In the News

How your social media presence can shine in a PR crisis

Last week’s massive network outage must’ve given mobile phone provider O2 a colossal headache. When something like that happens, it’s a perfect test of how well the company concerned has understood the social media environment. If they’ve “got” it, then the informal nature of a platform like Twitter will be a huge asset in humanising the company and getting customers back on side. If they haven’t, they’ll run for the hills and either resort to total silence or stilted corporate platitudes.

But before we look at O2′s response, let’s look at how not to do it. Argyll & Bute Council’s response during the enormous outcry that followed the banning of the Neverseconds blog remains a classic of the genre. A quick search on their @mentions that day revealed that they were swimming in questions, pleas, and a certain amount of downright abuse, running into hundreds of tweets. Their response:

argyll & bute tweet

 

Yeah. That’s about as running for the hills as you can get. As far as I’m aware, not one single person who Tweeted them on the issue ever received a response.

O2 didn’t play it like that. Somebody, somewhere, gave their customer service team permission to be human, and to relate to customers on their own level.  There are some great examples from during the network outage itself  in this article from the New Statesman , and you can get a flavour of how they respond below:

O2 Tweet1O2 tweet2O2 tweet3

 

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with corporate blandspeak, it doesn’t take that much to stand out; If I was one of those customers, I think the surprise of receiving a genuine,  humorous reply would probably have bonded me to O2 for life.

With that in mind, here are our three Top Tips for dealing with angry customers on Twitter:

1. Bad language won’t kill you

However you feel about swearing, for a large part of the population it’s part of everyday life and the normal way to express anger. Just because railway companies get away with putting up those signs designating pretty much anything they don’t want to hear as “abuse of their staff”, doesn’t mean you can make the rules on Twitter.  A prissy reply telling the customer off for using bad words is rarely going to be constructive.

2. Inject a little humour

Humour is one of those things that sets us apart from the animals – and from robots. Forget everything you’ve learned about appropriate corporate communications, and let the customer see that you’re a real person dealing with the issues as best you can.

3. Don’t be afraid to apologise

If the customer is complaining about obvious incompetence or failure, acknowledge that. For one thing, they’ll be so surprised that you’ll have a great opportunity to fix things while they’re catching their breath!

Of course, all of this will be of very limited value if you’ve left someone manning your corporate Twitter account in a sealed room, with no support from the rest of the organisation. The tips above will go a long way to making the angry customer > customer service interaction a constructive one, but if the lines of communication aren’t there to back it up, you’re going to run into trouble. Make sure that whoever is running your social media presence has their finger on the pulse and a clear path of escalation to senior management if they need it. Then hopefully, you’ll never have to resort to the Twitter Witness Statement like Argyll & Bute.

Is it time to be more honest on social media?

social media honestyA report in the Telegraph today discusses how Twitter and Facebook has been found to increase anxiety and feelings of inadequacy amongst users.

If you’re active on social media either personally or professionally, you’ve probably experienced this at some point. It’s easy to get “sucked in” to the feeling that you must keep on top of everyone’s updates. Then and when all those updates seem to point to a perfect family, glamorous social life or cabinet full of business awards, it’s easy to start wondering why your own home / social life / career doesn’t match up.

Just last week, we were “discussing”** THOSE facebook friends in the office. The ones who you know are ruthlessly editing their lives to glossy perfection.

The “loved up” holiday updates from couples you know are on the verge of divorce. The poolside cocktail photos taken on a quick break from being bullied into submission during a sales conference.  And possibly most irritating of all, the coy, attention seeking status updaters of the “Wow, what a life changing day” variety.

When we stop to think about it, we all know that nobody’s life is like that.  Providing such a skewed view of what’s happening with their lives means that the updater is missing out on some of the best aspects of social media – being able to access support and advice, and connect with people who want to help them. They’re also depriving their real friends of the opportunity to offer a shoulder to cry on over the crumbling relationship, or moral support in the face of the bullying sales manager.

How much honesty is enough?

The same dilemma applies to updating your business Facebook page or Twitter account; does everything always have to look as though you’re conquering the world?

A business-based social media account is, by its very nature, going to demand a certain level of self-censorship – although we tend to call it “professionalism.” In the same way that your office colleagues don’t need to know the details of your bout of gastroenteritis at the weekend, there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to reveal doubts, fears, failures or outright cockups in your business.

But. Sometimes a little honesty can go a long way. Social media is a brilliant channel for asking for help or looking for expertise. Giving others the chance to help, or even just sympathise, is going to make your account  more attractive and human than a constant barrage of “look how great we are”.

In general, more people identify with difficulties and struggle than they do a neverending stream of “wins”, so not being scared to admit when things aren’t perfect will help you build much more meaningful relationships – and perhaps even find solutions to some of your challenges.

What do you think? Are we all self-censoring too much these days, and is it possible to be more honest?

**OK, ranting insanely about

What’s wrong with discussing your lunch on Twitter?

 

Twitter and discussing your lunch

If our lunch looked this good... © http://blackirisdesign.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/tweet-tweet.html

There was widespread media coverage yesterday of  MP Louise Mensch’s launch of “Menshn”.

Apparently positioned as a rival to Twitter, Ms Mensch’s business partner explained their thinking behind the project:

“Twitter is just very a very random stream of chatter if you want to stick to a particular topic like politics or business,” Mr Bozier said

As well as keeping discussions relevant, Mrs Mensch and Mr Bozier hope Menshn’s more controlled environment will also discourage abuse.

Hmm. Is it just us, or are we reaching an all time low here of people who don’t get social media, launching social media sites?!

