Category: Doing Business

Righting business wrongs

Studies show that customers tend to be even more dissatisfied with a business after their complaint has been handled. That’s because most businesses do exactly what customers don’t want – they make excuses and shift the blame. Studies also show that when a complaint is handled properly (no blame-shift, no excuses), customers are likely to be more satisfied and more loyal than they were before they were allegedly ‘wronged.’

As businesses, we can’t float on the assumption that we’ll never make mistakes, and we certainly can’t deal with complaints in a ‘by the seat of your pants’ laissez faire manner. Complaints are a gift because they give us the opportunity to correct, build loyalty, and serve our clients well. The majority of complaints will go unspoken, unheard – or heard only in the peanut gallery without a chance to resolve. So when they come to the source, it is our duty to our clients to thank them and resolve the issue – quickly, and to the client’s satisfaction.

I can’t tell you better how to do it than this post at the Open Forum called The Art of Mea Culpa. Check it out. Not only does it tell you how it’s done right, it gives a concrete example of it being done right – via Twitter. To summarize the principles,

  1. Apoologize
  2. Admit fault
  3. Fix it
  4. Acknowledge what’s broken (trust, in this case) and work to fix it
  5. Do it quickly
  6. Do it publicly

And we’d add one to that – End it with a smile and a thank you. Appreciate your client’s (or colleague’s) willingness to take the time to offer a complaint. They probably pointed out something you didn’t know about. Or at least, they had the honor to come to you about it instead of gossiping or just walking away. They deserve some appreciation.

How to Hire a Social Media Rock Star – Part 2

Let’s just say that you have a company (or organization) that is ready to hire someone to run social media. And let’s say you’ve already taken care of your strategy (part 1).  Now, how do you find the right person? How do you evaluate the candidates? And how do you find out if it’s really the appropriate person for your vacancy?

A big part of it depends on your strategy for social media – broadcasting to get your name out there and win followers requires a different person than engaging an industry through a corporate blog that shares significant insight. But, assuming that you’ve evaluated how social media will fit into the big picture, you’ll need to check into candidates’ profiles and comfort level with the mediums you plan to use to achieve your goals. So here it is, folks. Evaluating your candidates’ profiles.

Twitter

  1. Number of followers and follows. The numbers should be close – that means this person uses what we’ll call twense, or common sense for Twitter. Proper etiquette and sound knowledge of how Twitter works.
  2. Lists – they should be listed (especially in lists made by someone else) and most likely following a few lists.
  3. Consider recent posts:
    • Frequency (how many updates per day/week);
    • Balance of new content with RT’s – retweets, which means spreading content from someone else;
    • Directed tweets (you’ll see updates reading @someone’sname – they’re contacting someone either for conversation or to get attention).
    • A strong Twitter account will have new content, retweets, and directed tweets, with consistent frequency.
  4. Page design – is it at least mildly attractive? Anyone can login to Twitter with a generic look to it. But someone who knows the platform can make it look sweet. Check out @juliaroy, @pistachio, or @gwenbell. See? It doesn’t have to be boring, but it also doesn’t have to be hideous.
  5. Ratings. If you don’t know the difference between a good Twitter account and a bad one, check it out with a Twitter ratings system. Twitter Grader is great, and Klout will give even better diagnostics if the person’s registered (and what social media rock star isn’t?). On Grader look for scores at least in the mid-80s.

Facebook

  1. Pages. A general Facebook profile often tells you very little about what the person can do. Ask about pages they administer, ad campaigns they’ve run.
  2. If they haven’t done that, check into their personal profile. If it’s full of mindless applications giving away hearts and farmville animals, you may be looking at someone who uses it for pure entertainment and wants a cushie job that pays them to play games with their friends. If their profile is more oriented towards conversations that engage their community or social circles, you’re more likely to find success with them.
  3. Ask them how Facebook can be most useful for business purposes. If they tell you that any single thing is more important than Facebook Pages or ads directing traffic to Facebook Pages (as opposed to causes, company profiles, or apps), keep looking. Anyone who’s been around social media for business knows that Facebook pages bring greater return than profiles, causes, and such.

Blogs

  1. How many blogs does the person maintain? More isn’t always, well, more. Check out their blog(s). It should be:
    • Easy on the eyes
    • Consistently updated
    • Tasteful (if (s)he’s talking about things that would make you blush, looking for someone else)
    • Useful – maybe not to you, but to someone.
    • Interactive: Look for comments on posts, and author replies to the comments.
  2. If you aren’t so sure how to evaluate a blog, check it out at Social Mention. You can see scores for passion, sentiment, reach, and strength, but then you can also scroll down to “postrank” to see how content ranks.

The ‘Big’ Others - The ideal social media candidate will be active in several of these, and the key here is to be ‘active’ – not just sitting on an account. You want to see in their account that they are actually social in their interactions.

