Social Media and Customer Service: Related Skills

So what’s the difference between social media marketing and customer service? Surely the two share some intersection in the Venn diagram of your overall marketing plan. With small business, at least, your social media presence may be the first point of contact for existing customers that have inquiries and issues to be resolved; it’s much easier to get on a computer and type out your grievances than to call in and have to deal with automated messaging systems or highly scripted representatives. With mobile devices, it has also become more convenient and discreet, especially during work hours. That said, here are a few things to remember:

1. Courtesy – Tone is notoriously difficult to discern in text form, and it can become especially confusing on social media sites. Each social has an underlying expectation of decorum, one with which you must become familiar. Facebook interactions tend to be much more informal. While it may be tempting to emulate that informality in your interactions with customers, you must always remember to show courtesy and respect. They are speaking for themselves, and you speak for your company, which means you have more at stake in potentially volatile situations.

2. A Great Interaction is Worth a Thousand Likes – You shouldn’t be focusing on the number of likes and shares so much anyway; the name of the game is engagement. Positive engagement. If someone compliments you, your product, or your business, follow up! It’s important to get a good dialogue going while welcoming newcomers on your page to join in. And not just a “thank you”, and definitely don’t ask them to share. Ask them questions to get more specific answers on what they liked and why they liked it. Not only will you be able to show off your charming personality as a social media marketer, you will broadcast your expertise and authority over your product, service, or subject matter. Be reliable, always.

3. Treat Every Post Like a Tattoo – Sure, you can delete it, but you’ll want most, if not all of your content to be permanent residents on your social media accounts. Edits can be made, but that’s only effective before someone points out a mistake. Even if that happens, be sure to thank them for their input and confirm that the proper changes have been made. Deleting the comment will only make you look childish. The only exception is if their language is deemed unacceptable.

4. Give Credit Where Credit is Due – If someone compliments your customer service department on your social media accounts, make sure you let your CS Department know about it. Everyone loves it when their work is appreciated, and this is no exception. Take a screen shot, send it to a specific employee if their name was dropped, or send it to the whole department with a nice and encouraging note. That’ll put a smile on their faces, and smiles transfer directly to their voices.

Are Tips About Creating Viral Videos Useful?

viral-video-300x294Everyone wants something positive they’ve made to go viral, but whether it catches on is completely up to two factors: the effort you put into your content and luck. Mostly luck, because tons of viral videos and images took very little effort in terms of marketing and production to achieve their ultra-popular status. On the other hand, you could’ve put hundreds of hours into creating content you’re proud of and get very few views. And that’s where the problems with best practice articles come into play, especially the ones that give you a list of tips on how to make viral content. They’re intentionally vague. If a magic formula for virality exists, everyone would be doing it. Let’s explore the 6 “tips” from Social Media Today with a critical lens.

1. Make a Compelling Niche Video – All you need to do is offer something quality and original and niche…that’s it! That’s all you have to do! That’s like saying “All you need to do is take these tubes of paint and make a Picasso!” Let’s face the facts here: quality, original, and niche content takes time and resources; it’s not something you can half-ass or bang out in an afternoon. You need to worry about timing, environment, topic, execution, and reposting. And like I mentioned earlier, you can do everything right and still not achieve viral status.

2. Use Thorough Video Descriptions – Why wouldn’t you? This isn’t a tip! This is something you should be doing right from the start to take advantage of keywords for SEO!

3. Add Tags that Identify Your Video’s Keywords – This “tip” is unnecessarily separate from “tip” number 2.

4. Promote Your Video Through Social Networks – Again, this is nothing new. Standard practices are not tips.

5. Engage in Conversations on Youtube – Now this is a sound piece of advice. Many marketers forget to answer questions or make comments on their Youtube content. Taking this step can show you go above and beyond to engage with people who enjoy your content, and if there’s anything the people of Internet enjoy most, it’s that their opinions are heard.

I know this must all sound so cynical, but there are only so many best practice articles you read before they start becoming repetitive. Social media marketers are always looking for new ways to innovate their craft because the industry is in constant flux. Rules and tips that work today might not be relevant in 6 month’s time, trends change every single hour, and the global narrative of the Internet has no constant (except for the love of cats). Many of us look to sites like Forbes, Social Media Today, and Mashable to keep up to date with the latest tips and strategies. You guys and gals are the experts! Show us you mean business, because you’re held to a higher standard when it comes to your information!

What’s Your Digital Footprint?

