The ONE thing that you must do on Facebook as a local business

There’s a really helpful research piece recently released by US Agency GO Digital, looking at a number of aspects of increasing sales through Facebook – we’ve put a link in at the bottom of this post and recommend that everyone running a local business (restaurant, shop, hotel etc) take a look through it.

But there’s one finding that REALLY stood out for us. The number one thing that potential customers want from you on Facebook, in order to help them decide to buy. It’s not zany, amazing content. It’s not having a huge army of Likers.

What’s the most important thing about a Facebook Page for your customers?

It’s customer reviews.

Why? Before a customer has experienced what you offer, they don’t really trust you. They’d quite like to believe what you’re telling them about your amazingly comfortable rooms or your incredible cocktails, but, well, you would say that, wouldn’t you.

They need to hear it from others who don’t have anything to gain or lose from their buying decision.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Consumers are constantly looking to increase the amount of information they have access to before they make a decision, even a relatively small one like where to eat out at the weekend.

They can get your opening times from your website (we hope!). They might find your insights into the business helpful, and they’d certainly love a special offer or two. But the one thing they really want to know is, am I going to like this. And often the only way to predict that is to see who else likes it, too.

Get those comments rolling in

So every Page in the Local Business category automatically gets a Reviews box, whether they like it or not (and plenty don’t). Unless you’re doing a terrible job at what you do and manage to really upset a customer, though, it’s unlikely to get a huge amount of use. You need to encourage customers to use it.

There are lots of ways of doing that, but they mainly fall into two categories: incentives, and opportunism.

Incentives are easy: you offer a small gift, preferably one which is more valuable to the customer than it is costly to you, in return for them reviewing you. So for a restaurant, you might offer a free glass of wine on their next visit. A hotel could offer a room upgrade if there’s availability, to their most active reviewers. And so on.

Opportunism requires a little more thought, and is all about timing:  giving the customer something to do in “dead” time.  The last thing you want to do is rely on a customer remembering to go to your Facebook page and give a review once they’ve finished interacting with you; unless their experience is extraordinarily, life changingly good or bad they are generally going to forget about you as they walk out the door, or at least by the time they get home.

Most people these days will have a smart phone on them, most of the time. So, if you’re a restaurant, why not give them a small card with a QR code leading to your Facebook page, and a request to review their experience, while they are waiting for the bill? Likewise in a hotel reception, have a big banner next to where people queue for checkout, or put cards on the nightstands. This alone should lead to a big increase in reviews, and coupled with an incentive will skyrocket them!

So, there’s how to make sure that any potential customer visiting your Page has access to exactly what they want in order to make a buying decision. The rest of the research is below, and there are plenty more gems in there too!

How to fail majestically at providing customer service on Twitter, courtesy of EasyJet

I just got back from a trip to the South of France, and very lovely it was too, after the first 24 hours.

The trip there, though, was pretty much as bad as it gets. Thanks to my friends at Easyjet, with a little help from some bad weather, what should have been a quick 80-minute flight was turned into an almost 12 hour odyssey of discomfort and frustration. At the end of which I helped a number of elderly people unload their cases from a coach, get to their hire cars and find beds for the night, while thinking about how very distressed my own parents would have been in that situation.

But by way of compensation (and it looks very much as though this is all we’ll get!), in the couple of days that followed, EasyJet very kindly helped me to write a masterclass on how not to use social media for customer service. I don’t know why any of the below still shocks me, but it does. In 2014 and with all the technology available to a big company, there is just no excuse.

Don’t travel if you’re not fit enough to withstand a 12 hour journey and sleep on a pavement at the end of it

So the trip started with just the routine nonsense – first a 20-minute delay, then 40 minutes, then we’re all rushed to the gate but end up sitting on the runway for another half an hour due to missed takeoff slot. Ridiculous excuse of “sorry folks we’re having a busy day here” (er, what? Did some unexpected flights appear on your schedule, or…?!) is par for the course. Eventually we get under way, but just as we head in to land, the pilot aborts at the last moment due to heavy cloud covering the runway at 200ft. Fair enough, it’s a safety issue – albeit one that is short lived in the south of France in summer, and certainly wouldn’t have been an issue at 4.30pm when the flight should have landed.

So that’s where the fun really started. Eventually we land at an airport some 350km away from our original destination. Which we are eventually shipped back to, very slowly, on a bus. I’ll leave you to imagine the level of information and assistance that was provided at each stage. The crowning glory was dumping the entire group, including some quite distressed elderly people and two people in wheelchairs, on the pavement outside a now completely closed airport at almost 2am. From where it’s a bit tricky for anyone to get to their hire car (shut) or bed for the night (many had private rentals booked, who don’t exactly have 24hr reception).

With the level of customer care already established, the coach driver even felt quite comfortable employing the world’s largest Gallic Shrug in the face of a lot of panic, and leaving everyone to unload their own cases – a nice extra touch.

So, can social media save the day?

