before or after hearing about you from other sources.
  • Current customers, and other brand fans, who want to share information about you (referrals).
  • Customers and brand fans just checking in to keep up with the brand.
  • Journalists and bloggers considering the brand for a story.
  • Conference organizers considering your people for speaking positions.
  • Potential employees, either before or after contact with your recruiters.
  • Current employees staying connected to the company, or sharing information with potential customers or Continue reading “Ignore social media metrics: what to focus on instead”

Want popularity in social media? Start with the primal urges.

A recent conversation with the founder of a newly-launched company seeking to catch a wave of social media buzz inspired me to create a video post for the Audienz Blog entitled The Masolovian Solution for Social Media Audience Building. The idea is that Maslow’s list of basic human needs can be used to help you spot the images and stories that are going to attract and engage your social media followers. Check it out, and please give me your feedback!

Social media highlights from the Seattle Interactive Conference 2011

As a followup to my post from a couple of weeks ago, 9 timely social media and brand communication insights from SIC 2011, I put together a quick video blog post featuring just the social media highlights from last month’s Seattle Interactive Conference. I apologize in advance for the primitive tech quality, but try to think of it like pie crust, it’s better when it’s home made and looks it, right?

Here’s the video with my explanatory post on the Audienz blog, 5 social media insights from the 2011 Seattle Interactive Conference, and here’s just the video itself on YouTube:

[Updated on February 2, 2012]

Social media tactics are transforming corporate knowledge management

New tools are putting the collaboration into “collaboration software” by creating a social media-inspired user experience for Enterprise knowledge management. But it’s taken a long time to get here.

Old school collaboration: floppy-net and shared drives

Bruce WilsonUntil around ten years ago, when people talked about using software for “collaboration” in an Enterprise setting they usually meant transferring files point-to-point by email or handing off a diskette, aka “floppy-net” (or worse, by passing paper that would require re-typing). Advanced collaboration involved establishing shared “network drives” where documents could be stored in folders accessible to everyone on the local network. But under this “system” for collaboration, even when people devoted a significant amount of time to maintaining document repositories it could be difficult for others to find useful documents, or even know whether useful documents existed in the first place. Labeling was limited, document sets might be incomplete or out of date, authors, owners, or other contextual information might be unclear. Much like the internet before Google-quality search, folks could spend a lot of time browsing without getting any payoff.

The New York Public Library

Such collaboration systems are still quite common even though they aren’t very efficient because of the way that they rely on limited personal connections, memories and attention spans. In such a system the best strategy when hunting for a document is to ask around to try to figure out who might know where to find useful documents. People asked for help – if they have time – try to remember what documents are available, then either hunt through the repository themselves or point towards likely places to look. This system obviously doesn’t scale very well because there is a linear relationship between the number of documents being managed and the time and expertise required to manage them. Emails sent by people seeking help finding information can become a significant burden, particularly in the inboxes of the most knowledgeable or best connected. And because managing documents in this system is relatively time consuming and unrewarding, most people have little incentive to use or contribute to document management. Countless document repositories under this model suffered from neglect or abandonment simply because they were so impractical. And unless a critical mass of use and contribution is achieved, the appearance that a repository is abandoned or neglected in turn reduces the incentive of new or returning community member to participate. Instead people would rationally choose to “reinvent the wheel”, recreating documents or processes from scratch simply because the barriers to finding out whether what they need already exists are too high.

SharePoint and other web-like Information Management solutions

The rise of the internet has helped propel Enterprise collaboration forward, thanks in part to a new generation of internet-inspired collaboration software exemplified by Microsoft’s SharePoint. Sharepoint offers features such as alerts, discussion boards, document libraries, categorization, shared workspaces, forms and surveys, personal pages and profiles, and the ability to pull in and display information from data sources outside of SharePoint itself, including the internet (“web parts”).  Access controls have also evolved, enabling people to have access to the files and directories that pertain to them, while limiting access to others. Meanwhile data storage capacity has exploded, costs have plummeted, and access speed has rocketed. Naturally, for most organizations the volume of documents being managed has ballooned exponentially. But we still need to ask: have knowledge management and collaboration scaled in proportion to the volume of information that is available and could be useful if more people could get their hands on it?