I’m no Mark Cuban fan, and he’s clearly trying to sell his app in this video, but he does give solid advice about being in control of your digital footprint, which, in basic terms, your online “permanent record”. I’ve mentioned in a previous post how your old profiles, accounts, and journals persist long after you’ve forgotten about them, and that’s exactly the type of digital footprint that can lead to your personal information being leaked or stolen. We tend to think we’re relatively safe online. For the most part we are, but only due to the fact that there are millions of netizens online, making your information arbitrary or unappealing by way of obscurity. That’s no reason to be careless.

While our governments and systems aren’t as dystopian as Cuban suggests (at least not yet), you can seize control of your digital footprint. Potential employers and other interested parties will be looking for your online, especially on social media. Armed with this knowledge, you can shape the way people view you by being mindful of what you post, when you post, and where you post on social media sites. Remember the old mantra about making a first impression? Your digital footprint is your first impression for everyone who cares enough to look for you; it is up to you to put your best foot forward. While you’re not around, your online profiles are your stand-ins. Here are a few things to be mindful of:

1. Usernames: Pick something appropriate. If you want your online social life and work life to be separate, use different usernames.
2. Language: Use proper communication, be respectful, and don’t assume no one’s looking. Someone is always looking.

3. Privacy Settings: Yes, it’s a hassle, and yes, it takes time, but a little but of time invested goes a long way. Are there pictures you don’t want strangers looking at? Check your privacy settings!

The Facebook Giveaway Scam

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You must’ve seen it before: Pages on Facebook claiming to give away FREE iPads, iPhones, and other Apple accessories. That’s right, FREE! Did I mention it was FREE? All you need to do is Like and Share the Page with all your friends and you’ll be automatically entered into this FREE giveaway! Simple, right? So what are you waiting for?

STOP!!!

Before you agree to any terms and conditions set out by this “altruistic” Facebook Page, just note one thing: IT’S ALWAYS A SCAM! Unless you see news from an official Apple source and not just some Page that was created a month ago (that’s right, check the creation date of the Page!), your default reaction should always be “It’s a scam!” Every. Single. Time.

So what do they get out of someone just sharing a Page? Information about you, and everyone you get to share. How? Take a look at this section here:

Share What do you suppose happens when you click on the number of shares so far? It shows you a list of everyone who shared the Page, image, or post, which in turn gives you access to any public information on those people’s accounts, including geographic location, email addresses, websites, and even phone numbers. In the world of scam artists, this type of information is absolutely crucial, especially when the old method of acquiring that sort of information requires the purchase of mailing lists, which can be unreliable and expensive. By participating in these Facebook scams, you’re literally helping the scam artist! So what comes next after your Like and Share? Most likely they will have a link for you to click on that requires you to fill out a simple survey to enter completely. Like so:

Giveaway

Notice that the top three “offers” you have to complete involves installing something on your computer. Any time anyone tells you to install something so that you get something else for free, they’re either scammed or trying to scam you. The rest are surveys you need to fill out, which requires you to enter your email address, name, phone number, physical address, and date of birth. Getting this type of info from you is every scam artist’s wet dream! Not only that, let’s take a look at the privacy policy of these so called “survey” and “contest” sites:

privacy noticeShown above are the last 3 segments of a long privacy policy that basically says that you’re agreeing to let them sell or transfer your personal information to anyone, including third parties, if their company ever gets bought, merges with another company, creates an alliances with another company, etc. Oh, and also they can change their Privacy Policy at anytime without notice to you, because the onus is on YOU to come back and check the page. Any legitimate company or website worth their salt will send you a notice via email.

These types of scams are incredibly effective because they take advantage of the hype built up by official companies like Apple, who spent millions of dollars to generate hype and demand. Scam artists take advantage of this by using powerful and enticing terms like “FREE” (notice the all caps for emphasis), and “Giveaway”. Everyone wants free stuff; it’s a very basic marketing tactic that’s been around as long as commerce. Don’t participate in it. The battle to end the trade and sale of your personal information begins with you! Be mindful of marketing language, and more importantly, always be aware that scams are still a rampant problem. Every new social platform gives these crooks and criminals a new way to implement their old tricks. Remember: in the world of social media, protecting yourself also means protecting your friends and family.

Combating Fake Likes Starts With You

What’s more important to you: the number of likes you receive on your post or page, or the quality of the people who like your content? At first glance it might seem like the two are one and the same – post good content and the likes will come. However, there are some people and businesses out there who value popularity over content, vying for larger numbers rather than fostering a growing community. Rather than engage with existing customers, they opt for a shortcut: buying Likes.

