This year’s Blog World Expo was jam packed with tons of information covering all aspects of the blogging and social media industry. One session that I attended which had a lot of great advice for business owners was The Now R(evolution): 7 Blueprints for Business at the Speed of Now with Jay Baer and Amber Naslund.
Now I must admit, being a complete book nerd, I was lured into this session by the promise of an advance copy of their book, The Now Revolution which isn’t being released until February 2011. But aside from that, the session was definitely an eye opener in terms of the looking into ways businesses need to adapt to the real-time demands of social media.
Real Time Challenges
So what are the challenges businesses have to face? One of the major ones is with review sites. In the past, if people had a complaint, they would voice it through calling a 1-800 number, filling out a comment card, or mailing letters to the manager or corporate branch of an establishment. Any of these options were usually done in private, and the company could usually deal directly with the complaint. Chances are, unless the person was a journalist, they weren’t spreading the word about their complaint much further than their family and circle of friends.
Now, you have sites where people can voice their complaints for all of the world to see. Take Trip Advisor, for example. When you go to their site, you are greeted with Rants and Raves section on their homepage which leads to the latest best and worst reviews. Take the following hotel reviews.
Many review sites do not have any verification process to find out if the reviewer actually has been a patron of the business they are bashing. It’s simple enough to use a throwaway email address and false information to sign up for a site and then leave a bad review. Motivation could be anything from an aggravated employee to a another neighborhood business trying to put a black mark on the competition.
Another consequence of not verifying the identity of the reviewer is that the business may never be able to reach the reviewer to try to resolve whatever issue needed to be dealt with if said reviewer did not use their real information. Also, as people are becoming used to the concept of businesses using social media platforms to respond to customer service issues, businesses that do not respond to complaints like these in the public forum are being viewed as not listening to their customers, which also leaves a bad taste in a potential customer’s mouth.
Seven Ways to Adapt
So how does a business become a part of the now, responding in with speed, meeting expectations of interactive social media, and becoming familiar with the different systems and platforms that are available?
1. Engineer a New Bedrock – Be sure that the culture of your company goes beyond just discussion in the boardroom. Spread your company’s meaning and message to every employee that represents your brand. Trust your employees to solve problems as they arrive and give them the tools to do so. Reward those that
do things the right way.
2. Acquire Talent You Can Trust – In the keynote before this session by Scott Stratten, it was mentioned that “If you have a moron running your social media, it’s not a social media issue but a HR issue.” Everyone in your company should be into what you do, and if not, you should find out why.
3. Organize Your Armies – Make sure that people know who owns social media. For example, if you are launching a product, your marketing team should own it. If you are dealing with reputation issues, your PR team should own it. If you are dealing with customer problems, customer service should own it.
4. Online Listening is the New Answering the Telephone – Going back to earlier, when customers have a problem, they used to call your 1-800 number. Now they are tweeting about it. You should be monitoring conversations about your brand like you would listen for the phone to ring and be sure to answer, as well as remember that listening is not an 8 – 5 job. Also, keep in mind that the voice of the few may be the voice of many – if one person vocalizes that they do not like something, that could a widely felt sentiment that should be addressed.
5. Emphasize Response-Ability – Job function is irrelevant in your company – harvest the social media passion of your employees to give your brand more cars to go down the humanization highway.
Image from The Now Revolution Photostream on Flickr
6. Build a Fire Extinguisher – Information on how to manage a crisis is usually the least important until it becomes the most important. In order to effectively deal with a crisis in social media, you must:
- Acknowledge the crisis publicly.
- Arm your people on how to respond and work through the crisis.
- Fight with social media “water” by responding on the platform that people are freaking out on – if on Twitter, then don’t respond with a press release – start with Twitter.
- Make one FAQ page about the crisis that you can direct everyone to for more information.
- Give people a pressure release valve, such as an active discussion area for people to discuss the problem upon.
- After the crisis has been dealt with, document what has happened and learn from it so you will have a better gameplan (if necessary) for the future.
7. Make a Calculator – Isn’t it funny how no one questions the ROI on the IT department, but challenges the social media marketers at every turn? The issue with ROI isn’t that it can’t be calculated, but more so about the fact that it takes time to analyze all of the data coming from multiple sources and avenues. Your business must have defined goals for being on social media such as to increase awareness about your brand, drive traffic for sales, and / or to build loyalty. Also, you have to look at ways your company saves money with social media, such as being able to deal with many more customer service issues in a 140 character tweet than you can in a 15 minute phone call.
Your Real Time Thoughts
What other issues and challenges do you see when it comes to businesses and real time media, ROI, and ways to deal with those challenges to meet the needs of your customers?