Notwithstanding features like Enterprise search, notifications, and improved metadata, many information management hubs are, in effect, still data silos where information is safe and organized but inconvenient to explore and share. In truth, despite powerful automated solutions now available, effective collaboration is still largely dependent on the quality of user participation.

Adoption and Engagement

Two key elements of effective collaboration are adoption, which corresponds to the percentage of team members who are able to use the system, and engagement, which corresponds to how many of them use the system regularly.

For a collaboration system to be effective it must maintain a critical mass of active users or risk becoming ignored and thus irrelevant. There’s a chicken and egg relationship here. A collaboration system must achieve and maintain a critical mass of adoption and engagement to be self-sustaining. Few people are going to adopt and engage if nothing of value is happening on the system because not enough other people have adopted and engaged. To attract this level of participation the experience should be easy (low frustration), useful (practical results are usually obtained), and emotionally rewarding (users experience satisfaction or even enjoy using it). Otherwise a collaboration system risks turning into a quiet information cul de sac no matter how impressive its technology.

Enter social media

Lessons learned from the social media phenomenon – examining the virtual footprints of the hundreds of millions of people using Facebook – are radically enhancing Enterprise knowledge management by promoting ease of use, practical results, and emotional gratification within collaboration systems. To get more information about this development I recently met with J. B. Holston, CEO of NewsGator, whose Social Sites solution adds Facebook-like features to SharePoint. Available for only 3-1/2 years, Social Sites’ committed customers already include Accenture, Novartis, Biogen, Edelman, and Deloitte, among others.

The basic idea behind Social Sites (my take, not necessarily J. B.’s) is that SharePoint users experience less frustration, find better quality material, and receive more emotional gratification when their SharePoint experience is more like Facebook. And because a social media approach to collaboration is both useful and gratifying, more people use the collaboration system – adoption increases – and they use it more often for more purposes – engagement increases. Teams get more done while having more fun. Additional benefits of a social media overlay on top of a standard SharePoint install is that it to draws attention to and promotes increased use of available resources and encourages users to find out about and experiment with collaboration options they weren’t using before, which may convert them into more valuable collaborators themselves.

Social Sites extends the functionality of SharePoint in a number of respects. The first generation of Social Sites added features including:

  • marking and tagging items;
  • providing custom streams of their “friends” activity updates (imagine keeping up with important developments with key people down the hall, in other regions or departments as they happen);
  • making it easier to move content in and out of SharePoint; and
  • making it easy for people to connect with the people who posted specific items with a single click.

The latest generation of Social Sites offers even more features (70 webparts in all are available), such as:

  • “liking”;
  • comment;
  • ratings;
  • idea development (“ideation”);
  • wikis;
  • threaded conversations;
  • bookmarks;
  • feeds;
  • the ability to follow people and events;
  • automatic updates when specific things of interest happen;
  • the ability to ask questions;
  • the ability to make requests; and
  • the ability to pass word along about things that are happening.

An open API makes it possible to customize activity streams open to groups of users that is also accessible from mobile devices. Social Sites also lends itself to community management and governance.

As icing on the cake, Newsgator also offers iPhone and iPad applications for Social Sites to enable everywhere, all of the time mobile interaction with SharePoint (including Social Sites social media features), completing the Facebook-like user experience.

For companies already using SharePoint, Social Sites allows them to upgrade their team’s collaborative performance without fundamentally reengineering their current knowledge management systems. For example the way information is stored and structured and integrations like workflows can be preserved. They can also avoid the costs of migration, retraining employees on new systems, or hiring specialists to manage the new systems. On the flip side, to the extent that Social Sites upgrades SharePoint to make it competitive with, or superior to, other collaboration options, the combination improves SharePoint’s attractiveness to companies considering swicthing over from competing knowledge management solutions. Finally, customers who seek to make this level of interaction widely available within their organizations may buy even more SharePoint licenses and invest in more customization.

Special thanks to J.B. Holston @jholston and Jim Benson @ourfounder for many of the ideas and information that found their way into this post.