Categories
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
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
Community Management Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 526 – The Most Important Role of a Community Manager

The Most Important Role of a Community Manager

I’ve been a Community Manager for over a decade but don’t believe I have seen a better outline of our roles and sub-roles than this graphic –

Most Important Role of a Community Manager
The Mind of a Community Manager (image is from class and is intended for educational purposes only)

I have been in all of these roles, at one time or another. Because I am a volunteer and Able2Know is a large generalized Q & A website, some of my experience has been slightly different.

Piñata

A lot of community members might not realize when they do this. Sometimes it can feel as if you’re the punching bag. But you can’t punch back. Whenever I’ve been involved in an altercation online (usually by being dragged into one; I tend not to instigate), I inevitably recuse myself and ask that other Moderators and Administrators handle what is to be done.

Sponge

I’ve never been more in tune with this role than after a member’s death. I’ve written maybe a dozen online obituaries. It’s an odd thing to put together something of the life of a person who used a screen name and an avatar. Those moments require taking the temperature of a community, and understanding whether the remembrance should be a rollicking, funny wake, or posted music and poetry, or something else.

Gardener

I haven’t been a gardener since the site was rather young. When there are few members and topics, the Community Manager is often tasked with creating content. That has to stop at some point, as the community needs to take over and make a far larger percentage of the content. With a brand-related community, it is different. The brand will likely retain far more of the content creation role.

These days, I prune or shape a lot more than I create. That leads me to the Cheerleader role.

Cheerleader

There’s nothing like being enthusiastic about a new feature and having the membership scream bloody murder because they don’t like the change. And then, a year later, seeing the community embrace that very same change. Cheerleaders, at times, are treated like Piñatas.

Traffic Cop

We have a Help Desk, and I regularly route more of the developmental work elsewhere. Still, this is a role that could conceivably be done by others.

Mediavore

While I am a Mediavore as a matter of personal characteristics and behaviors, this role hasn’t exactly been necessary at Able2Know. I have used this knowledge and familiarity, though, to bring interesting social media information to the site. Plus I answer a lot of the Facebook and Twitter questions.

Empathy

This is another area less important for a volunteer position at a shoestring site. More likely, I am checking Facebook, etc. to see if users are disgruntled, or leaving entirely. For me, this role has a lot in common with the Sponge.

Spam Warrior

Oh, how I despise this role. But it’s got to be done every single day. These tasks are often delegated to newer volunteer Community Manager/Moderators, mainly because it’s a large and daunting task. It’s also to get their feet wet and give them an idea of how we do things.

Sculptor

I keep some rough stats, as the site is run on a shoestring. My background is in data analysis; I know the value of objective, measurable, quantitative information. In particular, objective data is usually important at budget time. Management needs to know the community is working, and is more than a few people chatting. Data and its analysis can sometimes mean the difference between a project with a budget that’s continued, and one which loses its budget and dies on the vine.

Concierge

For this role (again, keep in mind, I’m a volunteer, and the site is run with a rather low budget), it’s more of the times when I’ve answered questions at in-person gatherings or helped someone get back onto the site when their only means of communicating with me is via Facebook wall posts or Twitter or the like. But this doesn’t happen too often.

Drumroll, please!

The Most Important Role of a Community Manager is ….

Empathetic Sponge, with a dash of Sculptor.

The role of a Community Manager, I believe, is mainly as a listener, and all three of these sub-roles are mainly centered around listening. What are people saying? How can we understand the community? And how does what we’re hearing convert into metrics?

Allow me to add a new role, perhaps one that melds these three – the Windmill. That is, a means of harnessing the wind. The Community Manager needs to know which way the wind blows, and how to measure it, and how to use it to power the community.

Categories
Community Management Facebook Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM501 – Virtual Groups & Online Communities

Virtual Groups & Online Communities

As John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.”

On the internet, there seems to be a similar but not identical truth – few people want to be an island. And so we create enclaves.

