Updating Again Soon

I realized it’s been two years since I updated this blog, but with the recent events regarding data, privacy, and social media, I feel it’s important to dust this place off and start writing again. Stickied to the top of Robots Nobots is a post I wrote four years ago about the dangers of Social Logins and how your information, along with all your friends, is being bought and sold simply by clicking a small, convenient button. Seems it’s gotten worse since then with the explosion of Apps asking for “permissions” before you get to use them.

These topics are relevant. They will always be relevant. To anyone who happens upon this blog, I hope you enjoy my content.

Facebook’s Latest Update: Bad News for Page Owners (Again)?

It looks like Facebook is updating its algorithm again, and it could be that Facebook Pages will take another hit to organic reach. This time it will be posts by your friends that get prioritized on the News Feed, which is great news for users and possibly bad news for businesses. This is, by in large, old news; Facebook has been hammering down on calls to action and clickbait content since November 2014. If you and your social media strategies have not adapted by now, then you need to step up your game and catch up to the rest of the social world.

Facebook has said time and time again that the type of content prioritized on your Followers’ News Feeds is relevant to their interests. And what’s relevant to their News Feeds? The type of content their friends share. Let that be a lesson to you: the days of pure advertising and calls to action are at an end in the social media frontier. To make it in this landscape, you, as a business, need to start becoming more human, and that means developing a brand voice and personality, and more importantly it means trusting your social managers to do their jobs. Of course that also means finding a trustworthy social manager who knows how to navigate the potentially dicey social media environment.

So how do you go about finding your brand voice? It depends on your business, obviously, but the first thing you should do as CEO, owner, president, or higher up management is set some ground rules. Are you a fun-loving business that likes to get into ridiculous conversations with your customers and fan base? Are you educational? Professional? Sensational? Ask yourself: How would you, the owner, talk about your company to interested parties? Take note of your vocabulary, cadence, and emotions. This is how you want your business to look and sound on social media, and that’s exactly the type of message you should get across to your social manager. When you’re online, you’re not a salesperson; you are a human being who is proud of their business or product, and you want other people to see that. Passion is contagious. If you feel it, your audience will feel it, too. That makes all the difference in how people react to your content. Be more human today.

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.

Adapting to Well-Informed Customers

The power of knowledge and information is no longer in the hands of companies, businesses, and products. The spread of information has grown exponentially with the advent of search engines, Wikipedia, and most importantly, customer reviews via sites like Yelp. According to SAPVoice via a Forbes article, “Customers are tracking down information via Google; looking at what other consumers have to say about products and services on Amazon and Facebook; and researching what other business buyers are saying on LinkedIn.” This means that you, as a business, are no longer in total control of your reputation, and every blunder, misstep, and snafoo you make can be broadcast to the public. And you cannot delete them. You shouldn’t even try, because we all know attempts to delete or hide information from Internet users will only lead to an exponentially opposite reaction (see the Streisand Effect). So what can you do? The landscape of business and closing a sale is forever altered, and those that fail to adapt will fall behind. Social media and customer engagement is the key.

Social media sites are where you customers congregate, socialize, and subconsciously share information that may be valuable to you. That’s how sites like Facebook advertise to their users so effectively. As a company, you have to stop thinking like a company and start connecting with people on an individual level, and that means appointing a Community Manager – someone who knows the ins and outs of social media sites, and most importantly, someone who is great at interacting with people. In other words, you need a face, a voice, and a personality to be at the forefront of where your customers and potential customers will receive their first impression of you. As a company, your priority is to make a sale, but with a great Community Manager, you can leave a positive and lasting impression that will keep a customer coming back for more. Play your cards right, and they’ll bring some friends with them. Creating a stellar personality and profile and your customers will become your advocates, and this is where you want your social media presence to land.

Customers as Advocates

Like I mentioned earlier, people’s impressions of you and your products come not from you, but from the experience of others. If you have ready, willing, an able customer advocates, you’re essentially receiving free advertisement! If you’re good to your customers, they’ll be good to you.

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!

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.

Are Businesses the Bane of Social Networks?

The support of big corporations means big money for any site, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but does business involvement ruin the social experience for everyone? I think so. If you introduce money and profit into social networking, then the entire package becomes a business. The social network needs revenue to pay for ever-expanding server and maintenance costs, and businesses want to advertise to as many people as possible; what better way to do so that with social media? It’s where people focus their attention, not only during downtime, but also during work, on lunch breaks, and any time a free moment presents itself. We are a connected generation, and for that reason alone we are being sold to the highest bidder, often from right under our noses. Most people don’t even realize it?

So what about you is being sold? Information, of course. Every time you visit a site, click a link, click into and out of a social network, or read an article, data about you is being collected using tracking cookies. Your behavior, your likes and dislikes, the activities and interactions between you and your family – all of this is being monitored, quantified, and studied in order for corporations to advertise to you more effectively. Why are clickbait articles so rampant? Because people on social networks are clicking on them. Each site featuring these clickbait articles and lists knows exactly where you came from, who shared the referral link, how long you spent on their site, and how often you click on similar articles. They then pay Facebook advertising money to shove more of the same articles into your newsfeed. Don’t you ever wonder why ads seem to only feature things you’ve looked at or are interested in? It’s because you’re being watched.

When a social network cares more about the money it makes and less about the communities it fosters and the connections its users make with each other, it starts to show over time. Facebook’s Pages now longer have the organic (unpaid) reach it used to, because, according the Facebook admins, they want reduce SPAM. The people most affected by this: small companies, start-ups, and people who want to get a leg up in a vast community that used to be a treasure trove of potential followers. You can access the people you want to follow your Page…you just have to pay to make it happen. So no, Facebook, it’s not about reducing SPAM. You’re a multi-billion dollar company. You can find a way to fix this problem without hamstringing everyone who can’t afford to pay.