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Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 526 – How Highly Regulated Industries Can Best Use Social Media

How Highly Regulated Industries Can Best Use Social Media

For highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, various medical professionals, insurance, and financial services, a company’s desire to participate in social media and reap its benefits must be tempered with the demands of regulations. Trade secrets, patient privacy, and even insider trading can be considerations. But social media has numerous benefits, including faster communications with clients, and client education. What’s a highly regulated industry to do?

Preliminaries

Every company (and not just those in highly regulated industries) should nail down their domain name and its variants, plus variations on the theme of ___sucks. And not just for domains; those should also be reserved as usernames in every single social media platform that springs up, even those where the typical user does not fit the company’s buyer persona. That is, even if none of these platforms or domains are used, they should still be locked up.

Let’s say the company is Consolidated Financial of Winnipeg. As of the writing of this blog post, this isn’t a real company. Consolidated will need to take ownership of, and squat on –

  • ConsolidatedFinancialofWinnipeg.com
  • ConsolidatedFinancialofWinnipeg.net
  • ConFinofWinnipeg.com
  • Facebook page Consolidated Financial of Winnipeg
  • Facebook group Consolidated Financial of Winnipeg Sucks
  • Twitter handle ConFinWinn

Plus any number of variations on these themes.

Regulators

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 526 – How Highly Regulated Industries Can Best Use Social Media
FINRA logo (image is provided for educational purposes only)

Before this company does anything else, they need to investigate what the applicable regulators say. FINRA regulates a number of Canadian firms doing business in the United States. The SEC then oversees FINRA, so their rules are also applicable, even though Consolidated isn’t located in America. According to the Social Media for Regulated Industries Whitepaper, FINRA provides guidance in the areas of recordkeeping, suitability responsibilities (e. g. firms can’t promise anything through social media that they can’t promise via more traditional media), types of interactive electronic forums (active conversation doesn’t require principal approval, but static pages, e. g. profiles, does), supervision of social media sites, and Third-party posts (these don’t represent the firm unless the firm specifically endorses them).

Per the same source, the SEC provides guidance in the areas of usage guidelines and content standards, monitoring and frequency of monitoring, content approval, criteria for approving participation, training and certification, and personal vs. professional sites.

For both regulatory agencies, the general ideas are good social media practices that even loosely regulated companies and industries would do well to follow, e. g. to establish a clear and consistent, easy to understand policy; maintain good records; monitor, listen to, and respond to site, group, and page visitors; know when to take conversations offline; and be sure to educate employees.

Practice

Consolidated will do well to establish a clear and consistent social media policy, and make it easy for people to find. This means posting it prominently on their Facebook page, and adding the verbiage to their Twitter background, adding it as a blog page, and placing it anywhere else where the public can locate it without having to hunt. Fidelity Investments does a great job with this on their Facebook page. Their policy is denoted in a tab which is unmistakably titled and isn’t buried past a number of other tabs or apps. The language is easy to understand, too. Just like Fidelity does, Consolidated should assure that their contact information is a part of their policy, so that investors and potential investors can find where to go if they’ve got more private questions, such as about the status of an account.

As with many companies in the social media space, the policy for Consolidated should include the specifics about the types of posts that are and aren’t allowed, so that users know what to expect and understand when they’ve crossed a line. This makes for a better overall experience for everyone on the page, plus it saves Consolidated time – no one can honestly say that they didn’t know what to expect, assuming Consolidated makes their policy as transparent as Fidelity’s is.

Consolidated will need to be careful, and to watch what they post about, in order to comply with FINRA and SEC regulations. They might also be subject to the FSA and other international regulatory agencies, and should err on the side of caution in their dealings with the public via social media. This doesn’t mean that they can’t have a presence, but they will need to exercise a higher degree of care. If a company like Consolidated does so, then its foray into social media can be productive, and can provide a greater level of service to its investors and possible future investors. And it can do it all without incurring fines from the Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA, or any other regulatory agencies.