Some of our enclaves mimic those we see in the offline world – we associate with people we went to school with, or work with, or live near. We associate with the people who used to be in such relationships to us as well. And we associate with family, and sometimes even ex-family. We might expand our horizons a little, to also include members of the same political party, or age group, or others who enjoy the same activities as we do, like knitting, or the same entertainments, such as Browncoats.

Online Dynamics

This changes online with virtual groups, but maybe less than naysayers had originally thought. The online world is not restricted by geography. It’s not restricted by socioeconomic background, either, except that you need to have access to a computer. But you can often get that for free from a library, so you don’t necessarily have to own the hardware, although that does make it easier.

As McKenna, K.Y.A. (2002). Virtual group dynamicsGroup Dynamics, 6(1), 116–127. [Library Link] says, “One of the most basic interpersonal needs is to ‘belong,’ to feel that one is a member of a group of others who share similar interests and goals, and to feel that one is a valued (and unique) member of that group ( Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Brewer, 1991). On the Internet, there are a wealth of venues where one can connect with like-minded others who share core interests and values and thus fulfill this important need. Chat rooms, newsgroups, electronic mailing lists, message boards, interactive games, and major interactive Web sites provide individuals with the opportunity to join existing online groups or to create their own.”

Belonging

This need for a sense of belonging appears to drive a lot of members of virtual groups. There is also a need to break the internet down into more manageable bite-sized chunks. With trillions of webpages online (estimated, See: http://www.factshunt.com/2014/01/total-number-of-websites-size-of.html), no one user can experience it all, not even if that person makes an executive decision to only look at sites written in Norwegian, or uploaded after June 15, 2012, etc. Therefore, users look for something smaller and easier to take. Otherwise, the scale is unfathomable.

Clay Shirky’s Take

As Clay Shirky says, in Shirky, C. (2003, July 1). A group is its own worst enemy. Networks, Economics, and Culture Mailing List. [Link], “You have to find some way to protect your own users from scale. This doesn’t mean the scale of the whole system can’t grow. But you can’t try to make the system large by taking individual conversations and blowing them up like a balloon; human interaction, many to many interaction, doesn’t blow up like a balloon. It either dissipates, or turns into broadcast, or collapses. So plan for dealing with scale in advance, because it’s going to happen anyway.”

Communities that become too large tend to suffer, as the number of conversations grows faster than the number of users (e. g. for three users, there are four possible conversations; user A + user B, user B + user C, user A + user C, and all three users). Users like to feel that they belong, and that a place can be understood.

Safety

Adventures in Career Changing - Virtual Groups

At the same time, they also want to feel safe. In Dibbell, J. (1998). A rape in cyberspace (Or tiny society, and how to make one). In My tiny life (pp. 11–30). New York: Henry Holt and Company. [Link | Alternate Link], Julian Dibbell argues that a behavior whereby one user’s account was able to control another user’s account (against the second account holder’s will) was practically a cyber-rape. The site’s lack of moderation seems almost laughable today, that the designers and administrators of a large online community would leave it to its own devices with zero supervision. After all, even the most libertarian or even anarchic of users usually wants the spam to go away quickly.

Closeness

Beyond basic safety, they often want positive support, too. As Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1999). Net-surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual communities as communities. Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities (pp. 331–366). New York: Westview Press. [PDF] say, “Even when online groups are not designed to be supportive, they often are.” (Page 7)

Finally, the use of internet communities is sometimes for even greater closeness than what the members can get in person, perhaps analogous to telling your troubles to a stranger in an airport bar who you will never see again.

As McKenna,  (Ibid.) says, “The relative anonymity of the Internet allows individuals to take greater risks in making disclosures to Internet friends than they would to someone they know in more traditional, face-to-face settings (McKenna & Bargh, 1998; McKenna et al., 2002). Users are more likely to express how they truly feel and think (Spears & Lea, 1994) when interacting on the Internet, and when identity salience of the group is high, those who interact under conditions of anonymity are more likely than their nonymous, face-to-face counterparts to conform to group norms (e.g., Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1999).”

