Posts tagged ‘customer relations’

September 14, 2011

Don’t make anonymous online posts, you drunks!

Do you ever get frustrated when you come across a posting that you passionately agree, or disagree, with and want to find out more about the poster, but you can’t? The problem doesn’t lie with your research skills, it lies with the fact that the post was made anonymously. Now, because that person used a pseudonym, and didn’t enter any additional information, it is almost impossible to find out more about that user to establish credibility, connect with them socially, or follow-up on other related topics.

I can just picture this “anonymous” person sitting behind the keyboard thinking “I don’t want the whole world to know my name” or “why would I ever want to add a ‘profile picture'” or “I’m not telling you who I am: what if my boss see this?” But this person goes ahead and shares his/her opinion thinking that “the world NEEDS to hear my opinion!”

If you don’t tie your individual comments back to your own personality, it’s very difficult to establish credibility on the subject you are commenting about. Without credibility, comments and subsequent replies have the tendency to turn into a virtual bar-room shouting match rather than a productive conversation between opinion leaders, experts, industry, educators, students (I use the term students to include anybody wanting to learn more about a topic), etc.

In my view, anonymous posts not only provide the ideal conditions for people to aggressively (offensively) broadcast their opinion and pick fights, but also they effectively stifle the conversation by polluting it with a lot of words with little substance.

A lot of academic research was conducted around the turn of the millennium (1997-2003) on anonymous postings on the internet. Most of the research suggested that this anonymity is a good thing and should be protected – after all it was the “natural state of the internet”, they thought. But this was over a decade ago, and things have changed.

The biggest change is the introduction of social networks. Many of these networks require users to provide a real name to participate (Google+) or to get the best value out of the service (Facebook). Now, the “natural state of the internet” is a place where many of our accounts are linked, creating a consistent online footprint that aggregates and tracks much of the content we have generated or interacted with. If I am intrigued by a comment you make, I can usually follow a series of links and get a general understanding of who you are, which helps contextualize your comments and posts.

Another significant change is that “online worlds” and “offline worlds” are now so interconnected that they can be considered one, and not two separate places. Instead of splitting our personalities into several different performances based on work, home, family, friends, online, and offline, we are recognizing that who we are in one element of our lives should be reflected in others.

Current research paints a very different picture from the research conducted just a decade ago. In a recent study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, researchers concluded that the thrill people get when making anonymous online postings can lead to impaired judgement similar to that experienced by those who get a kick out of abusing their power or are intoxicated by alcohol. This mask of anonymity lowers the users’ inhibitions, ulitmatly encouraging them to pay less attention to social norms, and act more impulsively.

Here’s a brief overview from the Kellogg School of Management’s news release:

“When people lose their inhibitions — from being drunk, powerful, or acting anonymously — there can be significant behavioral consequences. In effect, disinhibition can both reveal and shape the person, as contradictory as that may sound…[this] disinhibition can lead to behavior more consistent with one’s true underlying motives or dispositions…”

These researchers stop short of saying that we should eliminate anonymous postings, but that is exactly what I’m suggesting. Let’s get rid of the option to post anonymously and ensure that all content is properly attributed to the content creator. We would then be able to view all comments, discussions, blogs, and posts in a context related to the users’ experiences, employment, education, post history, and so on. Reducing, or eliminating, these “impaired” comments would enhance our online experience.

If you have an opinion you feel strongly about, why not have it attributed to you? What are you worried about? Let’s take responsibility and stand behind what we say online and offline – If you’re not willing to share your name, don’t bother sharing your opinion.

Now the question is over to you.…Should we work towards eliminating anonymous postings? Or is it something that should be preserved as it is vital to your internet experience?

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September 1, 2011

Seller Beware: What your business needs to know about Social Coupons and Community Buying [Interview]

One of the best take-aways from the Social Capital Conference this summer was the connection I made with Vivian Chang, Owner of BlendCreations.com (contemporary jewelry designers). Vivian had used a series of social coupons to drive business development, and I wanted the dirt. Of course, the main reason she decided to offer a social coupon for BlendCreations.com was to attract new customers, but it turns out that there are some other unexpected results you should think about if you are considering offering a social coupon for your business.

Vivian agreed to a quick interview to dive a little deeper into her social coupon experiment. During our conversation, she touches upon the quality of customer these sites attract, having to honour expired coupons, tips for other businesses considering social coupons, and more. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

Q1 – What was the perceived benefit, and actual outcome, of offering a social coupon?