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Community Management Facebook Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM 526 – Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service

When it comes to best practices for using using social media in customer service, it all seems to boil down to three things –

  1. Be fast
  2. Be empathetic
  3. Be useful

Be Fast

In our hurry-up culture, two minutes to microwave a meal sometimes seems too long. Social media is the perfect medium for customers and businesses to have a two-way conversation. This dialogue inevitably contains complaints. Plus online commerce is often global in nature, so it’s a recipe for people demanding very fast service, or at least service during what, to your company, feel like off hours.

According to BrandWatch’s Prepare to Respond, which cites Nielsen,

According to recent research findings from Nielsen, 42 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds acknowledged that they expect customer support within 12 hours of a complaint.

Adelisa Gutierrez’s Slideshare on Reinvigorate Your Customer Service with Social Care breaks it down even further (slide #17 in the deck) –

Over half of all Twitter users of social care (essentially, customer service over social media channels) expect a response within two hours. Just under one-half on Facebook also expect a response after two hours. On both channels, a same-day response is expected over 80% of the time.

BrandWatch offers as a best practice a simple idea – decide on a response time frame, and stick with it.

I would add to that, post your hours and your expected response times. If there’s only one social media employee, then that person is expected to be offline at times. They need off-hours coverage, plus vacation and sick time coverage.

Be Empathetic

Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service (image is used here for educational purposes only)
English: This is a picture of the Zappos 2010 Culture Book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At eConsultancy, in the article, How Zappos Uses Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Zappos as a company makes it a point of engaging with customers and providing superior service. That article cites an ideal customer service response. When customer @ktmink asked “@Zappos_Service I just ordered a birthday gift for my brother – 5 day shipping but wondering if you can get it there in 3? #195917709 “, @Zappos_Service responded with, “@ktmink This order is going to ship out today and your brother will have his birthday present tomorrow!”

Not only was the customer called by name, the company went beyond @ktmink’s question, which was really just whether a rush could be put on the order. The order’s shipping was upgraded to overnight, which is more than the customer asked for.

On Gutierrez’s Slideshare (slide #28 in the deck), she gives an example from Citi. @AskCiti was contacted by a customer walking to a branch who could not find it. The company representative expressed empathy and asked the customer to report back if they were still having trouble. The customer was still lost, and so @AskCiti responded with a landmark-filled explanation of precisely where the branch is, in 140 characters or less.

In both instances, Zappos and Citi exceeded customer expectations by putting themselves in the shoes of their frustrated customers.

Be Useful

Empowered employees are useful ones, and useful employees are empowered.

It does little good to respond quickly but then just fob off a frustrated customer to someone else in the corporate food chain. As Brandwatch notes, there is a difference between response time and resolution time.

It’s better to communicate that you’re working on the proper response, set a realistic expectation of time, and then deliver a real resolution. After all, customers want resolutions, not spin.

Contrast this with an example from the Gutierrez Slideshare (slide #29 in the deck), where a Bank of America customer is lost and seeking the closest branch. Instead of answering their question, the customer is instead directed to an online locator. Rather than converting a frustrating customer experience into a positive one, the customer was forced to go to another URL to get help. Even if the employee had never been to Manhattan, they could have used the locator and reported back with the information. This added step increased the wait for true resolution for this customer. Bank of America provided less service than expected. Not a good move on their part.

What’s Best Practice?

What do hurried customers, lost on the streets of New York; or at home and worried that a birthday present won’t come in on time; or confused about a service, really want?

They don’t want their time wasted. They don’t want to be treated as if their requests are too much bother for the company (for those requests won’t be a bother to your competition). And they don’t want to be given the runaround.

When companies understand these requirements, and put them into online practice, then they are truly offering the best possible customer service via social media.

Categories
Content Strategy Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 526 – Authentic Brand Voice in Social Media

Authentic Brand Voice in Social Media

Brand voice is the specifics of communications for a product, service, or company. It’s the “overarching standard for tone, vocabulary, and personality tied to a brand’s messaging and attitude”, as Digital Surgeons says.