When users mourn the deaths or departures of people they have never met in person, when they hug and kiss relative strangers when they finally do meet, and when they can provide comfort to the lonely online as a function of kindness and not for a quid pro quo, that’s when users move from a Gesellschaft to a Gemeinschaft, or from a rough collection to a true community.

Categories
Community Management Content Strategy Social Media

Community Management and Social Media into 2011

This post is a riff on 10 Community Roundtable Member Predictions for 2011. If you don’t follow the Community Roundtable, you should — they are very knowledgeable about an aspect of social media that is very near and dear to me — the creation, nurturing and management of online communities. I only wish that my Friday Worcester schedule didn’t conflict with their biweekly lunches!

I am particularly interested in #2, #3 and #4 on their list.

#2. Managing international social initiatives. Language is only one complex dimension to this and it also includes tools, regulatory environments, and culture. The combination makes it very challenging for large corporations that operate in many countries around the world. Social structures may mature into more localized or regionalized entities. – I well recall, a good seven or so years ago, attempting to come up with a good list of words for the profanity filter on Able2know. First, you round up the usual suspects, such as George Karlin’s Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television. Then you move on, to abbreviations, synonyms and the like. Racial epithets, religious slurs, etc. But then it starts to get tricky, when you add in an international element. I don’t find the word “bloody” to be offensive at all, but British friends can find it to be downright awful. As a woman, and a Jew, did my own personal sensitivities color my perceptions? Was I laying into the list more heavily skewed as against slang terms for female anatomy, or terms that offended my religion but weren’t even being used anymore? Relatively recently, when Able2Know added a thumbs up/thumbs down voting system, plus the ability to ignore topics, posts and users, the profanity filter was dropped. Now that forum is more open (although the Moderating Team continues to eliminate spam and pornography and does watch out for comments that are beyond the pale), and there is a certain thing to be said for allowing consenting adults to let fly if they so desire. A contrast to that is Trek United, which continues to have a filter (they replace every naughty word with “Phlox”, the name of an alien character. That can make for some rather amusing exchanges). That forum is more genteel, to be sure. But are the restrictions better, worse or just different? Of course there are many, many words out there that are not offensive ones, and there are many more differences in language and culture, and not just with English speakers. But I think the point is illustrative — cultural differences matter, and they can matter in unexpected ways that can cause quite a ripple effect.

#3. Changing the 90-9-1 rule. It is no longer good enough to only have 1% of constituents actively participating so training and mainstreaming the use of social functionality will be a theme going forward. – Regular users often fret about a lack of response, and a skewed ratio. Often views versus responses are 10-1 or even 100-1. Here’s a topic where the ratio is more like 500-1. But I think that skips a bit of the point. It’s certainly less than an issue on a free site like Able2know, but converting lurkers to creators is not going to happen overnight. And, it might not happen at all. Creating good content is important, and vital, and it’s particularly important for the content to be created by a lot of different people with dissimilar perspectives. But you can lead your members (horses) to the topics (water). You can’t always make them post (drink).

#4. Creating a content supply chain and managing it with the same discipline as physical product supply chains. – This is of particular interest to me because it can often be a chore to come up with new things. For Neuron Robotics, it’s not so difficult because I can either comment on something we are doing or I can spin out a robotics news story. It is something of a hot topic and so people are posting about it all the time. But with Social Media, it’s trickier. Sure, there are news stories and blog postings, but these can often be posts about posts. There is still good, original content, but my riffing on it can eventually begin to resemble yet more embedded riffing. At a certain point in time, you can’t spin yet another nutritious meal out of leftovers. But creating original content isn’t easy. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, or it might not be appropriate or perfect or on time. The only suggestions I can provide in this area are to (a) repurpose if possible, (b) save content up for a rainy day and (c) continually keep yourself open to experiences, viewpoints and circumstances which will help you to gather and nurture ideas.

What does 2011 hold in store? As always, my crystal ball is cloudy. All I can tell you for certain is, there will be plenty of Social Media, and there will be people like the Community Roundtable, and like me, who spend our time trying to make sense of it all. Your comments, as always, are more than welcome.