The perceived benefit was reaching a large, new customer base in cities where we had never had much exposure. While this was true — we did get an increase in traffic from the targeted cities — the resulting number of sales was disappointing. In hindsight, it’s not surprising because our product is quite niche. Remember, not everyone in the Groupon customer base will be interested in your product.

Q2 – Tell me the worst part about offering a social coupon?

Getting the less-than-ideal customer. This would be someone who is a bargain hunter, who has saved up enough referral money to spend the minimum value on your deal. These people often have no intention of buying again. By using ‘referral money’ (the kickbacks that many social coupon sites give customers for referring others), it further devalues the perceived value of our product.

Q3 – Was there anything unexpected that other business owners should know?

It’s easily overlooked, but in Canada gift certificates cannot expire. So a social coupon is essentially selling a discounted gift certificate — it has a monetary value that the customer has purchased. Once the social coupon has expired, the deal price is no longer valid, but the customer is still entitled to use their coupon for the amount they paid. In other words, if the coupon was $10 for $20 worth of merchandise, once the coupon expires, the customer can still use their coupon for $10 worth of merchandise. In that sense, you still have to deal with honouring expired coupons.

Q4 – Would you do it again?

While our experience was “okay” — we did not lose money in doing social coupons — we have decided not to continue this type of marketing. Part of the reason is that there are just so many social coupon sites out there. The novelty of the social coupon has kind of worn off for the average consumer, so getting your deal noticed in a sea of a dozen or more daily deals is getting harder.

The other reason is the prevalence of the “bargain-hunter” — someone who has no intention of repeat business —which makes it hard to want to do more social coupons since it can be the same bargain-hunters who repeatedly only buy with a steep discount. In many ways, doing more social coupons would result in exposure to an audience who has either already seen us, or is only interested in us as a ‘bargain’ and not as a business they’d otherwise patronize.

Q5 -Would you encourage other small business owners to offer social coupons?

I would encourage other small business owners to go in with their eyes wide open — read the fine print and calculate whether or not there is a good return on investment. Make absolutely sure that selling a large number of social coupons does not actually cost you money. Also know that you are going into a social coupon as a marketing venture and not a way to make money off each sale.

About Blend Creations Contemporary Jewelry Designers

Blend Creations seemed like a fitting name for a contemporary jewelry line when husband & wife team Eric Jean-Louis and Vivian Cheng decided to partner in an artistic business venture. Together, graphic designer Eric, and industrial designer Vivian, combine their divergent design approaches to create a contemporary jewelry line that is clean and modern in aesthetic, yet also blends their respective cultures in East meeting West. Find out more at BlendCreations.com.

July 7, 2011

Responding to negative posts about you or your company – Tips from the US Air Force

This morning I had a conversation with @LyaraPR, Algonquin College PR student, about how to respond to negative posts about you, or your company, on social media networks. I shared the following flowchart that I’ve been using for a few years that helps keep in perspective what to consider when you encounter a negative, or erroneous, post. It was developed by the United States Air Force Public Affairs Agency – Emerging Technology Division and it’s a good document to print and keep close-by your computer, especially if you are a community manager on behalf of an organization. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still quite useful. Take a look…

NOTE: They also have a 25+ page Social Media and the Air Force document (PDF) that details guidelines, trends, and best practices.

April 13, 2011

3 tips to simplify the hectic schedule of the social media manager [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from SocialCast for all of the social media managers out there, myself included. I think we can all find a bit of humour in this, and quite a bit of truth.  Personally, I do 12 of the 14 of these tasks on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is that the longer you have been a social media manager, the less hectic it becomes as you figure out a few tips, tricks, and tools to help get your job done. Here are my top 3:

1. Train the internet to find you. I’ve said it before – use the free tools out there to aggregate the content you need so you don’t have to go out and find it. Subscribe to some RSS feeds, follow a blog, sign up for Google Alerts, do keyword searches in TweetDeck, enable alerts on your smartphone when your organization is mentioned, download and install FeedDeamon to keep on top of all  of your feeds and searches, etc. Figure out who and what you need to listen to and use an aggregator to do the leg-work.

2. Invest in management and reporting tools. There is a difference. You have two specific needs. First, you need to manage your community and be responsive, attentive, and timely. This includes responding to questions, providing great content, managing messages across a number of platforms,  sharing links, scheduling posts, etc. Many of us have already figured this part out and are using TweetDeck, Seesmic, TwitterBerry, Co-Tweet, Hootsuite, etc.

Second, you have to report on how great the work you are doing is to your boss, and your boss’ boss. To do this, you may need to invest in a tool that provides a dashboard explaining how your social media efforts have driven website traffic, impacted conversions, identified new leads, etc. I had to talk to some analytics people to figure out how to deliver this report. First step was to signup for, use, and understand, Google Analytics.