But, I’ve had some fantastic responses from other organisations over Twitter when things have gone wrong, so I thought i’d try out the “all the best customer service staff get allocated to Twitter” theory. Which EasyJet proceeded to blow out of the water – although to be fair, it may turn out that this is stellar compared with the responses over other channels, who knows.

So here it is: the guide to using social media to ensure your aggrieved customer will never, ever buy from you again. With grateful thanks to EasyJet for the illustrative tweets.

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass point 1: On no account try to make it easier for your customer to correspond with you – YOU make the rules here, dammit, and they need to work to them.

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass point 2: by the time you’ve made the customer jump through hoops, ensure you’ve totally forgotten what the conversation was about.

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass Point 3: a double whammy. Point A: On no account empower your staff to take ownership of a situation. Point B: invoke infuriating platitudes at the first possible opportunity. **

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass point 4: If in doubt, fall back on whatever corporatespeak is standard for your industry. In this case, blame everything on “safety” or “data protection” (see below).

EasyJet Customer Service

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass point 5: ON NO ACCOUNT use a social CRM or make any other attempt to keep track of the conversation. That should make it easier to “misunderstand” what you’re being told.

Extra points if you can get in a misguided and unnecessary (so i’m told by a qualified expert on the legislation) reference to Data Protection.

EasyJet Customer Service

Masterclass point 6: Congratulations! You’ve reduced your pesky customer to banging their head on a wall in frustration. Having proved you’re utterly useless, the customer will go away and not bother you again. Or ever use your products and services, but never mind!

** You may be amused (or not) to hear that the Customer Satisfaction Manager’s response was to send me an email reiterating that EasyJet are sorry, (but, my inference, not sorry enough to compensate us or improve the way they handle these situations). But they hope that we’ll travel again with them very soon.

What have we learned?

You just have to ask, what is the POINT of all of this? Why bother having a Twitter account if the people using it don’t know how to follow a conversation on Twitter, and have no authority to take action of any kind?

I wish I could answer that, but I can’t – except to say once again that if your company culture and customer service is poor, do not touch social media with a barge pole.  Expectations are higher on social media, and people expect to be treated thoughtfully and as individuals, not fobbed off with corporate rubbish. If that isn’t possible for whatever reason, you’re going to fail horribly.

 

Our Top 5 marketing and social media blogs

Keeping up with the latest developments in social media is hard work – and even for us, working in the industry full time, it’s difficult not to let it take over waay too much of the day job.

Having a handful of really great blogs on your RSS reader helps a lot with this; but really great blogs aren’t that easy to find. Some of the “old favourites” (mentioning no names here – no really, for once we’re actually not going to mention any names!) have got a little stale and repetitive, and others have got drawn into hyperbolic, clickbait headlines which they can’t really deliver on when you read the article.

That’s pretty much our pet hate, because ten minutes spent finding out that “Six Guaranteed Pro Tips for getting business from Google+!!” actually consists of amazing advice like “fill out your profile” and “connect with people you know!”, is ten minutes we can’t use for doing something useful.

So, if you’re looking for something a little more quality (of course you are, that’s why you’re here, right?!), below is our Top 5 list of current social media blog greatness. These are some of the folk we read here to get fresh opinions and interesting takes on what’s going down in the Social Media world. In no particular order:

1) Just Ask Kim

A great source for tips and tricks of all kinds related to social media and online marketing. No fluff, just valuable, well explained content. Slightly more on the technical side, and some great posts about parts of WordPress that make the less confident user start to tremble a little.

2) Jon Loomer Digital

We recently heard Jon described as “where it’s at with Advanced Facebook marketing – kinda like where you go when you’ve outgrown Mari Smith”!. Possibly a alittle harsh, but Jon certainly focuses on the more advanced aspects of Facebook, particularly the trickier aspects of the Facebook Advertising Power Editor. We’ve not come across anyone else providing information at near this level of complexity, so Jon has to make the list.

3) Postplanner

We’re a little bit lairy of “social media product company” blogs on the whole, but this one has really won us over. It’s more suitable for beginner to intermediate social media marketers, but nonetheless has consistently valuable articles and is particularly strong on real-world, case study type examples of using social media well.

Our only criticism is the incredibly annoying popup which you can’t get rid of without signing up for the PostPlanner product – but add the Blog to your RSS reader and that’s no longer an issue.

4) Instagram for Business

Most people are aware of the LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter official business blogs, but not everyone has found the Instagram equivalent yet. It’s not the prettiest site (oh, the irony) but it’s solid at delivering nice case studies of brands using Instagram in innovative ways, as well as technical and product release updates.

5) Viperchill

Not new, and not really social media, but still always interesting! Glenn at Viperchill talks about what’s *really* working to get visibility online – as against what Google *says* should work. He was on to the clickbait ViralNova type sites and their business model way before we saw anyone else talking about it. The blog is mostly SEO focused, but also looks at broader ways that people are making money online (such as advertising on social media), too.

We’d love recommendations from our readers, too! If there’s a company or individual who you think is doing a quality job with their blog, and where you regularly find interesting or helpful stuff, please do post it up in the comments section.