Life is, on the whole, trivial

Human beings form relationships, and have meaningful debates, through “random streams of chatter”. That’s what makes Twitter so great – you can bond with someone over your shared love of Japanese food, instead of (or as well as) developing a business relationship.

“Sticking to one topic” is going to make that discussion artificial and, quite probably, dull, bland and humourless. If that’s what you want from your social network, there are plenty of options out there – carefully selected parts of Quora and or / LinkedIn will do you just fine.

It’s just full of people discussing what they had for lunch” is an objection we hear about Twitter from time to time. Usually from those who haven’t used it, or are feeling under pressure at the thought of another huge deluge of “data” which they need to keep up with.

Sometimes, lunch really matters

As a minor aside, this week’s other media phenomenon is the story of Martha Payne, whose school lunch blog was banned by her local council and then un-banned again following a huge outcry. A waste of time, or crucial debate about health and nutrition for young people? Yes, that’s not the same as someone debating whether to pop to M&S for a prawn sandwich or get a burger, but the point stands: sometimes it’s the trivial stuff in life which IS important, for all kinds of reasons.

But here’s the thing: everyone’s Twitter is different. There are users dealing solely with research and debates on the frontiers of astrophysics; world-famous entrepreneurs giving their thoughts on the economy; and, yes, people who just want a bit of water cooler chat and may well be discussing what they had for lunch.

Your own Twitter experience will be unique to the combination of people you follow, and if you don’t wish to discuss your lunch, stick to the astrophysicists, or politicians, or whatever is your bag. Starting an entire new social network just because you haven’t figured out how to fine tune your own Twitterverse yet seems a little extreme.

Let people talk, and some will say bad things

The second statement is bordering on delusional. We understand that Ms Mensch has come in for some, at times, unpleasant and unacceptable abuse on Twitter. That’s what happens when you’re a controversial figure using a two-way communication platform; there are some people out there who won’t agree with you, and a few who’ll express that in unsavoury ways. You have two options: delete, block and move on, or go back to publishing articles in the Daily Mail where nobody can answer back (and avoid the online edition at all costs, but then that’s a good general rule for life anyway).

The idea that restricting the “approved” topics on a site – currently on Menshn, you’re allowed to discuss the US elections in general, the Obama campaign, and  the Romney campaign, and that’s all – will in some way “discourage abuse” seems wildly misguided. How would you implement such a thing effectively? Program in a limited vocabulary of approved words from which users can make up their messages?! Doomed to failure, that one.

What do you think – do we need a new platform to “exclude” trivia from Twitter?

Meanwhile, the Twitter community, in another example of the genius that can come from triviality, have been busy coming up with other suggested startups which might be relevant to MPs. Read and smile.

Spoof “Social” campaign raises Arctic awareness

Doing the rounds of the Twitterverse this morning is a link to a site masquerading as a Shell corporate initiative.

It’s cleverly done, with convincing links to various corporate-looking sections which just happen to be “down for maintenance” whilst the main content of the site launches a social campaign, apparently to help consumers get behind Shell’s bid to exploit Arctic oil resources.

We were certainly fooled at first, although the doubt started to creep in when we got to this:

“We at Shell want everyone to feel as “pumped” as we do about freeing much-needed Arctic resources. After all, the Arctic is the common heritage of all humanity, and what we do there matters to everyone.

Below are some of the ads that users like you have created for Shell’s Let’s Go! Arctic campaign. Why not create your own, and possibly win an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Kulluk in action?”

Surely even the most deluded marketing team wouldn’t…..ah, hang on. There’s a reason why this isn’t on Shell’s main domain!

The link to the “campaign” is here: http://arcticready.com/social/gallery

We’re assuming that it won’t be too long before Shell take action on this one, so we’ve captured a flavour of the current ” user submissions” below, for your enjoyment. Whoever set this up has clearly been watching a few other big brands in action, as the idea isn’t a million miles away from the (entirely genuine) McDonalds #McDstories campaign on Twitter

shell1shell2shell3shell4

We thought we’d add our own contribution, too…shell5

How complicated is social media, really?

Well….this complicated. (click to enlarge, you’ll need to!)

Social media complexity

The slide, produced by Buddy Media, documents most of the sites and areas which would be involved in a really comprehensive social media campaign and frankly, it’s enough to make anyone want to return to the good ol’ days of print-only advertising.

For the vast majority of SME and third sector marketers, there’s neither the time nor the budget to get involved with much of this – a simple monitoring dashboard can replace the basics of the Social Intelligence sector, for example, and the new Social Ad networks are off in a different solar system.

There’s an interesting lesson here, though, As soon as you move much beyond the top ten or so big sites (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Blogger etc), having a conversation about “social media” becomes a slippery concept.

We spotted pretty quickly that Pinterest isn’t on the slide, neither does Scoop.it appear in the Content Curation section – and these are both sites we work with currently either for ourselves or clients, but they’re obviously not a major feature for the slide author.

We’d suggest that the selection of sites here is very “big brand” biased, as you’d expect given the source (Buddy work with eight of the world’s top ten global advertisers), but the point is this: you could easily have five very competent digital marketing professionals working in different strata of the social media world, whose areas of expertise barely overlap at all. So next time you mention that great niche tool you’ve just found and your agency contact looks blank, cut ‘em some slack!

The slide is also a great illustration that nobody out there can possibly keep on top of all of this.  If you’re looking for help with your social media, it’s really important to make sure there’s a good match between your budget / online marketing ambition, and the environment your chosen agency is used to  – otherwise you could both be talking a very different language.