3. Empower others in your organization to contribute content. Your job shouldn’t be focused 100% on creating content. Tons of great content is out there on the internet; our job as social media managers is to find the content relevant to our audience, and share it. It is a good idea to encourage and empower others in your organization to share relevant content from your organization on your Facebook wall, check-in at your business using Foursquare, share a video on YouTube, or just tweet a question.  One hundred little content creation engines are much more powerful than one over-worked social media manager banging away on the keys.

February 16, 2011

Social media for small business: How Twitter and Facebook stack up [Stats]

I came across another infographic worth sharing. This one is from postling.com on how small businesses are using social media. A few things caught my eye:

1. The more a small business posts to their profile, the more comments and replies they get. This makes sense, right? But the level of comments/replies drops dramatically when a small business can only muster a few posts each week. When a small business posts 8 or more times a week, they average over 10 comments/replies a day. This number plummets to 0.3 comments/replies a day when posting 7 or fewer times during a week. When users see this active participation in social media by the small business, they engage; but if they feel the organization is “speaking TO them” rather than “speaking WITH them” they are clearly less interested.

2. More small businesses have Twitter accounts than Facebook profiles. Twitter barely has the edge, but I wasn’t expecting that.  The simplicity of the Twitter platform may be appealing to small business owners. It is easier to understand, easier to set up, and easier to use. The real advantage Twitter has over Facebook is that Twitter is much more public and open. By this I mean Twitter is easily searchable, instantly archived by search engines, and it is organized around topics, rather than people you actually know. You can only sell so many cupcakes to the people you went to school with, or work with, so Twitter’s ongoing outreach to new potential customers is very attractive.

3. I question the assertion that Facebook is a better referral tool. Twitter is all about sharing links. How often do you see a tweet without a URL and think “somebody forgot to add the link?” There may be an issue with the methodology on this stat, as the infographic only takes into consideration referrals from one type of link shortening service (bit.ly). This completely ignores organic links and all of the other URL shortening/tracking services. Most notably, it ignores owl.ly and ht.ly URL shortening services, which are coincidentally offered by one of postling.com’s chief competitors (Hootsuite). I just don’t think there is enough data here to say Facebook is THAT much of a better referral tool than Twitter, if it’s even better at all.

Here it is. Let me know what you think:

January 1, 2011

Do you really hate the “New” Facebook?

Recently, many Facebook users have upgraded their profile to the “New Facebook 2010”. The upgrade doesn’t offer a big change to functionality: it’s mainly a rearrangement of how the information is displayed and prioritized. Here’s a quick shakedown…

Photos: It was a smart move to focus the improvements on what brings users back to the site time, and time again – the photos. Last year alone there were over 2.5 billion photos uploaded each month.  It’s now faster and easier to browse your friends’ photos and quickly share yours. The focus on photos is reflected in Facebook’s introduction video that doesn’t show much else besides dynamic photos.

“New experiences”: This upgrade gives you the ability to list the projects you complete at work and the courses you complete at school.  This new feature is a curious addition that may be an  attempt to gain market share on LinkedIn and solicit more user information critical to the effectiveness of Facebook ads. It will be interesting to see how this is embraced (or not) by users.

“Featured friends”: This new feature allows users to sort and categorize friends based on how they are connected through real, in person, relationships – “colleagues”, “hometown friends”, “band-mates”, “soccer team”, etc.  The social value in this feature is unclear at this point and I’m not sure users would be inclined to sort though their hundreds, or thousands, of friends to segment them into specific groups with little benefit to their day-to-day activity on Facebook.

Privacy: The new profile maintained my custom settings (at least on my account), so that’s a victory for Facebook over previous upgrades.

The Downside: User backlash. Soon after people began to upgrade their profile they began to hate it. They hate it because it is different from what they are used to and they turned to their good friend Facebook to voice their displeasure. This page has over 16,000 “likes” (Dec. 15, 2010). Many users are asking for the old profile back, others are having issues finding where familiar features are located, while some aren’t impressed that old features have different behaviours.  My favourite posts are emotional/dramatic; the following post is a great example (particularly the first point):

Final thoughts: I understand that some people hate change, but it’s a great sign that Facebook continues to innovate and bring users more options. What users like will stay, what isn’t used will fall off the radar. My suggestion would be to use it for a month and get used to it. If you don’t like the new features, don’t worry about it: they will fade away in the next update. User backlash happens everytime….we all remember a similar outcry the last time we had an update in 2008.

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