To the average user, the business of buying Likes on Facebook might seem like a rare and shallow practice, but in reality it is rife amongst small businesses who don’t understand the nuances of social media. Yes, a larger number of Likes will give you an air of legitimacy, but you must understand one thing: fake likes cannot be undone. Not without Facebook’s auto-filters catching them and deleting them. And in the long run, it will only hurt your businesses, because social media revolves around one core mechanic: being social. You can’t be social with dummy accounts.

So what does a typical fake Like account look like? At first glance it will look like a normal user with a profile picture, cover photo, an about section – all the trappings of a real live person. But take a look at their timeline and you will notice one trend: the account has hundreds, maybe even thousands of pages that it Liked but hardly any personally posted content. These “interests” the account has accrued has no rhyme or reason, as they are used and reused until they are flagged and deleted.

How does this harm your business? Facebook’s algorithms take into account many deciding factors in your followers’ demographic, including age, gender, geographical location, and interests. By analyzing this data, the site decides whether or not your posted content is relevant to them, which in turn affects your organic reach (unpaid visits/views dished out to your followers). If your followers are mostly fake, then you are reaching, or attempting to reach, fake accounts. You will find no business there. As a result, your engagement suffers, and your overall page suffers.

What can you do about this? Just don’t buy Likes. You’d literally be throwing money away by actively participating in a scam. While you’re at it, file this under “worst practices”.

When You TELL Your Story, You SELL Your Story

Every once in a while it’s nice to see a credible source confirming your ideas on marketing and social media, namely how you should approach supposed “best practices” that seem to rehash the same strategies over and over again. It makes you wonder if there has been any progress in the industry, or if the writers of these articles are just summarizing other people in a huge circle of paraphrasing that leads nowhere. In any case, I’ve always pushed for companies to use social networks in a very basic way: as a social network rather than just a marketing tool. This means your company or business needs to have a personality. It needs to have a story. Check out this TED Talk with Simon Sinek, says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The most important circle, the center of everything, is WHY you do something, and that’s where your story comes in. The “why” does not mean “to make a profit”, but rather a personal statement on what you’re trying to achieve independent of whether or not people want to buy your product. What does your company’s mission mean to you, CEO? What special significance does the product have for you, Social Marketer? Look at number two on this Forbes article titled “Increase Customer Acquisition by 400% With Storytelling“: Be a trusted person not trying to sell something. This incredibly important method of utilizing social networks for marketing purposes requires you to be a person whose personality emulates that of an expert fan of your company. You need to be as enthusiastic about your product as your most loyal customer, providing information in palatable, easy-to-understand terms, as well as an inside look at the company’s inner workings. The person you hire to fill this roll needs to be an inside source for your audience, a spy that can give them exclusive information in a seemingly secretive way, but also on a highly visible stage: social media sites. Be human. Sound human. Something as simple as a reminder any questions can be handled through private messaging or even a form on your site will create an open and welcome environment for your target audience. Once you find a healthy balance between human activities and company marketing, you’re going to reach people in a more meaningful way.

Employers: Where Are Your Best Social Advocates?

When people think of social media and social popularity, the first instinct is to try and find influencers somewhere on your social networks. True, they may be out there: wildly popular people and accounts that can make or break your reputation with a single tweet or post, inexplicably large followings on a page that, for no reason, stand out above the rest. But have you considered taking a closer look at the people you’ve already employed? What do you know about them? What is their social standing online? You might already have a minor Internet celebrity on your payroll, so take the time to get to know your employees an co-workers. They might just be the boost you’re looking for!

The social quality of your employees largely depends on how much you’ve invested in your online presence. The more invested you are, the more “connected” your employees tend to be. While it’s wonderful to hire someone who knows how to use social networks as a marketing tool, it’s also equally important to have someone who uses these networks on a daily basis for their basic purposes: to be social! To influence people, you need to be a people person. You need to know how to be social, and that’s a lesson that many companies tend to forget, especially social media marketing companies on Twitter! Instead of being social and present online, most of these marketing agencies tweet links and articles to their own materials and seldom interact with the people following them. What kind of message is that sending? How is it that you cannot practice what you preach and be expected to be taken seriously? I’ve encountered at least one agency that seems to be getting it right: Uptown Treehouse. While I’m wary of any social marketing agency that follows me on Twitter, this one actually takes the time to answer questions and tweet back their followers. Kudos on avoiding my blocklist!

So before you decide to hire someone based on their supposed online presence, take a very close look at the quality of their submissions. Are they all links? Do they actually have conversations with people? Do their follower counts really reflect their social influence online? This last question is extremely important for one reason: anyone can buy followers by the thousands! If you didn’t know that, then I suggest you read my blog entries about buying Facebook Likes and automated programs. Take stock of how well your current employees use the social networks you’re paying to utilize as marketing tool. To influence users, you have to be a user.