In the constant clamor of commercial messages being flung at consumers, some stand out.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

Just do it.

I’m lovin’ it.

Each brand has a unique voice which cuts through the clutter. In a world full of over the counter remedies, sports apparel, and fast food restaurants, the message speak directly to consumers. The first one speaks across the decades (it’s a 1972 Clio Hall of Fame commercial). 43 years later, if you were around when it was aired on television, you still remember it. But it’s more than memorable writing that constitutes brand voice.

Alka-Seltzer

The ad is simple, as all of this brand’s advertising seems to be. The brand doesn’t dawdle. The consumer is told nearly immediately that relief is nigh. In their current online copy, Alka-Seltzer says,

Fast heartburn relief with no chalky aftertaste.

What are this brand’s sacred words? What’s in their vocabulary? Fast and relief are front and center. Heartburn relief and fast heartburn relief are probably also SEO keyword phrases for which the company is trying to rank. For buyer personas who may be older (particularly as the brand dates from 1931), the promise of fast relief from an all too common minor ailment is how Alka-Seltzer directly reaches its customers.

For a company that does so well with traditional advertising, Alka-Seltzer has been somewhat flat-footed on social media. They didn’t secure their Twitter handle (the similarly named @alka_seltzer666 belongs to Frances Bean Cobain), and their Facebook page only has 12,000 or so likes. But the brand could turn it around, by using the same clear and consistent voice it has used in its traditional advertising.

Nike

Nike’s slogan is so central to their brand that it’s part of the meta description of their home page. Interestingly enough, their slideshow doesn’t use that phrase. Instead, it’s phrases like –

  • Built for brilliance
  • Deceptive by nature, and
  • Your Pitch. Your Style.

To be able to authentically speak to an athletic buyer persona, Nike uses sports terminology such as pitch, and adds sports-related adjectives like deceptive and brilliant (used in the noun form, brilliance). Additional sports-related terms like nature and style are weaved into the brand’s communications. Those added terms might also be designed to slant more toward female or older buyer personas, with deceptive and brilliant slanting toward younger and possibly male buyer personas. Either way, Nike is speaking its consumers’ languages.

On Twitter, Nike continues talking directly to athletes and sports fans. To reach athletes, they tweeted, Doubt: Five Letters. One Syllable. A manmade expectation of failure. But it’s only a word. You decide what it means. To reach sports fans, they tweet from several related accounts such as NikeCourt. These related accounts often show images of famous athletes (undoubtedly Nike clients), thereby linking a customer’s athletic heroes with the brand.

McDonald’s

Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 526 – Authentic Brand Voice in Social Media
McDonalds on West 42nd Street in Times Square, New York City. Madame Tussauds wax museum is seen to the right. Number plates on cars have been blurred. Category:Images of New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (image is included for educational purposes only)

At McDonald’s, the slogan has changed over the years. I’m lovin’ it is not only an SEO keyword phrase (it is even on the background image for their Twitter page), it’s also a positive message which amps up Facebook liking to loving, with its connotations of not only more affection but even a long-term commitment. Who better to provide repeat business than consumers committed to a brand for the long haul?

The brand’s voice is amusing, with tweets such as This Sirloin Third Pound Burger doesn’t leave mushroom to the imagination and Best Fries Forever for National Best Friends Day. Images and verbiage are upbeat and positive, reflecting a family-oriented and wholesome atmosphere.

Authenticity Rules the Day

Get the brand voice right, and the buyer personas for a brand will listen. Get it wrong, and even the best campaign can fall flat. One size, most assuredly, does not fit all. In the meantime, I hope Alka-Seltzer is hiring a community manager, because I think I know what they need to bring their authentic and unique voice to social media. There is an audience, but they don’t seem to be quite reaching them yet.

Categories
Community Management Content Strategy Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 526 – The Importance of Content Marketing for Community Managers

The Importance of Content Marketing for Community Managers

Why is content marketing important for Community Managers?