Employee Advocacy: the ultimate Social Media Strategy

The problem of developing the right approach for a company to be effective on social media is one we’ve touched on several times – if you’ve not already read them, you may want to check out our social media policies, and  Can A Company Ever Be Social? posts. Today we’re going to look at the “holy grail” of business social media implementation: Employee Advocacy.

What is Employee Advocacy?

Simply put, an employee advocacy-based approach means allowing a range of employees to represent the company on social media, as an everyday part of their professional role.  So rather than “containing” social in the marketing / comms / web services department, it’s treated as an integrated communication channel like any other.

Think of it this way: your business recieves phone calls and emails every day on a wide range of topics. In the technical department, people are chatting to technicians in other companies about new developments and ideas. The sales team are talking to customers about how your product or service can help them. Senior executives are discussing current industry issues with their peers. Now imagine all of that conversation being funneled through a single phone number or email address: it’d be a mess, and the amount of valuable discussion would be seriously restricted.

And yet that’s what most businesses currently do with social media.

A big shift

So, a company-wide social media strategy involves a big shift in mindset. Potentially almost every member of staff becomes part of the social media team; but social media is also not treated as a separate discipline, but instead an extension of employees’ existing contact channels.

But it also makes a huge amount of sense: allowing potential customers to connect, on a personal level, with those individuals who are best placed to help or inform them.

What needs to be done

The main challenge for most organisations with this approach is getting signoff from the top, and making a commitment to allowing employees the appropriate site access and freedom. On a practical level, some kind of outline policy is a good idea, as is an internal communications programme ensuring that staff understand the strategy and what’s expected from them.

Basic social media training is also a good idea just to make sure that everyone understands the way that the main platforms actually work – for example, who sees what on Twitter. It’s easy for casual social users to think that they’re aware of all the implications, but it’s best to ensure there won’t be any embarassing mistakes.

Risks and benefits

For most businesses, the gut reaction to using social media in this way is fear – it instinctively feels risky to “open up” the company on social media. But those fears are largely ungrounded – after all, an unguarded email could easily be made as public as a social media post – and significantly outweighed by the benefits. Allowing peer to peer discussion – for example, technical staff talking directly to technical staff at suppliers or potential customers – is far more valuable than providing a single, generic Twitter feed.

In many ways, it’s also simpler for the organisation – provided that they are prepared to trust their staff – than having one or two staff struggling to create a “corporate personality” on a single Twitter account. It needn’t be complicated for individual staff members to hit the right tone either, once they’ve understood the principle that their social media accounts are for use in the context of their professional lives. They should have clear leeway to express their own thoughts and personality in conversations, whilst avoiding any comments or topics which wouldn’t be appropriate for an external email or telephone call.

Who’s doing it well?

IT giant IBM is probably the best known example of a company with a strong social media presence which is really distributed throughout the organisation.

If you’d like to learn more about this approach, there’s an excellent video (with transcript if you prefer it) on their strategy, considerations and challenges here: Employees as Brand Advocates: IBM’s Ethan McCarty.

Facebook cracks down on clickbait headlines

Fed up with seeing those blatant clickbait headlines in your Facebook news feed? You know, the “this cute kitten / starving puppy was attacked/ rescued / cuddled by a baby / chihuahua / alligator. You won’t BELIEVE what happens next!!!” ones (if you’re still not sure, spend a few happy minutes with this clickbait headline generator. If nothing looks familiar, you have super-intellectual friends – well done ;)

Apparently, a few Smart Cookies are making megabucks from these sites; this is how it works. They dredge the internet, and other “viral” type sites like Reddit, for content which ticks the shareability buttons, come up with alluring headlines*, and republish that content onto their own websites with the clickbait titles added. Then, they feed those links into Facebook, often with an initial advertising budget to start pushing them into people’s news feeds as Boosted Posts, and wait for the traffic to start flooding in.

Because of the way Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm works (or has until this week), a clickbait rolling stone headline will gather a very large amount of moss indeed. Or to put it another way, every time one of your friends clicks on one of those articles, it becomes more likely to show up in your feed. If you click too, you’re passing on the joy to your friends. So with that initial investment in a boosted post, the article gets traction throughout Facebook and starts sending lots of traffic back to the original Smart Cookie’s website….which they can then monetise by selling ad space on the basis of all those zillions of page views.

So basically, the Smart Cookies have been exploiting Facebook to deliver traffic to their own sites, for their own reasons.

Strangely enough, Facebook aren’t very keen on this, and have now announced that they intend to knock the whole thing on the head.  For one thing, someone else is cashing in on their customer base; for another, all those lovely clicks are departing Facebook and landing on the Smart Cookies’ websites; and for a third thing, some users possibly find those headlines annoying. We’ll leave it to you guess which of those three things are the official reason for the algorithm change they’ve just announced which will reduce the visibility of these articles…

Here’s the full official release if you’d like to read a slightly less snarky view of the whole story: News Feed FYI: click baiting

 

* alluring in the way that a carrier bag of cheap chocolate is alluring. It’s hard to ignore but will leave you feeling kinda nauseous and grubby if you go there