Posts tagged with Engagement

Complain? Who, me?

If you've ever managed a corporate social media account - or even just a Facebook page for, say, your biking club - you'll already know that one of the most challenging aspects of the job is to be on call 24/7. Sure, your business or organization may not run the sort of account that lends itself to comments or questions at stupid-o-clock in the night, but if you're doing social right, you need to have a contingency plan in place for when that does happen. Because it will happen, and usually the issues that come up after hours or on the weekends are the ones that could potentially do the most harm to your brand. After all, if the subject of that tweet or post really wasn't such a big deal, the sender wouldn't be bothering to nudge you in the middle of the night.

Then again, there's always that one person who just posts to be a curmudgeon, to complain for the sake of complaining or to pick nits about something that even they admit is probably insignificant. Again, if you've managed an online community, you're probably right now picturing specific folks with whom you regularly interact - and chances are, you realize that despite their making you roll your eyes now and then, there's stuff you can definitely learn from this contingent.

All this long-winded introduction aside, here's my little story. A few weeks ago, I went from being on one side of the equation to the other, turning into one of Those People - those complainers who mention something tiny but potentially pretty embarrassing in public rather than quietly sending an email to a name on a Web page somewhere. Even worse, I did it on a federal holiday. But seriously, check this out:

I was in Chicago over the Independence Day weekend, and on the last of three nights in the (really rather nice) Westin O'Hare found the above typo on a bathroom washcloth. Doing what I do for a living, of course the first thing I did after getting out of the shower was run and find my iPhone, snap a photo and tweet the mistake.

My followers LOL'd, a few folks retweeted it - and then came the official corporate reply from @StarwoodBuzz, the social voice of Westin's holding company Starwood:

Really? Via CoTweet, which is email provider ExactTarget's answer to a corporate social media dashboard and a shortcut to some pretty hefty social automation? Enter the curmudgeon. At that moment, I officially became one of Those People.

Now this started to get real. My followers joined in the complaint chorus - after all, the @StarwoodBuzz reply just looked like a poorly-worded automatic response to the #fail hashtag in my original tweet. A few hours later, I received the standard "follow us so we can continue this over DM" reply. No, guys. I wasn't going to take this conversation over to DM. In my newfound complainer's empowerment, I felt @StarwoodBuzz owed it to me and my followers to say something reasonable and very non-automated - in public.

But wait. Here's the thing; all of this was going down on July 4. Some poor guy's phone was probably buzzing in his pocket at a family Independence Day barbecue, and he probably had to excuse himself, go out to his car and fire up a laptop to deal with me. (I say this from experience; it's happened to me enough times that friends and family don't really mention it any more.) But to Starwood's credit, their reps blew off the barbecue and made it right. The conversation continued over the next few days (yes, I gave up and eventually took it to DM), and somewhere along the way, they asked for, among other info, my mailing address. I replied, the conversation died down, the work week continued and I pretty much forgot about it. Until I got home a few days later to find a package on my doorstep. Containing this.

One cushy Westin bathrobe, plus a handwritten note from Brian, whose stationery lists his title as "Global Brand Leader." Normally I might giggle at a title like that, but given how far he'd gone beyond the call of duty, I'll buy it.

So what - as social media marketers and consumers alike - is there to learn from my Great Hotel Towel Typo Incident? The sarcastic answer might be something along the lines of this: Bully a brand enough, and they'll cave in and give you what they want. But that's not totally true; there are plenty of examples out there of brand bullies that have not only failed to receive their ransom from their targets, but been chastised by those brands' supporters for their ill will. (This, of course, assumes that you've built up a solid supporter base, but that's another topic altogether.)

Instead, maybe the answer is that really great social customer service surprises and delights. If you're protecting your brand on social media, you're probably already doing some pretty extensive monitoring to make sure complaints that need intervention are dealt with, and potential problems in brand sentiment are addressed before they become big issues. That latter category leaves a lot of room to play, whether it's just a nice reply to someone who didn't know you were listening or something as elaborate as a bathrobe in a box.

What's the nicest response you've ever received when engaging with a brand on social media? Have you ever received an out-of-the-blue reply from a company you didn't mention by name - and how did it make you feel? Let us know in the comments.

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Tune in or drop out for Memorial Day?

As we head into Memorial Day, the first big outdoor holiday of the hear and the unofficial kickoff to summer, here's a question: How much of your holiday weekend will be spent talking about the holiday weekend on Facebook, Twitter or the social network of your choice?

For many of us, the answer will be a lot, whether it's because we finally have some time outside the office to play with our techie toys or because we're part of that camp that just likes to obsessively document everything (I'm raising my hand on that one). Of course, photos, stories and tweets from a family holiday can be a fantastic chance to bring loved ones closer; I've got a friend, for example, whose fanatically detailed Facebook albums of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the like aren't for herself, but for her husband, stationed overseas with the military.

The argument goes the other way too, though. Last year on my own annual Memorial Day road trip - a trip to Denver for a dance festival - I remember a really distinctly creepy moment during a particularly beautiful performance when everyone around me was too busy recording the show on their fancy phones to, as it seemed, actually enjoy what was going on a few feet in front of them. By the time I got to my hotel room a few hours later and cracked open Facebook, there were already videos and photos up from the night.

While that sort of real-time citizen reporting is one of biggest areas of potential for social media, as well as an amazing tool for networking - based on tags on that night's photos, I probably added half a dozen Facebook friends before I even saw them again at the festival the next morning - it does provide an equally dazzling capacity for burnout. While the concept of a "social media sabbatical" isn't a new one, it probably won't be going away any time soon, either. Sites like Sabbath Manifesto urge people to take part in a "weekly timeout" - in the case of Sabbath Manifesto, even providing an iPhone app that'll "check out" of your social networks for you so you're not distracted by some cute cat video when you log onto Twitter to tell your friends you'll BRB. (Who could blame you, after all? It's even been proven that using social media boosts production of oxytocin, the same "cuddle chemical" that activates when we're in love.)

Last Memorial Day, executive creative director Steve McCallion from big creative firm Ziba wrote a pretty poignant column for Fast Company suggesting that, in light of our collective burnout and the reason Memorial Day exists in the first place, we may all just want to take a break from our phones, laptops, Facebook profiles and Twitter streams for a while and use the occasion to make the holiday more meaningful:

"Web traffic monitoring sites could follow up with a graph visually depicting the drop in traffic to document the power of this collective action. Maybe we could start small, asking for a mere 10 seconds of silence. Each year we could add 10 seconds. Gradually increasing the time each year brings us to a full minute in 2015: a shared national journey toward relearning the concept of sacrifice."

If social media is a big part of your life, personally or professionally, that's a pretty tall order; if you or your brand "live" online, it might not even be possible. So what do you think - would signing off social for a brief sabbatical, whether for Memorial Day or just because, improve your quality of life or keep you from connecting to people important to you?

And with that, I'll give it a try and log off for the long weekend. Maybe.

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