It is deceptively easy for companies to ‘get on Facebook’ or ‘get a Twitter’, and start pushing content out through a firehose. Companies may even make a splash in the beginning. But it’s unsustainable. Furthermore, it’s not serving customers and potential customers terribly well.

Much like any other aspect of modern business, online content requires strategy and structure. Just having content is not enough. It has to be relevant to fans and followers, and be more than something they will just click on and read. Instead, content is for marketing; it is for getting customers and potential customers into the sales funnel and then bringing them along. This is the case whether the sale occurs online or in a brick and mortar store.

The Content Marketing Institute says –

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

The Numbers Say It All

As Steven MacDonald reminds in The 5 Pillars of Successful Content Marketing, the amount of data being created in two days is more than was created from the beginning of time until 2003. Certainly, that figure is only going to grow. The United States census, in 2012, released an infographic comparing 2012 data on computers and Internet usage with 1997 (when the census first began asking about Internet usage) and 1984 data.

Per the United States census, the percentage of households without Internet has fallen dramatically, from 45.3% in 2003, to 25.2% in 2012. This does not even take into account persons who might not have home access, but are using the Internet at work, school, a café or public library or other such location.

Relevancy

With all of these people online, and all of that content coming at them 24/7/365, the race is less to get any sort of content online, and more to get relevant and preferred content to consumers. When a potential customer is being bombarded with Instagram images of their friends’ lunches and Facebook status updates with pregnant friends’ ultrasounds, gossipy Tweets about celebrities and amusing Tumblr blog posts about upcoming movies, and Pinterest boards with recipes, somehow, some way, a company’s content has got to compete with all of that.

While companies can purchase additional reach and engagement, a more sensible ad spend is to target content more closely to customers’ and potential customers’ preferences and demographics. This is easier and more detailed and better-researched than ever before, due to all of the tracking coding which is embedded in social media. As Avinash Kaushik has said about digital marketing (a term often used interchangeably with ‘content marketing’ but a bit more general, involving the use of digital devices but not necessarily as fully integrating marketing with content types like in true content marketing) and measurement –

The root cause of failure in most digital marketing campaigns is not the lack of creativity in the banner ad or TV spot or the sexiness of the website. It is not even (often) the people involved. It is quite simply the lack of structured thinking about what the real purpose of the campaign is and a lack of an objective set of measures with which to identify success or failure.

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 526 - The Importance of Content Marketing for Community Managers
Image of Wine Library TV’s Gary Vaynerchuk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (image is used for educational purposes only)

Structured thinking and objective measurement can help marketers to create and define success. Content marketing is similar in that it’s studied and planned. Content marketers don’t just put up any old content whenever. They study the various platforms, as Gary Vaynerchuk strongly suggests. Successful content marketers listen to their audience (there’s that idea of measuring again!) and determine what does and doesn’t work. They post their content when their customers and potential customers are online and listening.

Putting Content Marketing Together With Community Management

Community Managers are often tasked with shaping conversations online. This is everything from thanking happy users to publicly addressing complaints to being the first line of communications for public relations problems. But that’s mainly reactive communications. Proactive communications from community managers can and should dovetail with company plans to market to consumers (or to businesses in a B2B organization). Offering helpful, engaging, amusing, and informative content is the job of the community manager as much as the soothing of angry online customers is. Posting the right content, when consumers want to see it, can be the difference between a sale and no sale. Put enough of those together, and jobs and even companies can be on the line. The community manager, doing content marketing right, can bring in business and help a company retain its customers even in troubled economic times.

Categories
Content Strategy Quinnipiac Site Development Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 512 – Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

For User-Centered Design Class, I compared Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment.

Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

For two sites with the same ostensible purpose – assisting users with hiring musicians – Harrison Parrott and Sam Hill could scarcely be more different.