  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • MySpace and/or Friendster
  • LinkedIn

The ‘Niche’ Others If your candidate has active accounts on these sites, it’s an indication that (s)he is not afraid of new things, on top of developments in the field, and willing to experiment.

  • Posterous or Tumblr
  • FourSquare or Yelp
  • Google Wave

In all of this, what you’re really looking for is reason to believe that your candidate is openly broadcasting and listening – interacting with others in a way that has personality, is useful, and forms relationships. A social media person has to have a certain personality – be willing to put himself or herself ‘out there’ in proverbial cyberspace, and do it with a tone that resonates with your organization. That’s what it boils down to. All the other stuff- the HTML and CSS coding, the accounts on various platforms – it can be learned.

How to Hire a Social Media Rock Star – Part 1

So, your organization is ready to hire someone to manage social media. But how do you make sure your choice to fill the vacancy is the right one? The first thing to do – even before you start looking – is to define your strategy.

What will you do with your social media accounts and how do they fit into your overall business strategy?

Advertise/Market: Gain a following, advertise products and services, advertise company, increase market share.

This involves generating content with a high interest level and engagement. Harnessing word of mouth is your best bet, which means you’ll need an intensive engagement strategy to build a groundswell. Ford’s CMO, James Farley, says “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” That’s what social media is all about.

Customer Service touchpoint: Gauge the barometer of what people are saying about you, monitor and respond to your customers and users.

Search tools can help you monitor what people are saying about your company and products. Responding immediately gives your customers the instant gratification we all love. Besides, studies show that a complaint handled well is likely to bring repeat business. Use social media to connect with users, especially after a bad experience or to help them troubleshoot, and you’re likely to see some major returns.

Operational functionality: Using social media can help people connect across your business – employees, customers – vertically and horizontally.

Staff training combined with an innovative integration of technology can streamline business processes. Resolving issues before they become problems, facilitating communication, and collecting data are all ways to use social media to improve operational functionality.

Once you have your goals in mind, you’ll want to build your strategy around 3 basic factors:

  1. Be authentic to build trust.
  2. Be social to build relationships.
  3. Be useful to build value.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.

Credit: Ross Dawson Blog

NY Times biting themselves in the patooty?

The New York Times will start charging for content on a metered scale starting in 2011. That means you can access a certain number of articles for free, and then they’ll start charging when you reach a predetermined quota.

That means they’re treating their website much like they treat their hard copy newspaper. You can read a few articles for free if you go to your local library, but you might not get the most up-to-date issue, and you probably won’t have time to read it cover to cover. If you want all that, you have to subscribe or purchase your own copy from your favorite newspaper vendor.

The same concept, applied to their website means you can read a few things, but then either pay up or – what I think is more likely – search for the same content on another news outlet. With the decline of newspaper and magazine subscriptions, I’ve been wondering when this would happen, but I’m afraid it’s following the wrong logic.

Old logic says charge the advertisers, charge the readers. That’s the logic that reigned prior to the digital age. As the media landscape changes the logic behind business models has to change too.

Paid content means fewer readers/visitors. Less activity means less return for advertisers. And since the bulk of revenue likely comes from ads, less returns will significantly impact turnover.

So what? How are dailies and monthlies to get their readers to pay for content, or at least generate another income stream in addition to advertising? What about subscription-based apps? Subscription-based RSS feeds? Let’s say I want to know anytime media in the US runs a story about corruption in Moldova. I’d be willing to pay $0.02/article, or so. For the convenience of delivery to my mobile phone – I’d pay for that. But content on the website when I want to read about the day’s events? Not a chance. I’ll take my business elsewhere – and chances are, so will most. When it comes down to it, I’m likely to get so used to not using sites that have metered rates for content that they’ll lose my participation altogether. I’ll go from being a regular user to an infrequent user, to abandoning it completely.

Update 1/21/10: TechDirt posted a nice article along the same lines, noting that NY Times is going to be caught in a dispute between 2 competing business models.

3 Easy Steps to Productivity

I’m a work at home mom, managing 3 kids ages 1-5. Productivity comes in spurts, and when there’s time available, I have to be able to shut out all distractions and put my nose to the grind, knowing that I probably won’t have more than an hour to work in any given block. Productivity is key when the time comes. Here are my key steps:

  1. Comfy chair, clutter-free desk, in a quiet room. If I feel like I’m in an office, I’m more likely to act like I’m in an office and actually work.
  2. Turn off distractions. For me that means closing down my email application so I don’t get email notifications – I can handle those any time, distractions or not. I also turn off TweetDeck – I love following my peeps, but when I’m fighting a deadline I force myself to tune it out.
  3. Cool temps, warm drinks. Ever notice how being in a warm place makes you sleepy? Crank the temp down a bit and warm yourself from the inside with tea or coffee. Me? I like fair trade organic whole bean fresh ground coffee made in a press. I also go for fair trade white tea, but usually only after I’ve gone through 2-3 cups of coffee.

How about you? What’s your secret to productivity?

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