Harrison Parrott

From the beginning, the Harrison Parrott site is all about the hiring of classical performers.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott 01
Harrison Parrott Front Page

The slide show changes, but the images are all clearly associated with classical performing arts, such as chamber music or opera. There is a lot of white space and the headings are simple and clear.

Scrolling down, the next part of the front page revealed the Featured News portion of the website. The slideshow at the very top is apparently the really important news, whereas the middle portion has smaller images and isn’t a moving slideshow. Featured News seems slightly older, but everything has a date range within the month of May, 2015. This gave the site an up to date look and feel.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott 02
Featured news portion of front page

Scrolling down, the next part of the front page revealed the About section. This part also contained social sharing buttons for LinkedIn and Twitter, and a Twitter stream. Harrison Parrott has done its homework, particularly given the demographics for LinkedIn (urban, over age 30, many with college educations, and 44% with an income of over $77,000 per annum) and for classical music aficionados (median age of concert goers is 49). As well as they can, Harrison Parrott is matching a typical classical art aficionado buyer persona with the closest social media platforms that they can find.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott 03
About portion of Harrison Parrott site

I clicked on the Artists tab, and was presented with large clickable images of artists with brief verbiage about what each of them does.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott 04
Harrison Parrott vs. Sam Hill Entertainment

The tiles are clickable and everybody’s got their own page.

A quick perusal on my phone (I have a Nokia so the screen is a little smaller than an iPhone) revealed that the site is pretty easy to navigate although the hamburger icon is unexpectedly in the upper left corner of the small phone screen. This detracted from usability but only momentarily.

In all, it’s a well-designed site where the user can readily locate nearly anything. As Jakob Nielsen notes in The Need for Web Design Standards,

“Standards ensure that users

  • … don’t miss important features because they overlook a non-standard design element”

While the logo isn’t in the upper left corner (it’s centered at the top), it’s still easy to spot. Doing double duty, the logo serves as a link to return to the home page. To minimize confusion, there is also a small house icon in the upper left corner, another way to return home from anywhere on the site.

Sam Hill Entertainment

Sam Hill is a site for booking bands for weddings, parties and the like. Head to the home page, and you get this:

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott v Sam Hill 01
Sam Hill home page

I’m not really sure what the images on each side are for, as there are no links behind them. This is it for the front page. Everything is above the fold because there is no fold.

The site isn’t optimized for mobile. The side images look even more out of place, and there is a ton of unused white space at the bottom of my screen. Print is tiny; I had to zoom in if I wanted to click anything. If the twin images had been eliminated, there might have been larger print.

Selecting the Browse By Musical Style tab, I was presented with choices which were grouped. E. g. Motown, Soul, Oldies, Beach, and Variety are all grouped together.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott v Sam Hill 02
Browse by Musical Variety

I chose the musical style at the bottom of the tab: Decade, Tribute, Novelty Acts.

I selected Massachusetts from a menu of states, and was brought to this screen:

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott v Sam Hill 03
Massachusetts Decade, Tribute and Novelty Acts

The colors are still washed out, and the print is still too small on my phone, but at least those two images are gone. I clicked the page for The Real Geniuses and finally found a page that looked good on my phone. I scrolled down and found this:

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Harrison Parrott v Sam Hill 04
Sam Hill FAQ

The FAQ has its own page and its own link (upper right corner of every page), but it’s also on all of the band pages. The placement of the FAQ link does follow the Web Style Guide, but the placement of another copy of the FAQ on every single band page does not. Furthermore, from a developmental standpoint, placing the FAQ on every page creates a nightmare if the document is ever altered. I viewed the page source, and the FAQ isn’t linked from somewhere. Instead, the verbiage is in the page itself. This includes a statement that the offices are in Charlottesville, Virginia. If the offices are ever moved to, say, Pittsburgh, the webmaster will need to change code on over ten pages, and that’s just for bands that serve Massachusetts.

Between the two sites, Harrison Parrott is well put together and easy to follow and find what you need. Sam Hill could learn a few things from them.